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Obama’s Tree-Hugging Presidency, by the Numbers

Conservationism will likely serve as more than just a footnote in Obama’s presidential legacy.
Barack Obama participates in a tree planting event on April 21st, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

Barack Obama participates in a tree planting event on April 21st, 2009, in Washington, D.C.

Republican lawmakers have resuscitated efforts to gut federal land protections in an attempt to change a line of budget rules in the House of Representatives that would allow the government to transfer ownership of national land — including areas like the Grand Canyon and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — to states.

Should they succeed, swaths of awe-inspiring land would be open for private mineral drilling and property development, effectively turning America’s backyard into a bidding war of corporate interests.

It’s a marked difference to the legacy President Barack Obama will leave as he steps down this week.

Never before has the country seen a president as committed to the protection of federal land as Obama: Theodore Roosevelt, largely considered the most devoted of our former presidents to conservationism, protected a fraction of the acres of land and water as our outgoing commander-in-chief. Below, the most significant of the 44th president’s environmental achievements.

  • 0: The number of national marine monuments in the Atlantic Ocean that existed before Obama created the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a nearly 5,000-square-mile sanctuary off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, last September.
  • 3: Newly minted national monuments located in California’s Mojave Desert, totaling 1.8 million acres.
  • 5: The number of Native-American tribes party to a commission responsible for helping manage about 1.35 million acres of historic land in Utah. The site, Bears Ears, was home to Pueblos over 3,000 years ago.
  • 29: The total number of federal monuments Obama created during his eight years in office.
  • 80: Conservative estimate of the percent of land in Nevada owned by the federal government.
  • 582,000: Square miles of Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument protected by Obama last August, making it the largest protected marine area on Earth. (Additional figure: 7,000, the number of species that call Papahānaumokuākea home.)
  • 550,000,000: A conservative estimate of the number of acres of land Obama has protected during his time in office, handily making him the most land-friendly president in America’s history.