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Nation's Churches Launch Campaign to Save "God's Creation" from Corporate Devastation

From: Environment News Service <www.ens-newswire.com

National Council of Churches Would Save Public Lands

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2005 (ENS) - The Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches USA has launched a new 10 state Public Lands Initiative to address what the Council views as "growing threats to our nation's public lands and associated resources, particularly in the West." 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," the Council warned.

"If not conducted responsibly," the Council said, "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," said Methodist Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC, and a former U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania.

"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," he said. "For people of faith, there's too much at stake on our public lands and the threats are too great not to get involved."

Through worship, education, and advocacy, the NCC initiative aims to begin "answering the Biblical call to protect and redeem God's lands."

The initiative is coordinated by Christine Hoekenga of Nevada who most recently worked at the Natural Resource Defense Council in Washington, DC. "We have a lot to celebrate. The lands and wilderness God has entrusted to our care provide us with countless gifts from solitude, to recreational enjoyment, to food for our tables," said Hoekenga. "But we also have a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to protecting lands held in the public trust."

The campaign will mobilize people of faith to fight "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," the Council said.

Included in the 10 states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Washington.

One of the initiative's first projects will be to create a series of ecumenical worship materials to celebrate lands and raise consciousness about faithful stewardship.

NCC is encouraging congregations to join in service projects, such as trail maintenance or tree plantings, on National Public Lands Day, Saturday September 24.

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