March 24, 2017 – An important update for our Rock Our World Campaign partners:
Advocating for public investments in nature
By Mike Stevens, Washington State Director of The Nature Conservancy
Because you are an important partner, I want you to know what we’re doing in the public policy sphere and why—and to make sure you get a chance to add your voice at this pivotal time.
We are currently facing serious threats to fundamental laws and policies at both the federal and state levels. The potential consequences have compelled us to become more active in policy and advocacy—and I hope you will join us. Our message is clear: Conserving our natural resources is not a partisan issue, and it is not optional.
At the federal level, the president’s FY 2018 federal budget proposal was released one week ago. Mark Tercek, The Nature Conservancy’s President and CEO, responded with a release in which he cautioned against what we see, frankly, as a misguided approach:
“This proposal includes dramatic cuts for conserving natural resources, addressing climate change, investing in science and helping the international community address environmental challenges. These are all important functions of our government that advance the security and well-being of all Americans. Protecting our land, water and air is not optional.”
Lynn Scarlett, the Conservancy’s Global Managing Director of Public Policy, elaborated:
“The $54 billion in proposed cuts to most federal agencies would take a heavy toll on conserving natural resources, addressing climate change and investing in science—in order to fund more military spending. That's a false choice. The assumption that the security and prosperity of our country must come at the expense of our natural resources is outdated and simply wrong… We're determined to work with the many members of Congress who have already expressed concerns about these dramatic cuts.”
The decisions that Congress will make in the coming weeks and months will have significant consequences for nature and people here in Washington. As I recently wrote, the president’s proposal slashes critical conservation and environment programs through dramatic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, Department of the Interior and more—jeopardizing Puget Sound recovery and other important Washington natural resources. We know there is a better way.
At the state level, we believe Washington can—and must—lead the nation. Unfortunately, the proposals we’ve seen so far this session continue the trend of reducing commitments to our natural resource agencies, Puget Sound restoration, salmon recovery, climate action, and more. Since the 2007-2008 recession, our state’s investments in protecting clean air, clean water and healthy natural resources have been cut from 1.6% of our state’s general fund to 0.7%. After the recent release of the state Senate’s proposed operating budget, I issued this brief statement calling on lawmakers to reverse this harmful trend by prioritizing three key actions.
These are urgent matters for the Conservancy. Our staff and volunteer leaders are engaging with lawmakers to advance common-sense, bipartisan policies. Regarding the federal budget, we have reached out to more than 500,000 Nature Conservancy members, asking them to speak up for investments in nature rather than cuts—generating 100,000 comments so far to their members of Congress through our online comment form [you can access that form here]. Here in Washington, we’re deeply engaged in budget and policy discussions, and will continue to encourage our members to contact their state legislators as a more complete picture of the various budgets and proposals emerges. Through our various public communications channels, we are encouraging everyone to speak up for the responsible conservation of our land, air, water and wildlife.
I invite you to speak up now, too. Your voice would be a powerful addition to our effort to re-affirm common ground and act on shared values for a more hopeful and prosperous future.