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NCC launches Western Public Lands Initiative

Washington, D.C., May 18, 2005 – The Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches USA has launched a new Western Public Lands Initiative to address growing threats to our nation’s public lands and associated resources.

Previously, the NCC has conducted ecumenical and interfaith programs addressing a range of environmental issues including air and water pollution, global warming, and energy conservation. Now the NCC will encourage its member denominations and partner organizations to make responsible stewardship and management of public lands an integral part of their efforts to protect and care for God’s creation. 

Through worship, education, and advocacy, the NCC initiative aims to begin answering the Biblical call to protect and redeem God’s lands.  For the next year, the new initiative will focus on oil and gas development, which has emerged as a major threat to the health and productivity of millions of the acres of western lands managed by the federal government.  If not conducted responsibly, energy development can disturb or kill wildlife, degrade soil quality, pollute water sources, scar landscapes, destroy cultural artifacts, and disrupt other uses of the land, such as ranching and recreation. 

"We try always to respond to God’s call to be stewards of creation. In the case of our public lands, we want to ensure that they are managed responsibly, in a manner that protects these shared resources that sustain our cultures and economies and God's glorious web of life," said Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC. "For people of faith, there's too much at stake on our public lands and the threats are too great not to get involved."

Coordinated by Christine Hoekenga—a native of Nevada who most recently worked at the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) here—this 10-state campaign will mobilize people of faith to try to end irresponsible actions such as opening natural treasures and ecologically sensitive areas to drilling, weakening permit processes for drilling projects, and making energy development the top priority on public lands to the detriment of Western communities and wildlife. Included in the 10 states are Ariz., Idaho, N.M., Colo., Nevada, Utah, Wyo., Mo., Wash. and Oregon. 

For more information about the Western Public Lands Initiative, contact Christine Hoekenga (; 202-544-2350) or visit the “Lands” section of the NCC Eco-Justice website at

CONTACT:   Leslie Tune, NCC News, (202) 544-2350                                                                                                                     




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