Director of External Affairs, Idaho
Raised in Idaho, Kari Kostka joined The Nature Conservancy in Idaho in 2019 to lead TNC’s policy and advocacy efforts aimed at building partnerships for conservation policy and public funding. She serves as the government relations point at both the federal and state levels and oversees the management of the chapter’s Climate Program.
Prior to joining TNC, Kari spent several years facilitating strategic planning, policy development, legislation and rulemaking as the strategic planning manager for the Idaho Department of Lands. She also held similar duties as policy analyst for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality between 2011 and 2016.
Kari holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and politics from Willamette University and a master’s degree in public administration in environmental and natural resources policy from Boise State University.
Quagga Mussels Response
On September 18th the presence of quagga mussels at larval life stages in the Centennial Waterfront Park area of the Snake River was confirmed by Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA).
Quagga mussels are a quick-spreading invasive, non-native species that pose a major threat to Idaho’s fisheries, water supplies and systems, wildlife habitat, agriculture and human communities. The microscopic larvae spread between bodies of water by live wells, bait buckets, bilge water, waders and anything else that moves from one body of water to another. They present perhaps the greatest risk to our economy and recreation of any invasive species, and Idahoans must do everything possible to prevent their spread and eradicate them if possible.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked with ISDA and partners for more than 20 years to prevent the introduction and spread of quagga mussels and other invasive species. Those efforts have been successful largely due to the foresight and vigilance of Idahoans. Now for the first time, the State of Idaho has initiated their rapid response plan to contain and control the threat of a quagga mussel infestation. TNC is confident the agencies overseeing the response are taking necessary action and are doing so with the best science, planning and oversight available.
Successful containment and control of the infestation requires everyone to do their part. We implore you to continue to be diligent in the prevention of spreading quagga mussels by following the guidance provided by ISDA and adhering to water access closures. For the most up to date information please visit Idaho.gov/quagga.
This Monumental Opportunity Will Only Be as Great as Our Willingness to Seize It
March 21, 2023
Following the largest ever U.S. action on climate, it's time to opt in and shape a better future for Idaho.
Recent federal policy wins have shifted our collective course on climate action, and positive momentum is building—momentum on a path to innovate new technologies, leverage the carbon-storing powers of nature, incentivize cleaner energy and build community resilience.
With passage of bills like the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, never-before-seen levels of federal funding are now available for climate and conservation. The Inflation Reduction Act alone includes nearly $370 billion in clean energy and climate investments over the next 10 years and will make significant strides toward meeting the United States’ commitment of 50% emissions reductions by 2030. The package includes $30 billion in incentives for solar, wind and battery manufacturing in the U.S., $60 billion for low-income communities that bear a disproportionate share of pollution, $20 billion to support climate-smart agriculture practices, and $7.6 billion to conserve and restore forests and coastal habitats to protect communities.
In Idaho, this could mean key investments with broad impact. For example, an additional $700 million is slated for the Forest Legacy Program, which has been incredibly successful in North Idaho and is vital for conserving working timberlands, rural economies and connected wildlife corridors. An additional $1.4 billion will go toward the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which has made possible the conservation of working ranches and rangelands across the state for the benefit of people and fish and wildlife species like salmon and pronghorn. And dozens of new programs and funding are now on the table for programs that can help key Idaho sectors like transportation and agriculture reduce emissions and could even help prevent catastrophic wildfires. These investments could create hundreds—even thousands—of good-paying jobs for Idahoans in all parts of the state.
In many instances, new federal funding will be allocated through formula grants to states based on population or other metrics. This means funds are specifically set aside for Idaho—should the state elect to approve applicable programs and spending. For example, the State of Idaho has $3.9 million available through the State Energy Program for state-led strategic energy planning and initiatives focused on priorities such as energy security, resiliency and emergency preparedness. There are also new opportunities for wildfire preparedness and resiliency, land and water conservation, natural climate solutions, renewable energy and more.
Success will require Idaho’s leaders and entities like The Nature Conservancy, along with other nonprofits, state and local agencies and Tribes, working together to implement programs. Federal agencies intend to work in large part through new and existing partnerships, innovative agreements and contractors to get funding on the ground. With proven solutions in hand and long-standing state and federal agency relationships, TNC is well positioned to help put expertise and funding on the ground.
It is also important to keep in mind that many federal grant programs require non-federal matching funds. As we seek to increase application of these programs and new federal funding, the need for private donations and other funding sources increases as well. This is a critical moment for leveraging private philanthropy to scale impact.
For climate action and new federal funding to touch down here—for the benefit of Idaho and Idahoans—we need support and action from Governor Little, state administrative agencies and the state legislature. Idaho legislators are again considering where to direct an unprecedented state tax surplus and seeking solutions to pressing Idaho issues like drought and water shortages and the threat of wildfire. State and private funds can position Idaho to leverage new federal dollars and address these critical needs at a much greater level.
We know today some new federal funding is already available, and more will be available soon. We know federal guidance is lacking in places, and processes can be complicated. We know capacity restraints limit bold and ambitious new strategies and programs. But we also know there has never been an opportunity—at even a remotely similar scale—to invest in our state and our future in this way.
Can Idaho lawmakers act in the best interest of Idaho? Will Idaho choose to complement federal investment and accelerate natural climate solutions and technology innovations? Can we set Idaho on a positive path toward greater climate resiliency for future generations? It’s up to Idaho to meet this moment.
Policy Is a Pathway to Long-term Solutions
March 15, 2022
Policy and advocacy work can be difficult to put a finger on. The impact is not always immediately visible—especially compared to TNC’s work on the ground—but our policy work is the bedrock for much of this success. Federal conservation programs and public funding sources allow us to be more ambitious and work at a scale not possible through private funding alone.
Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, for example, provided full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), or $900 million annually—for the first time in the fund’s more than 50-year history. LWCF funds a host of programs, including the Forest Legacy Program, which has accounted for the conservation of more than 100,000 acres in northern Idaho. These projects keep working lands working, support local timber economies, and help keep migration corridors intact, among many other benefits.
New federal funding through vehicles like the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will be instrumental in scaling up other areas of TNC’s work, such as our prescribed fire pilot program featured in this newsletter. There is tremendous interest for TNC to greatly expand this model across the state and the IIJA will likely provide much of the funding needed to do so.
We need solutions that address local challenges and fit the needs of Idahoans. It’s why we’re talking about policies to address drought and wildfire, and policies to leverage the carbon storage potential of our agricultural and forested lands. And, above all, we need durable policy that will outlast swings in political leadership to ensure we’re on a path for long-term change.
Whether it is our work making a difference on the ground, in the policy realm, or through partnerships, we couldn’t do it without you.