It has been over 50 years since the Cuyahoga river burned for the last time in 1969. The early 1970s saw a wave of environmental protection designed to avoid this kind of thing form happening in the future. The Cuyahoga has fish in it today. Bald eagles and wolves are more common. Drinking water is more reliable, our air is better and our rivers and lakes are cleaner. That is progress. But challenges still exist.
For reasons I still do not understand, the best place to store coal ash is next to rivers. What can possibly go wrong (every 4 years it seems). North Carolina is the only state I am aware of to address the problem and more this stuff. But this is a huge water quality liability. Ask the folks in West Virginia. Mining has the same issue. EPA cleaned up Leadville in the early 2000s before it contaminated the Arkansas and Rio Grande Rivers. Yet we keep seeing new mines proposed alone rivers. We learned mothering from the Animis River incident in 2015?
Wild places are good for us. They provide clean air and clean water. They provide a place for wildlife to be wild as opposed to in your attic. The less the impact them the better those systems are. It is why there is so much fighting over roads in Utah – the Mining Act of 11866 (yes you read that right), granted rights of way across public lands to encourage homesteading. Problem is on deserts, those trails are still there (from 1 wagon). That is not a road. Opening these would bring a host of challenges – bikers, ATVs, trucks etc. that would impact those desert systems.
Oh, but the Biden infrastructure plan does have money to maybe address some of this…. Let’s see if t makes it through Congress. We all would benefit!