As #ClimateWeek heats up, a Congressional coalition has announced its climate policy priorities in the hopes they can garner bipartisan support.
The US Senate has approved a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and colleagues across the country, the bill to ensure the conservation of our shared public lands and waters for generations of Americans to come now heads to the House.
Written By Mo McBroom, Government Relations Director for The Nature Conservancy Washington Chapter. Photographed by John Marshall
The people of Washington want to act on climate
Washington voters overwhelmingly understand that climate change is affecting us now and want our state to take action to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
A post-election poll commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and partners found that four-in-five voters think climate change is happening; more than three-in-five attribute it primarily to human activities; and a consistent one-half of Washington voters think climate change will cause them at least moderate personal harm.
Although Initiative 732 did not pass, Washington voters clearly have an appetite for state-level action to address carbon pollution. Over two-thirds of Washington voters support climate action at the state level – nearly half “strongly support” it.
We must come together to craft smart climate policy that protects our natural resources and works for all of Washington.
Even those who opposed I-732 still want the state to take action on climate. In response to a direct question about I-732, 38 percent characterized the measure as an important step forward in fighting climate change; while nearly three in ten said it was too flawed – but that they support action on climate change. Taken together, this demonstrates the broad appeal of state-level climate action, despite the results of the I-732 vote.
Washington voters also agreed that they want revenue generated by any carbon-pricing measure to be spent on protecting our natural resources like clean water and healthy forests, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The survey showed that 73 percent of voters thought it was either Extremely or Very Important to prevent pollution of rivers, lakes and streams, including Puget Sound. And 56 percent said it was Extremely or Very Important to restore forest health to reduce wildfires.
The poll was conducted by the bipartisan polling team of FM3 Research (D) and Moore Information (R). They interviewed Washington voters who participated in the November 2016 election to examine their perceptions of I-732 and appetite for future state action on climate change.
So where do we go from here?
The Nature Conservancy is committed to working with every community in Washington that wants to take action on climate change. We will continue our efforts to craft and champion smart carbon policy with a wide and varied coalition of voices, including business interests, health, social justice, labor, faith and environmental groups.
By developing a comprehensive and broadly supportive climate policy, Washington can lead the nation, protect our natural environment and our way of life, and create a prosperous economy for our businesses and our families.
We define success as a carbon-pricing policy that significantly drives down emissions over time and invests in clean energy and natural infrastructure to prepare our communities for the future.
Two Strategies for Consideration at Senate Committee Hearing in Seattle
Written by Carrie Krueger, Director of Marketing
Photographed by John Marshall
As the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee meets in Seattle to examine this summer’s disastrous fires, The Nature Conservancy encourages the Committee to focus on two solutions the organization believes can provide relief from the worst of today’s megafires:
1. Support and fund the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy: The Cohesive Strategy is the result of a five-year collaborative planning effort that aligns governments at all levels to help develop fire-adapted communities, resilient landscapes, and to improve wildfire operations. It provides an approved mechanism to get all layers of government working together, including cities, counties, states, Tribes and Federal Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Defense, and Homeland Security. The Cohesive Strategy works to:
- Manage vegetation and fuels through thinning and controlled burns;
- Protect homes, communities, and other assets;
- Manage human-caused ignitions
- Effectively and efficiently respond to fire.
2. Fix the way emergency firefighting is funded by passing a fire-funding solution such as the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA): As the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior suppress the emergency fires, they have to dip into funds set aside for other projects—including some of those that can help reduce the risk of fires in the first place. This is different from how other natural disasters are paid for, such as hurricanes, tornadoes or floods. The Nature Conservancy encourages Congress to continue its work to find a bipartisan solution to fix the fire-funding problem, like the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA) that creates a disaster funding process for emergency wildfires. WDFA has the support of hundreds of conservation, forestry, outdoor industry, sportsmen’s organizations and more.
“Today the Forest Service has already spent close to all of its firefighting budget for the year, so we know they will need to transfer money away from other programs soon—affecting programs that conserve the water, wildlife and wood resources our forests provide,” said Cecilia Clavet, Senior Policy Advisor at The Nature Conservancy. “We need a solution now to stop crippling the federal agencies managing our natural assets with disruptive funding shortfalls.”
“Climate change, drought, and insects and disease, and more people living closer to forests have created an urgent need for restoration,” said Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “Only a commitment to restoration and the funding necessary to make it happen at scale can break the cycle of catastrophic fires that are taking such a tremendous toll on our state.”
America’s forests are the source of half our nation’s water; support one million forest product jobs; grow the largest and oldest trees in the world; are home to thousands of American wildlife species; and generate more than $14 billion of recreation and other economic activity on Forest Service lands alone.
Today these essential benefits are in jeopardy, due to the unhealthy state of our forests and the dangerous megafires that result from these conditions. For example:
- The U.S. Forest Service estimates more than 100,000 square miles of the forests they manage—an area bigger than Oregon—is now at risk for megafire.
- 55 years of records from the National Interagency Fire Center reveal that nine out of our 10 largest fire seasons have occurred after 2000, with three of our largest fire seasons coming since 2006.
- Since 2007, six states have experienced record-sized fires—Arizona, California, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico and Washington. New Mexico and Washington each broke their own records twice in this time period.
- Insurance experts estimate there are nearly 900,000 residential properties (worth a total of $237 billion) at “high” to “very high” risk of wildfire in 2015.