Most presidents take the closing months of their second term to reflect upon their legacy, kick up their feet, and start working on their memoirs. Political junkies refer to this awkward interim period as the “lame duck” session – but Obama’s stint as a “lame duck” president has been anything but lame and he isn’t ducking any issues. He has been working tirelessly to shore up the health care system, secure nuclear deals with Iran, and most notably, he has made some impressively sweeping moves to protect the nation’s most precious national resource, the environment.

Here are three awesome environmental moves Obama made during his few last months as president:


1. Protected Huge Swaths of The Atlantic and Arctic Oceans From Oil Drilling

On December 20th, 2016, Obama banned oil drilling in federal waters along from Virginia to Maine and along the majority of Alaska’s coastline. According to White House Officials, Obama invoked the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs the Outer Continental Shelf to block drilling in federal waters in the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea and most of its Beaufort Sea. This measure has also protected 21 underwater canyons in the Atlantic Ocean from drilling and will run from 2017 through 2022. Given the length of the lease, these waters are set to be protected all the way through the term of President-elect Trump. Although Trump could take measures to repeal this, the process would be lengthy – not to mention, the White House has explained that no previous president has tried to undo a drilling withdrawal under the 1953 law and there is no provision to do so. Canada has also agreed to cease drilling and the moratorium will be reviewed every five years.  The sweeping band will protect 3.8 million acres of water and its inhabitants.

2. Created The Bear Ears National Monument

On December 30th, 2016 Obama officially made the Bear Ears of Two Buttes in southern Utah the nation’s newest national monument. With a single penstroke, he protected 2,000 miles of Utah’s unique desert ecosystem. The creation of this monument marked a victory for conservationists and for the native tribes in the region. Eric Descheenie, a former leader of the inter-tribal group told The Atlantic, “It’s so significant. It’s so hard to even try to add up what this really means.” But it does mean that these lands will be protected and remain pristine for future generations.

3. Denied Permits for Seismic Testing in the Atlantic Ocean 

On January 6th, 2016, Obama rose the defense our nation’s oceans yet again and denied six permits requesting for the permission to fire seismic cannons into the Atlantic in search of oil. These various requests extended from Delaware to down Florida and his rejection of these permits has effectively put a ban on oil prospecting along the entirety of the eastern seaboard.

Not only would permitting the testing pose a threat to the ecosystem in terms of oil spills, but it also would subject countless marine animals to the disorienting sound caused by blasts. According to Oceana, “Airgun blasts harm whales, dolphins, sea turtles and fish. The types of impacts marine mammals may endure include temporary and permanent hearing loss, abandonment of habitat, disruption of mating and feeding, beach strandings and even death.” The ocean’s animals are protected from this for a bit longer thanks to President Obama.


How We Can All Help

Obama worked frantically during his last few months in office to ensure that the waters, mountains, and planes of America will be protected so that our children can enjoy them.  In his farewell address to the nation on January 10th, he extolled Americans by saying, “It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. . . So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you.” And our nation, along with its precious ecosystems that support a myriad of diverse species, including our citizens, needs us.

Conservation does not begin at the federal level – it begins with us. We can shape environmental policies on the ground in our day to day lives by making conscious decisions as a consumer and we have an obligation to the future generations of the world to protect our planet. We can do this in three simple steps


  1. Consume less: The earth has a finite amount of recourses and Americans consume 25 percent of the planet’s resources.
  2. Eat smarter: By reducing the eliminating meat from our diets we can cut our carbon footprint in half, save 200 million gallons of fresh water each, and free up food for the hungry around the world. Join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement to learn more.
  3. Share this message: Empower your friend and neighbors with the tools they need to create change on an individual level.

As Obama said, “Be the Change.”

Feature Image: Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock