February 2017 – A message for our Rock Our World Campaign supporters and partners:
Principles for environmental progress, in Washington and across the country
By Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy
Mike Stevens, Washington State Director of The Nature Conservancy
Our changing political landscape has passions running high. At this critical juncture, many are asking where we go with environmental policies and how we can move forward on protecting the natural resources we all rely on, in Washington and across the country.
It’s helpful to remember that Americans support common sense policies to protect our air, land, water, oceans and climate. At a time of historic political division, nature can unite us. By listening to people whose lives and livelihoods depend on nature and creating conservation solutions that protect the environment and address their interests, we can show that the needs of people and nature aren’t in conflict—indeed people need nature to thrive.
In that spirit, we offer a few core principles that we believe both Republicans and Democrats can embrace to make progress on environmental challenges that affect Washington state, the nation and the world.
Be inclusive. Last year’s elections amplified the fact that too many people feel left behind or overlooked. Environmental policies should address the interests of all Americans—urban and rural communities and Americans of all colors, genders, religions and ethnicities should have a voice and the opportunity to lead in environmental policymaking.
Follow the science. The same science that proves human-induced climate change is harming communities across the country and around the world is also helping us develop technologies and practices to address these threats. Sound science should be the basis of environmental policymaking, and we should continue to invest in science and technology.
Encourage collaboration. The most effective, durable conservation successes result from collaborative efforts between communities, resource owners, the private sector, environmental organizations, and local, state and federal governments. For example, a Washington state program called Floodplains by Design protects local communities from flooding while enhancing habit for salmon and other wildlife, by leveraging government funding and community support.
Lead on carbon reduction. While federal policy takes shape, Washington has a unique opportunity to lead on carbon reduction. Post-election polling shows Washingtonians favor a carbon tax, one that uses revenues to restore forests to health and ensure clean water. This state can model this path for other states and for the nation. Carbon must also be tackled at a national and global level. To that end, the United States should continue to lead the world in implementing the Paris Agreement.
Grow green. As the population and economy in the Pacific Northwest boom and cities grow, we should push for infrastructure that enables development while safeguarding fragile natural habitat. It will be important to include all communities--especially those traditionally underserved or left out of the conversation--in our work for healthier and greener cities. In the Puget Sound region, we must grow sustainably and reinvent our cities with managing stormwater as a priority to end the flow of toxic runoff into the sound. Nature is valuable in its own right, but it’s also a cost-effective solution to pressing infrastructure problems. As lawmakers consider new investments in infrastructure, investing in nature is a promising solution.
Harness market forces. We can grow the economy and improve the environment simultaneously. Smart environmental policy puts market forces to work to improve environmental outcomes while reducing costs and creating opportunity for innovation. At a state and federal level, we can seek opportunities to incentivize environmental innovation.
Maintain and enhance core laws and policies. Washington’s prosperity is founded on its rich natural resources, and the state leads the nation in enacting effective policies that protect the environment. We should not abandon or weaken these laws and policies, which have served us so well. To the contrary, we should seek to model how environmental policies can deliver even better environmental and economic outcomes for the 21st century.
Unleash creativity. Most important, we need to revive the bipartisan, “can-do” spirit that fueled so much progress in America’s history, including our success in restoring our environment and conserving our natural heritage. Washington state is famous for creative entrepreneurship. From coffee to computers, Washingtonians have demonstrated the ability to launch and sustain game-changing innovation. Leveraging that strength on behalf of the environment can create a powerful movement that protects iconic natural resources and serves as a model for other states, and the nation.
Washingtonians and Americans know how to work together to make the future better than the past. We always have, and we can again now.
We thank YOU for your engaged support of conservation that makes people's lives better.
We welcome your questions and guidance. You can reach out to Mike at WAStateDirector@tnc.org.