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Kosrae island, Micronesia Two women wade through the water at low tide on the inner reef of a small island just off of Walalung Village, Kosrae island, Micronesia. © Nick Hall

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Q&A with Joni Ward

Listen as our Director of Global Conservation Programs answers questions from our supporters. (Recorded March 2022)

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Dave Strauss:

Good evening and welcome to tonight's live Q&A with Joni Ward, The Nature Conservancy's director of global conservation programs. I'm Dave Strauss director of membership at The Nature Conservancy, and I will be your moderator this evening. I'm looking forward to hearing your questions. This is a live event with lots of opportunities for you to ask questions and share your thoughts. If you have a question for tonight's speaker, please press zero on your telephone keypad either now, or at any point during the event. Your questions will help guide tonight's discussions, so please ask away. If you've just joined us, welcome to tonight's live Q&A with The Nature Conservancy's conservation leadership. We are thrilled to have Joni Ward director of The Nature Conservancy's global conservation programs with us tonight. She is here to talk about urgent conservation priorities and answer your questions.

Dave:

If you'd like to ask a question, press zero on your keypad at any time. Thanks again to everyone for are joining us for this live discussion. Your support means so much to the work we do with The Nature Conservancy. And I really glad we have this chance to connect with each other tonight. Our featured guest, Joni Ward has a distinguished career in conservation. We are honored to have her here to talk with you, answer your questions and share her perspective on how we will continue working with safeguard the lands and waters that sustain us all. Joni leads, a team that works with staff around the world to maximize The Nature Conservancy's conservation impact globally. She has been with The Nature Conservancy for more than 20 years previously serving in various leadership roles within the conservation science team, including science director for North America, deputy director for central science and science director for the state of Wyoming.

Dave:

She is a trained ecologist experience consulting for the US Forest Service and other environmental agencies, welcome Joni. I know our supporters on the phone will have great questions for you tonight. Again, if you'd like to ask a question during tonight's telephone town hall event, or if you have any comments for our speaker, please press zero at any time to get in the queue to ask your question. There are several hundred people on the line, so we won't be able to get to everybody, but we will try to take as many callers as possible. We'll also have a couple chances for you to share your thoughts with a few interactive polling questions as we go along. Let me hand it over to you, Joni, to welcome those who have just joined us and share a few of your thoughts before we open up the lines for questions, Joni.

Joni Ward:

Well, thanks so much Dave for that introduction and thanks to everybody for taking an hour out of your busy days today or this evening to join us on the phone and for all that you do to support The Nature Conservancy at this critical time for people and the planet. Now, I am so lucky because I get to spend my days steep in The Nature Conservancy's conservation work day in and day out. And so I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to hear from all of you tonight who are helping to fund the work of my team and so many others across the US and over 70 countries where we work. And every day we are all working so hard because this is a unique moment in time.

Joni:

What stands between us and mission success, it's a dual crisis of climate change and biodiversity laws and the impacts to nature, to plants and animals around the world is unprecedented. And I'm sure that you've seen the findings from the latest UN climate report, and it's really hard to read, but we need to look at this information as a reason to keep fighting and to not lose hope. Now, to be sure hope is not a guarantee of a better future, but instead it's the knowledge that our actions matter. And today they matter more than ever because we've got a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it, but it can be done. TNC, we've always been grounded in science and the science it shows us that it's possible to meet the ambitious climate targets that have been set out by the Paris Agreement and the biodiversity targets of conserving 30% of lands and by 2030.

Joni:

But we have to act now, unfortunately in Nature Conservancy, we're poised to make a big contribution because we've got a great and unique combination of skills, relationships, assets, and support, and caring people like all of you who are on the phone with us tonight, who believe that we do more to change the trajectory of our planet. And the world, it needs the best of us, of all of us, if we're going to be successful in meeting these enormous challenges. And it's only together that we will find a way. And that's why at TNC, we've looked at how we can make our best contribution to help dramatically reduce the rate of peace laws and drastically cut carbon emissions. Now, my team, we led the effort to bring together Nature Conservancy staff from around the world to identify a few key areas where we can make the biggest difference between now and 2030, like using the power of nature to tackle climate change.

Joni:

Forest and grassland, they pull carbon into every growing root leaf and stem. And so nature has a fundamental role to play in making sure that our children and their children have a stable climate. And so our goal is to remove or sequester 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That's the same as removing 650 million cars off of the road. We're also ramping up our legacy of land protection. We aim to conserve two and a half million square miles of healthy lands. That's an area that's twice the size of India. Now we have that big ambitious goal because we need to give nature the room that it needs to thrive. And a thriving and vibrant future for all living things, it's only possible if local communities are shaping decisions about the lands and the waters that they care about so deeply.

Joni:

And so we're also increasing our work on based conservation efforts to support 45 million people around the world who depend on healthy lands, oceans, and fresh water for their livelihoods and their wellbeing. Now we know these goals are bold and yes, they're very ambitious, but so much can occur in a single lifetime, our lifetime. But we have to act now. Now is the time to live up to our promise as the largest environmental nonprofit in the world and make a meaningful difference for nature. And I'm so glad that all of you are on this journey with us. We have much to do together.

Dave:

Thanks Joni. And welcome to anyone who just joined us, it's a privilege to have Joni Ward, The Nature Conservancy's director of global conservation programs with us tonight for this live Q&A discussion on conservation priorities. As a reminder to ask a question, please press zero on your telephone key pad at any time. While we wait to get our first caller, I want to say thank you again to everyone participating in this virtual town hall event tonight on behalf of all of our staff and scientists, I wanted to thank you for your loyalty and generosity, your support means so much. We are United in our mission to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends, but each of us is inspired to act for different reason. So I wanted to ask a quick poll question to get a sense of why protecting nature matters to you to respond, press the corresponding number on your telephone keypad.

Dave:

The poll question, why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one, if you want to preserve beautiful lands and waters. Press two, if you care about saving endangered species. Press three, if you're concerned about climate change. Press four, if you want to keep natural resources healthy and clean. Press five for all of the above. Press six for other. Again, why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one, if you want to present are beautiful lands and waters. Press two, if you care about saving endangered species. Press three, if you're concerned about climate change. Press four, if you want to keep natural resources healthy and clean. Press five for all the above or press six for other.

Dave:

Your answers will help guide our discussion and we'll have the results for you in just a bit. Be sure to press zero, if you'd like to ask a question live tonight. Tonight's event is meant to be a dialogue about issues that are important to you. So we sent an email survey asking participants what question they most wanted Joni to answer tonight? The majority of the supporters said, this question was top of mind for them. And that's where we'll start. The top question was, how can communities help solve the climate and biodiversity crisis? Joni that's an easy one, right?

Joni:

That is an easy one, thanks Dave. It's a great question because we all want to contribute to solutions that will help nature and the planet thrive. Without a doubt, as I said in my opening comments just a moment ago, this is absolutely the decade for decisive action. The actions of individuals, they make a difference. Community action, it's a really powerful way to galvanize individuals together for even more impact. Here's some really great news biodiversity and climate, they're interrelated. And this means that when communities take action to maintain healthy lands and waters, they're also going to be helping counter the effects of climate change. So let me explain what I mean by that. So depending on where you call home, there are likely habitats that are important for wildlife that are also powerful for storing carbon, and that helps to remove emissions from our air.

Joni:

So for example, in coastal areas like Florida and Texas mangroves help buffer the impacts of storms and they also store vast amounts of carbon. And that's really good for our climate. Now, I live in Colorado and here in the Western US, our forests are critical for providing habitat for wildlife and also storing carbon. And so community action that work to protect and maintain the health of habitats like forests, like mangroves that will also help tackle the climate challenge and communities can do this work by reaching out to local state and federal agencies who are responsible for managing the lands and waters where you live. So another way that communities can make a difference is in investigating where their energy comes from and working with utility companies to transition to low carbon sources like wind and solar by also being sure to provide reliable energy that people need.

Joni:

Now, we've done that here in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and this effort, it started over 10 years ago when we voted to have our own energy utility. And over time, this led to an agreement with our energy company, Xcel Energy, where Xcel will continue to provide Boulder with power, with the goal of 100% renewable power generation by the year 2030. Now that's a really powerful outcome that's driven by local community action. My first answer here with a plug for local groups. So whether that's The Nature Conservancy or others, there's a vast amount of knowledge out there about important lands and waters for biodiversity that also have climate benefits and this information it's available to communities who want to understand more about how they can use their collective actions to make a meaningful difference. So that's a great first question, Dave.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Joni. Appreciate that. Let's get to our first caller on the line. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask the question live tonight. We'll try to get to as many as possible. So listen for your name. Once you get into queue, we have Glen from Ohio. Welcome Glen.

Glen:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Dave:

Absolutely. Feel free to ask your question, Glen.

Glen:

One of the things I run into I'm in a rural area in Ohio, I run into folks that don't really believe in change that much, but then when you about get, them convinced, they start pointing their finger and saying, "We can't do it all," they're acting like we're trying to do it all. And I know there's a whole bunch of countries that's involved in that, not just us. They point their finger at countries like China and those kind of places. And when in fact we're the biggest consumers of energy on earth. So how do I approach those folks?

Joni:

Thanks Glen. That's a great question. And we're starting out with a tough one right away and the climate conversations can be really challenging and because we know that the climate news, it's not good. It hasn't warmed as fast in any time in human history and carbon dioxide levels haven't been this high for at least 3 million years but all those sort of facts and figures, sometimes they really don't move people to understand that we have to take act all of us all around the world. I think the best thing that you can do, Glen and this may not be a completely satisfying answer is, stay in the conversation because it's just so important for all of us to be listening to each other and listening to that point of view and understanding that yes, the United States... You're right, we are one of the biggest emitters and there are other big emitting countries out there, but it's going to take all of us together.

Joni:

The United States, as one of the leading emitters, have the responsibility to step up and help lead because frankly it's part of our legacy and we want to have, a sustainable future for us all. Maybe one of the ways to pursue it is to make it a more personal conversation about the benefits to the things that your friends and neighbors really care about. That can be hard to find, and so one suggestion I have for you is because it's hard to talk about climate, The Nature Conservancy actually has a handy guide that it's available through our website on nature.org it's called Let's Talk Climate. There's some basic steps there where you don't have to be somebody like me, a scientist who just rattles off a bunch of data and information because what we know is that doesn't really move people.

Joni:

And so what you'll find in this guide is some basic steps that will help you make a connection of what people truly care about, because I think what's happening with your approach Glen is that, that's not moving them. So what you have to do is find that connection that you both have, that maybe it's a little closer to home about the impacts of climate. And so my modest suggestion is try The Nature Conservancy's, Let's Talk Climate guide and try and find that common ground and build from there. And thank you for being in those conversations because we don't talk about climate enough. And so I just want to say thanks for being willing to even be in conversations with your friends and neighbors. So thank you for your support and your question.

Dave:

Great question and Joni, great to move people to Let's Talk Climate guide there's really good information in there. I want to quickly share the results of the first poll before getting to our next live caller. I'm so happy to see the 23% of you said that you care about making sure beautiful lands and waters are protected. I definitely can relate to that. Let's take another question from the phone. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight. We have Fran from Michigan. Fran, welcome.

Fran:

Thank you. We have a local Conservancy in our community here in the larger Tri-County pretty much area. And I know about some in the UP, and I'm wondering how the large Nature Conservancy relates to and cooperates with those local conservancies and if that's common around the country or even in other countries. Thank you.

Joni:

Hi Fran. Thanks for your. Yeah, thanks for the question. It's a really good one. And the answer is absolutely yes, The Nature Conservancy we partner with other conservancies. I believe what you're referring to assume is other land trust and The Nature Conservancy happens to be the biggest land trust globally. And what's happened really happily since we've started back in the 1950s is the proliferation of hundreds, I think even thousands of land trust here in the United States. And so what's so fantastic about that is we're all working together to conserve the critical lands and waters here in the United States. And so we absolutely partner with them and there's a national organization called the Land Trust Alliance and we're very close partners with them and they make sure that all land trust follow the same rules so that we make sure that we're managing the lands and waters really well under the same rules, which is really important.

Joni:

And the other thing that we do is we share our science information with the National Land Trust Alliance. And that way, the information that The Nature Conservancy has about important places is shared all throughout the United States. So lots of really powerful partnerships. And then The Nature Conservancy also, we work in 70 countries around the world. So we have similar kinds of partnerships, it's not quite land trust outside of the United States. That's very much sort of a United dates construct if you will, but we have lots of partners that we work with, because we absolutely have to these big goals that I mentioned to all of you at the beginning of the call, The Nature Conservancy will not achieve those on our own. We know that we're one small piece of the puzzle. And so we're deeply interested in partnerships. That's something that we are based on and that we do all around the world. Thanks for your question.

Dave:

Thanks Joni. It's always great to hear about our breadth of work with our partners specifically around land. It's amazing what we do, not only in the US, but across the world. Let's take another caller. We have a Lilly from Lake City Texas.

Lilly:

Yes. The reason I wanted to get some information, we have a lot of construction going on here and what can I do maybe go to city council or whatever to have what we call nature corridors. We have a lot of wildlife that's being displaced. We have coyotes coming into the community, Bobcat and the rabbit population is really being depleted here. The Homeowners Associations in the area won't allow you to put solar panels on your homes in the front of the houses, which to me, I don't understand. But what can I do as an individual to make a difference? I'm already doing the wind and solar for my energy, I'm already recycling. I've been a donator to The Nature Conservancy for years and advocated it on every platform that was available to me. So what can I do?

Joni:

Well, gosh Lilly, it sounds like you're doing an awful lot already. So thank you so much for all of your supportive of The Nature Conservancy and everything that you're doing and your community. I believe I heard that you are living in Texas. So one suggestion is to go ahead and reach out to our Texas chapter and see what they're doing for the state, and then understand if they're working more locally in your community. Because what I love about The Nature Conservancy who I've been here for over many years now, is this very unique attribute that we have of really local information that we have in every state in the United States. And then our ability to apply that globally. But in this case, my advice is start with our chapter in Texas to understand what kind of information they might have that would be most applicable to the issues that you care deeply about.

Joni:

Because I think that they could give you the information around if you want to maintain corridors, for example, for that wildlife, to be able to move. There's probably tips that the local chapter could provide to you. So I think that would be my advice because you're already doing so much when I think about, what can we all do to do our part to make it a better world, you're doing those things in terms of, if you can replace an activity that will reduce your carbon emissions and you can reduce your carbon footprint, you're doing that with solar panels. I guess the other thing I would suggest to you is to go ahead and plant the tree. We'll probably talk a little bit more about pulling carbon from the atmosphere, but Lilly, it sounds like you're doing exceedingly well. And I would just suggest some outreach, if not to The Nature Conservancy to another local environmental NGO that might be available in your community there and understand how you might connect with them to have a bigger impact on your community.

Dave:

Great, thanks. Great question, Lilly. Thanks Joni. I would also say, we do have an online action center, The Nature Conservancy and work to participate in petition and writing your congressperson is another way to actually engage. And with that, we have a have another poll question. Many of our members are actively already speaking out more on conservation policies through our online action center. I'm curious how many people have participated. So I want to take a minute to do a quick poll. Press one, if you've signed a pledge or a petition or some other policy action on our online action center. Press two, if you have not visited our online action center or press three, if you don't recall, but would be interested in learning more about our action center.

Dave:

Again, press one, if you've signed a pledge or petition or some other policy action on our action center. Press two, if you have not visited our online action center or press three, if you don't recall, but we'll be interested in learning more about our action center. Let's go back to a few more questions from the folks on the phone. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight. We have Margaret from Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, Margaret. Margaret, are you with us?

Margaret:

Yes.

Dave:

Oh, excellent. Margaret so you'll ask Joni?

Margaret:

I have a big yard and I was just wondering how important it's for me to plant trees in my yard.

Joni:

Margaret. That's a great question. Is it important? Yes. It's important every action that we can take to help the environment is helpful. Certainly planting a tree, it does a couple things. It could potentially provide a nesting site for some local birds for you. And then it also as that tree grows, it's going to store carbon, which is very important for attempting to improve climate change. And so, it may seem like plant a tree is going to have a small impact and that's true on one level, but if you do that and many others do it... And then importantly, as you are a supporter of The Nature Conservancy, we're able to do that at a scale that really has a meaningful impact on storing carbon and then really making a difference as we try and tackle climate change. But I would encourage you, plant a tree if it makes you feel better and it connects you with nature.

Joni:

Because I think everything matters. It will help the environment. Certainly try to get a native tree, a tree that you don't have to really fertilize or you wouldn't have to use a lot of water. I hear where I live in the west, that's critically important. So my biggest advice is check in with your local professionals to understand what are some native trees that I can plant in my backyard, because that's going to, I have a more of a likelihood of providing habitat for the plants and animals that live in your part of the world. And then also be able to do that in a way that isn't going to take a whole lot of resources in order for you to keep that tree healthy and alive. So by all means, please do plant a tree. They're just so wonderful. But please do check in with your local folks there to understand what are the best native trees to be planting?

Dave:

Thanks, Joni. I think in the spirit of Margaret, I think we should all plant a tree sometime this week. Let's take another question from the phone. We have John from Fort Collins, Colorado. John.

John:

Yes. Do you hear me?

Dave:

Yes, sir. Please ask your question.

John:

With climate change, things are going to change, that's a given. I know that we're going to lose some things that we care for. In Colorado, we're not going to have more water and the amount of cold water fisheries is going to decline. So how does The Nature Conservancy choose what to work on to save? If we know that we're going to lose things, how do we choose where to do our work?

Joni:

It's a great question. And happily for The Nature Conservancy, this is very much in our wheelhouse. We've got scientists who that have been working on that question for literally decades. And back in the day before we were fully aware of the impacts of climate change, we used all information to identify the most important places for us to save. And that's based on a lot of ecological information about the distribution of habitats and where plant and animals are. And so we've got a really deep rich history in doing that and it helped us know where to focus our work. And what we've done in the past 20 years, knowing that the impacts of climate are happening and you're right, it can be hard to think about, well, where are those places that we should say that are resilient in the face of climate change? And here in the United States, a fellow by the name of Dr. Mark Anderson has made this his life's work over the past 20 years.

Joni:

And they have mapped TNC scientists what is called a resilience and connected landscape and what this is, is it using attributes of nature where we can understand the places in the United States that will be the most resilient over time. And that means for plants and animals. And we've got that all mapped out and it that's another resource that is available online through our website. And so what's so powerful about that is as climate changes, we have the grounding to know where of these places that we need to be saving that's going to give nature of the room that... It's hard to imagine a tree moving that they actually are. They are migrating up to as it warms, they're moving up the mountain ranges.

Joni:

That's the kind of information that we've used in order to understand where are these places that as the climate continues to change, we're making good bets. And so we have that information for the United States. We're expanding it now to Canada, up into Alaska. So those are the maps and the information that our teams use in order to focus our work and get the best return on investment for the work that we're doing now. So thanks for your question it's a really good one.

Dave:

Yeah. Thanks John and thank you Joni. I want to quickly get the results for our second poll question. 25% of you said you have taken one of our policy actions, the pledges and letters to Congress that are in our online action center are a chance for supporters to add their voices to critical conservation policy issues. It's a way for you to speak up for nature, be sure to visit nature.org/act, to see the urgent issues that need your voice right now. Let's take another question from the phone. You ready for another one Joni?

Joni:

I'm ready. Let's hear it.

Dave:

We have Christine from California.

Christine:

Yes. Can you hear me?

Dave:

Yes, Christine.

Christine:

My question is how do we balance between protecting land and wildlife versus the need to produce our own energy so that we won't be reliant on foreign country? For example, gas in California is on average over $6 unless I go to Costco and wait in long lines for f$5.50 per gallon.

Joni:

Christine, it's a great question about, about how to have that balance. And, and it's the question where for The Nature Conservancy, we have to determine what's the best role that we can play with our mission, with our skillset in order to try and to contribute to this really perplexing challenge that you've identified. When we think about how to balance protecting wildlife with developing energy, the information that I was just talking about a moment ago about that we have as scientists to understand where are the important places, not only in the United States, but all around the world that are critical for biodiversity to make sure that we've got biodiversity into the future? We use that information and make it publicly available, especially in California, we've been doing this quite a bit in the Mojave Desert, as the solar arrays are going up.

Joni:

What we do is provide information and make sure that we can cite those renewables in the right places so that they don't have a detrimental impact on wildlife because that's something that I don't think it at The Nature Conservancy, we can solve the escalating gasoline prices. But what we can do is promote renewables and also promote them in a way that we don't have to have really negative impacts on biodiversity. And so we're doing this in the United States, as I said, we've done it in the Mojave Desert. We've also done it in the Midwest. We have a tool that's called Site Wind Right, so that's specifically about wind and it's an online mapping tool that shows developers where these wind projects can be sited with the least impact. And the other piece of this that TNC scientists have done is, we've done the analysis to show that we can have renewables and we actually don't have to break up the Prairie.

Joni:

We don't have to put them in places that right now are intact and are important grasslands for example. Most of the countries in the world, the 10 highest emitters and that includes the United States. We already have plenty of converted areas, such as marginal farmlands, former mine lands and brown fields, where we could place the solar energy, where we can place the wind turbines, where we're getting our renewables, but we're not making nature suffer as a result of needing to move away from and getting to a low carbon energy sources. So with The Nature Conservancy, we do our part in this and hopefully everybody will do their part so that eventually, these expensive gas prices will come down.

Dave:

Thanks Joni. Let's take another question for the phone. We have Joy from Missouri, Joy.

Joyce:

Good evening. I think you said Joyce and I am from Missouri.

Dave:

Oh, is it Joyce? Oh, Joyce. Welcome.

Joyce:

Well, is it Joy or Joyce? Let's make sure I don't cut out someone else.

Dave:

It's Joyce. Yes, it's you.

Joyce:

Oh, hey, thanks a lot. I'm no longer a young person, but I'm not so old that I've given up or that I no longer care. So my question is, how often does The Nature Conservancy revisit its long range goals, short term goals? Similar to a question just recently asked was then do you base those reassessments on where there is need or what the need is? Thanks so much.

Joni:

Thanks Joyce. Oh boy, that's a really good question. And The Nature Conservancy, I would say that we... I'm just sort of laughing because what we know amongst our staff is that we are pretty relentless at very consistently evaluating if we're doing enough. We pretty regularly reevaluate, have we set ambitious enough goals? And what we do is, especially now in this era of climate change, we align our goals as an organization with global commitments like the Paris Climate Accord. And so we've got our climate goal is one portion of that, it's a very ambitious portion. The TNC's one small part that everybody around the world has to play. And so when we think about our goals, what we do is we understand what's important for the world. And I know that can sound a little over overwhelming, but the reality is we are all connected.

Joni:

And we know that now with climate change. Quite candidly, when I started in The Nature Conservancy 20 years ago, we just weren't quite thinking about our work that way. And frankly, it felt a little bit easier because we could work in a local landscape and feel really good about it. And we can still do that today, but we do that work with our eye on the bigger global goals that we truly have to be working on as an organization. We keep the long view of what's required for mission success. And we very regularly check in with ourselves and make sure that we're doing everything that we possibly can with donor dollars, with all of you who trust us to make the biggest impact that we possibly can. So we look long and we're always making sure that we're making enough progress towards those long goals. So it's a very active assessment that we do within the organization quite frequently. So thanks for your question, Joyce.

Dave:

Great, thank you. Joni I wanted to pause and say, thanks so much for these rapid fire responses. There's such good questions. And I see so many more on the queue. There's several hundred people on the line, so we won't be able to get to everybody, but I wanted it to try to take as many callers as possible, thanks for your patience. Again, to ask a question, please press zero and get into the queue. Before we take the next caller, I wanted to go back to the responses to our first poll question. Because many of you said you chose to protect name because you care about endangered species. Joni, I have a question for you. I know you're passionate about wildlife. Wondering if you can share some thoughts about the best ways to protect threatened species.

Joni:

Thanks Dave. It's true, I am indeed passionate about wildlife and birds in particular are my passion and even more specifically, birds of prey. Many years ago when I was doing my master's research, I studied a rare bird of prey called the Northern goshawk. And if you live in an area with forests and if you're really, really lucky, maybe you've seen one of these elusive and magnificent birds and the goshawk's the I studied over 20 years ago, they lived in a place called the Jemez Mountains in Northern New Mexico. But it's a very different Jemez Mountains today than when I was studying there. Why is that? Well, portions of my study area, they've been burned over by wildfire, not once, not twice, but multiple times. Now, fire in these forest, it's normal but the fires that have been burning recently, they've they've really been anything but normal.

Joni:

So fire in the Jemez it's burned so hot that trees in some part of the forests, they're just not coming back. And instead they're grasslands and so much of the forest and trees that goshawks call home, they're gone. And so much of the Jemez that I knew and that I loved is also gone. And so what can we do to help goshawks and other rare and endangered species? The most important thing to do is to continue to advocate for their homes, for the protection and strong management of lands and waters and protection. There's some doubt that it's important, but my goshawk story, I think makes it clear that protection alone, it's not sufficient. And so what we need is community based collaborations where people work together to ensure that forests and grasslands and oceans and rivers, that all of us love that they're managed well so that they can meet the needs of nature and also of people.

Joni:

If we do that over time, then wildfires like those that have happened in the Jemez. They'll once again burn in a healthy way and they'll regenerate and revitalize the forest. And I should mention that collaboration. It is happening in Northern New Mexico, where our TNC team, they're working with local communities and state and federal agencies on forest management. And so I am happy to say that there is still hope for goshawks.

Dave:

Thanks for sharing Joni, really appreciate that. So much of our work at TNC has done in partnership with communities and private land owners. And we're also lucky to have many nature Conservancy, protected areas across the country that are open to the public. And I have a quick question. Have you ever visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one, for yes. Press two, for no and press three, for not sure. Again, have you ever visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one, for yes. Press two, for no. Press three, for not sure. And we've got another caller we've got Sharon from California, Sharon.

Sharon:

Yes, I'm here.

Dave:

Great.

Sharon:

My question is what are some small things that people and especially children can do in their everyday lives to feel like they're actually contributing in some way to the solution? I know that we do the water conservation and recycling, but what else can they do to feel like they're helping because things are so overwhelming is like, what can we do?

Joni:

Thanks Sharon. It's a great question. All of the small things add up and I know that sometimes can sound like it's not true, but if you think about it, there are over 7 billion of us on earth now. And if only half of us started doing one thing that would be three and a half billion actions and that would just be an amazing amount of progress. And so what can our kids do? They are doing all of the right things as they think about recycling and thinking about, trying to have a lighter footprint on the earth and so reusing things as much as they can and asking their parents about, where does their energy come from? And maybe we could use a little bit less and maybe we could eat a little bit less meat than we normally would and install low flow water fixtures.

Joni:

So we're actually using less energy, all of that really helps. And then it's certainly true to like go out there and plant it tree. So if we can all go out and plant trees, if we all go do that this week, we will be contributing to pulling that carbon dioxide out of the air. And we all do that together. All of those small actions will add up. And then once again, I will just say, if the parents of those children out there could contribute to The Nature Conservancy, we're able to make an impact at a very significant scale. And that is not an insignificant thing to do. So I think we all need to take our individual action. Kids definitely need to get involved with nature, understand the connection that we all have to nature and how so much of it, we rely on nature for our water. We rely on nature for shelter. So to have that understanding of the connection and then as we all can understand that connection begin to take actions as individuals and then hopefully collectively and also by supporting organizations like The Nature Conservancy.

Dave:

Great, thanks Joni. Just a reminder to ask a question, please press zero. To get into the queue. Let's take a brief minute to get the results of the last poll question. 56% of you, which is wonderful visited a Nature Conservancy preserve. It's awesome. I'd love to hear it and if you want to learn more about where a preserve is near you can visit nature.org. Another question ready for another one Joni?

Joni:

You bet.

Dave:

We've got Beth from Washington DC. Beth, are you with us?

Beth:

Yes, thank you. My question is which lands and waters are most at risk in the face of climate change?

Joni:

Thanks Beth. That's a great question. And what's hard to answer about that question is that our climate, it is truly a global system. And so when it's stressed, as it is now, there's really nowhere on earth where the impacts of the change to our climate system aren't felt. But that said, if I have to answer the question about where is it being felt the most, I would have to say the Arctic. And the reason for that is that global temperatures, they are warming twice as fast in the Arctic. And that makes the Arctic region that's probably at the highest risk from climate change impacts. And so why is the global temperature rising so much more quickly in this vast and beautiful region? And it's a phenomenon that's known as Arctic amplification and that's caused by melting ice. And it has to do with the fact that ice is more reflective and it's less absorbent of sunlight.

Joni:

And so as that ice melts, we see more of the ocean and we see more land and it's just this cycle that goes and that's why the temperatures are increasing so much more up in the Arctic. And that's a problem for the plants and animals. They need time to adjust to that changing environment and they just don't have that time given the pace of temperature change in the Arctic. And so it's pretty sobering up in the Arctic, but as I mentioned, what we do in The Nature Conservancy is we flip that script and understand, well, where are the places that are most resilient? And so that's this climate resilience and connected network mapping that I mentioned a few questions ago, where we have an understanding of really focusing on those places that are going to give nature the best opportunity to be thriving as we continue to have our environment that's impacted so much by climate.

Dave:

Thanks, Joni. We have another question from the phone. We've got Mark from Madison, Wisconsin, Mark.

Mark:

Hello. Good evening. My question...

Dave:

Mark. Hello?

Mark:

Yes, sorry. Hello. I just put on my phone. My question is we've got some terrific goals. I'm wondering what monitoring or dashboard might be used to track how we're doing in terms of progress against these goals.

Joni:

Oh, thanks Mark what a great question. If you could see me, you would see my big smile. It's a terrific question and it's hard to do, but I'm very proud and happy to say that The Nature Conservancy, we have these ambitious goals and we have a data management system that all of our teams use. It's got a catchy name called The Hub and our teams, they enter in information about the progress that they're making against these goals. So what's powerful about our goals is they're galvanizing. So no matter where we work in the world, we're all working towards the same goals. And so we use this data management system inside the organization, and we actually have a dashboard and our CEO, Jen Morris, just the other day said, "Gosh, I love this." Because we can just see the progress that we're making and we've just gotten going and we've got a ways to go, but we're a science based organization.

Joni:

And so we're absolutely committed to monitoring and being able to track our progress. So we do invest deeply in that. And so our teams are committed to it, the entire organization can see it. And so that's what The Nature Conservancy is doing. And then we share our practices and that information with our partners as well, because as we all know, TNC has an important role to play, but it's going to take so many of us in order to achieve our truly ambitious goals that the world needs. TNC will do our part will hold ourselves accountable by monitoring our progress. But it's really going to take all of us in order to meet the goals that we need to meet, to have a sustainable planet into the future, but monitoring absolutely critical. And we are very much committed to it.

Dave:

Great question Mark. Thanks Joni. Let's take another question from the phone. We have Michael from DC, Michael.

Michael:

I'd like to ask what type of efforts are being made internationally to reduce the carbon footprint of major players and countries?

Joni:

Michael, that's a great question. The answer for The Nature Conservancy is, gosh, there's a lot of players that have big footprints. And so what difference can The Nature Conservancy make? And I would say one of the most important places that we're investing deeply is actually in agriculture. And I don't know if some of you are maybe surprised to hear that, but Nature Conservancy is deeply engaged in agriculture because food it's the most basic and essential way that we all interact with nature. And in agriculture, it is the world's largest industry. So it has a very significant footprint because it is the single biggest human use of land and water. And so, what we all know, I think intuitively is that producing food it's not a nature neutral activity. And so depending on how we do it can be environmentally destructive or it can actually shelter, biodiversity, and also provide benefits to climate by sequestering carbon.

Joni:

And so we all need to eat. I think we all ate today. We're going to eat later tonight, but the way that we produce food, it's really different all around of the world. Especially when you think about things like specific farming practices and market forces and policy, and there's so many other things to consider. And so here's what TNC is doing, we've got 15 globally representative diverse food growing areas that we're either already engaged in or underway. And what we're doing is we're working with food producers, we're working with the water managers and agribusiness in ways that are both good for the planet and the people. And let me just give you a couple examples of what I mean. So for example, in Argentina, the Gran Chaco, we're working with soy farmers and cattle ranchers, policy makers, food processors to protect one of South America's biggest tropical forest.

Joni:

And what we're doing is improving crop yields, conserving water supplies, reducing carbon emissions and supporting family farmers. So another example that we have is here in the states, we work both in the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi Basin, and we're partnering with farmers here in the states and working with extension agencies across these truly massive watershed. And our goal there is to improve soil health, reduce fertilizer runoff, and restore waterways that are truly famous for their fisheries in the case of the Chesapeake and also for the Gulf, but they suffer some of the worst water quality in the US. And so I would have to say that our partnership with agriculture and really getting into the details is probably one of the most impactful ways that we're attempting to work with those players out there that truly have a big footprint.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Joni. Next question. Our next caller, we've got Tessa from Scottsdale, Tessa.

Tessa:

Everyone thank you so much for having me for taking my question. I couldn't have agreed more with Joni's comment at the beginning of the time as now for a decisive action and wanted to take a little bit of a different spin on some similar questions that have been asked to ask you if you expect for more volunteer opportunities to ramp up for The Nature Conservancy in particular. Obviously that's been shut down the past couple years with the pandemic, as I've been searching to get involved with The Nature Conservancy directly. So I was hoping to hear if we can expect that to ramp up soon.

Joni:

Thanks Tessa. Thank you for your support. And yes, we will ramp up soon. I think we're all in the Conservancy really itching to get out and be engaging with our volunteers. I think the best way that you can do that is go to nature.org and search for volunteer and there's lots of opportunities. And as you said, things have been shut down, especially here in the states, but our local state chapters are indeed starting to ramp that back up again. So I would encourage you to keep going to the, a website, check out what opportunities are available. And I happen to be a big fan of the Arizona chapter. They're a great team there, and I'm sure that they're going to be increasing their volunteer opportunities there as well, because we need everybody really pitching in. And so please do, and thank you for your willingness to pitch in with TNC and really make a difference. But I think nature.org volunteer is a good place to see what the latest opportunities are.

Dave:

Great, thank you Joni. This has been an incredible conversation. Joni, if there is one thing you want our listeners to take away from this conversation, what would it be?

Joni:

Wow, thanks Dave. Gosh, it's hard to do one thing. Here's one thing that I hope everybody remembers from tonight. We know that we're facing really big challenges with biodiversity loss and climate change. Yes, they're complex. They're massive. And what I want you to remember is that they're connected. And so every action that we take it truly does matter in helping to turn the tide and having a world where nature and people can thrive. And to do that, all of us need courage. We need the courage to take on these daunting challenges together. We need meaningful collaboration from everyone who cares about safeguarding, our natural world, our leaders, farmers, ranchers, heads of corporations, foresters, indigenous people, communities, and people like all of us who are on the phone together tonight.

Joni:

And so by being here and with your generous support of the Conservancy, all of you are playing such an important role in helping to solve these really challenging issues. And together, I just know that we can find a way to drastically reduce emissions and halt species loss around the world. I am so optimistic about what we can accomplish. And so my deepest, thanks to all of you for your loyal support of the Conservancy.

Dave:

Thank you, Joni. We have one final poll question for you. Do you feel that this live Q&A was informative and insightful for you? Press one, for yes. Press two, for no. Again, do you feel this live Q&A was informative and insightful? Press one, for yes. Press two, for no. And thank you everyone who joined us live for this call. I can't thank you enough for all you do to support our cause. We'll be following up with you with a survey by email. So if you're not on our email list, go to nature.org and sign up. Joni, thank you for being our guest. You're wonderful. I know our members and our supporters loved hearing from you and really appreciate your time. Unfortunately, we couldn't get to everybody's questions, but if you have any additional comments, please press one to leave a voicemail for us. We always value your feedback. Thanks again for your time and have a wonderful evening. Good night.

 

Saving the Wild: Protecting Rhinos in Kenya Not so long ago, black rhinos nearly disappeared forever, poached almost to extinction. Today, with TNC support, we'll return a beloved species to Loisaba Conservancy's open grasslands for the first time in 50 years—helping to support Kenya's effort to continue rebuilding its black rhino population.
Saving the Wild: Protecting Orangutans in Borneo The tropical rainforests of Borneo—a region of critical biodiversity and home to three-quarters of the world’s orangutans—are disappearing at an alarming rate. Watch to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the rainforest and to learn about TNC’s partnerships that enable us protect this area.
Bright golden sun rays fall over the red-colored Grand Canyon under a mostly cloudy sky.
Grand Canyon Bright golden sun rays stream from the clouds over the red rocks of the Grand Canyon, one of the most visited national parks in the United States. © Allison Markova/TNC Photo Contest 2018
Hunger Mountain near Waterbury, Vermont.
Hunger Mountain Hunger Mountain near Waterbury, Vermont. © Geoff Giller

Q&A with Jan Glendening

Listen to this interactive Q&A with our Regional Managing Director for North America. (Recorded September 13, 2021)

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Dave Strauss:

Good evening, and welcome to tonight's live Q and A with Jan Glendening, the Nature Conservancy Regional Managing Director for North America. I'm Dave Strauss, director of membership of the Nature Conservancy and I'll be your moderator tonight. I'm looking forward to hearing your questions. This is a live event with lots of opportunities for you to ask questions and share your thoughts. If you had a question for tonight's speaker, please press zero on your telephone key pad either now or at any point during the event, your questions will help guide tonight's discussion so please ask away. If you've just joined us, welcome to tonight's live Q and A with the Nature Conservancy conservation leadership. We are thrilled to have Jane Glendening the Nature Conservancy Regional Managing Director for North America with us tonight. She's here to talk about urgent conservation policy priorities and answer your questions.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks again to everyone for joining us for this live discussion. Your support means so much and I'm really glad we've had the chance to connect with you tonight. Thank you for being part of the Nature Conservancy community. Our thoughts are with those of you who have been affected by hurricane Ida, the devastating wildfires across the West and other extreme events and I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well this evening. Thank you for joining the call. I'm so glad you're able to participate in this live telephone town hall event. Our featured guest, Jen Glendening has a distinguished career in conservation. We are honored to have her here to talk with you, answer your questions and share her perspective on how we continue working to safeguard the lands and waters that sustain us all. Jan has been with the Nature Conservancy for more than 20 years, previously serving various roles within the Iowa chapter, including director of philanthropy and state director.

Dave Strauss:

Prior to her current role she also served as the director of the great Plains division as TNC North America Regional Managing Director. She oversees the region that comprises 50 US state chapters spread across eight divisions in 20 countries with the recent inclusion of some of the Pacific Islands. The North America region has over 2,500 staff and more than a 1000 trustees. As managing director Jan works to empower all of North America business units, programs, and divisions to read and execute conservation work across the region. Welcome Jan, I know our supporters on the phone will have great questions for you tonight. Again, if you'd like to ask a question during tonight's telephone town hall event or if you have any questions for our speaker, please press zero at any time, we'll also have a couple of chances for you to share your thoughts with a few interactive polling questions as we go along. Now let me hand it over to you, Jan, to welcome those who have just joined us and share a few thoughts before we open up the lines for questions, Jan.

Jan Glendening:

Thank you so much Dave and thank you so much for this invitation and that wonderful introduction. I want to thank our members and all of you on the phone today for joining us for this event. I've had the great privilege of working with members since I started at the Nature Conservancy 20 years ago. And I can tell you your support makes all of the Nature Conservancy work and our work throughout the North America region and globally possible. And it really couldn't come at a more crucial time. We're facing the biggest, most complex challenges of our lives with climate change and biodiversity loss, much of what science tells us about these challenges can feel scary and overwhelming. You see stats all the time right now about how quickly we're losing species, how high the sea levels and temperatures are rising and how much more frequently we can expect to face droughts and natural disasters.

Jan Glendening:

And this can be so frightening and disheartening, but fortunately science also shows us it's possible to change course and try a much better path that now will only avoid irreversible damage to our lands and waters, but also helps restore nature. We're at a really pivotal moment. What we do right now is going to have an immense impact on the health of people and nature and our own lifetimes, as well as for future generations. But the window of opportunity to get on that path is rapidly closing and the current pace of conservation is just not enough. We need to do more and we need to do it more quickly. Simply put, we need to ramp up our work if we're going to curb climate change and prevent biodiversity loss. And there's actually something happening right now that is giving us a lot of hope and could be a tremendous opportunity for the Nature Conservancy to really ramp up our work across North America.

Jan Glendening:

As we speak right now there are two pieces of legislation that present our best opportunity to make a meaningful progress on climate change and conservation in the US and these are moving through congress right now. If passed these bills, which are the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill, they would be by far the most significant US investment conservation and action against climate change today. They would be one of the best opportunities for the North America region to achieve huge contributions to the Nature Conservancy 2030 goals. And with the world leaders convening this November for climate negotiations, these bills could also very likely have an impact well beyond North America. Such strong action by the US would be a critical step towards spurring other countries to act boldly. We have a lot of ground to make up, but the opportunity represented by these bills is giving us a lot of hope and momentum.

Jan Glendening:

I hope you'll all take the time to learn more about them and engage however you can. And finally, I want to underscore just how urgent this is for you and me and communities around the world, climate change and biodiversity loss are no longer distant problems. We have hurricanes, wildfires and other climate impacts happening all across the North America region at all times of the year. Unfortunately, science tells us climate change is going to increase the severity of events like these, and that's why it's so important for us to meet our ambitious goals. Right now is about this high stakes as it gets for our planet but I am also relentlessly optimistic. Every day I see incredible support from ranchers, from farmers, from indigenous communities, partners and Nature Conservancy members just like you. It's no exaggeration to say that this is an all hands on deck moment and I'm so glad to know you're standing with us. With that I'll turn things back over to you Dave, to open up the Q and A. I'm really eager to hear from all of you and try to answer your questions tonight.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks, Jan. I really appreciate that and I do agree all hands on deck for sure and thank you to our membership for playing their part. And welcome to anyone who just joined us, it's a privilege to have Jan Glendening the Nature Conservancy Regional Managing Director for North America with us tonight for this live Q and A discussion on conservation priorities. As a reminder, to ask a question please press zero on your telephone keypad at any time, while we wait to get our first caller, I wanted to say thank you again to everyone participating in this virtual town hall event tonight. On behalf of all our staff and scientists, I wanted to thank you for your loyalty and generosity.

Dave Strauss:

Your support means so much. We are united in our mission to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends but each of us is inspired to act in different ways. So I wanted to ask a quick poll question to get a sense of why protecting nature matters to you. To respond, just press the corresponding number on your telephone keypad. So the question is why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one if you want to preserve beautiful lands and waters, press two if you care about saving endangered species, press three if you're concerned about climate change, press four if you want to keep our natural resources healthy and clean, press five for all of the above, press six for other. Let me repeat the question.

Dave Strauss:

Why do you choose to help protect nature, press one if you want to preserve beautiful lands and waters, press two if you care about saving endangered species, press three if you're concerned about climate change, press four if you want to keep our natural resources healthy and clean, press five for all the above and press six for other. Your answers will help guide our discussion as well have the results for you in just a bit. Be sure to press zero if you'd like to ask a question live tonight. Tonight's event is meant to be a dialogue about issues that are important to you. So we sent an email survey last week about asking participants what questions they most wanted Jan to answer tonight. More than 650 supporters said, this question was top of mind for them. And that's where we'll start the top question. How do you leverage private lands and working lands while trying to reach ambitious conservation goals?

Jan Glendening:

Thanks, Dave. And I'm so glad that this was voted the top question. With my history coming from Iowa working in a very much private lands state I have to say that private lands and working lands it's in the Nature Conservancy DNA. And throughout our history, we've worked with farmers and ranchers businesses and other private landowners to really find common solutions that support nature, locally economies and communities. More than half of the lands in the US are privately owned so if we want to achieve our conservation mission we must work collaboratively with private landowners. And we were very pleased to see that the Biden administration 30 by 30 or America the Beautiful initiative proposal really highlights the need to collaborate with private land owners to improve management on working lands and waters.

Jan Glendening:

The America, the Beautiful initiative it's about working with landowners and managers to leverage those lands for the benefit of people and nature, which doesn't just mean setting them aside at protected areas. Improving management on private lands is really key to make sure working lands are managed as sustainably as possible. And just a couple of the ways that we leverage private and working lands for conservation include our work on family owned forest. So I come from a grassland state and an ag state and as I stepped into this North America role, I've been really excited to hear about the work that we're doing in forest and the work we're doing on private forest. More than a third of US forest are steward by individuals and families. So it's absolutely critical that we support their conservation efforts.

Jan Glendening:

And one way that we do that is supporting their access to carbon credit markets. Access to carbon credit markets supplies family forest owners with a sustained source of revenue for implementing conservation and restoration efforts. And the family forest carbon program and the fourth carbon co-op project, both of which the Nature Conservancy helped develop and launch really helped facilitate access to the upfront funding and expertise needed by small landowners to enter the carbon markets. So I think this is really, really important work going forward. We're also doing a lot of work on ag private lands working with ranchers and farmers. We're working on conservation easements but those are just a few of the examples of how we're going to move forward, work on private lands to achieve our conservation goals.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks Jan. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question tonight and speaking of questions, we have our first caller on the line is Roger from New Hampshire, Roger.

Roger:

Yes. Thank you for taking my question. I'm very much concerned about climate change more than anything else, because it seems that if we don't resolve that issue everything else is going to be down to drain. So I wonder what the Nature Conservancy is doing to highlight that as a need, and I ask because when I get issues of the magazine, I generally don't get this feeling that it's a high priority. Thank you.

Jan Glendening:

Yeah. Climate is a top priority for the organization. So this is a great question Roger, that you're bringing out. In my opening remarks I referred to our work right now that we are really working up at the capital on the infrastructure and the reconciliation bills for climate work. We're also doing quite a bit of work around renewable energy and working on renewable energy deployment too. And it's really key that we help transition here our work going forward in that way. So our work on renewable energy really is focusing around different ways that we can help site renewables in the best way possible.

Jan Glendening:

So how do we get renewables out more quickly out onto the landscape that makes sure that they're done in a way that doesn't further fragment our key natural areas like grasslands and so forth. And then finally, I also think we really need to be focused on nature-based solutions and climate adaptation and natural disasters. And we can do a lot to really try to work to help reduce the harm in communities from extreme weather and so forth. And so there's a ton of work we're doing in this space and I'd really encourage you to go to nature.org and you can find out even more there.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks, Jan. And thanks Roger for your question. Really important for sure. I wanted to quickly share the results of the first poll before we get to our next caller. I'm happy to say that 27% of you said making sure beautiful lands and waters are protected and I can definitely relate to that. I love traveling especially this beautiful country of ours. So let's take another question from the phone and as a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight and our next caller is Barbara G, Barbara.

Barbara Gruver:

Hi, I'm Barbara Gruver. Is that the one you want?

Dave Strauss:

Yes, that's the one.

Barbara Gruver:

Okay. My question relates to the two bills that you said are in congress right now, the budget reconciliation and the infrastructure bills. I'd like you to speak about what parts of them are specifically related to climate change and conservation of resources.

Jan Glendening:

That's a great question, Barbara. And we actually happen to have Tom Coors who is a key member of our North America policy and government relations team on the line here today. And I'm actually going to let Tom step in and help me answer this question for you.

Tom Coors:

That's interesting for both climate and biodiversity. The main key point of the reconciliation package that will address climate change is a clean energy payment program. And that probably once we get more details is going to be the biggest step towards really addressing climate change. And then the second thing is what Jan was talking about a little bit before is that there's a lot of great work that our nature based solutions do protecting forests, protecting grasslands, protecting water that does to actually mitigate climate change as well. So we're actually going to see two where we not only are going to be addressing climate change head on, but we're also going to be looking at how protection of natural resources can mitigate climate change and reduce emissions as well. So we're really excited about the reconciliation bill and similarly in the infrastructure package, there are analogous programs that are going to be promoted in that package as well. So we've got more details that as Jan said up on nature.org and we look forward to working with congress over the next likely several months to get these enacted. Thanks.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks, Tom. Really appreciate the answer. Well, let's take another caller. We have Patricia from Virginia.

Patricia:

Thank you. My question is how much cooperation occurs among the various organizations that are addressing wildlife, the Audubon society, the wildlife association, various groups to try to address climate change and the impact on everything?

Jan Glendening:

That's a great question. And Patricia, we cannot do our work alone. I'll tell you, conservation is extremely complex just like our natural world is very complex and we need a robust set of partners that we are collaborating with, who all see the different challenges and opportunities and systems and so forth out there to really make successful conservation happen. And so we do partner very closely with a number of the groups you mentioned, Audubon and so forth. We also partner with a lot of non-traditional conservation groups, and we're finding more and more success through those partnership. Maybe to tie together with a couple of the other questions that we've had just today we announced a new partnership with Dominion Energy and this partnership is going to provide Dominion Energy itself, which is in Virginia provides energy to more than seven million people.

Jan Glendening:

They are developing one of the nation's first utility scale solar projects on 1200 acres of former coal fields in Southwest Virginia. So these lands happen to be managed by the Nature Conservancy. So this is a really important, unique, new partnership for us that is all about building a clean energy future. It creates jobs, it supports local economies. It protects forests and outdoor recreation by directing energy development toward degraded coal fields and away from helping natural areas. And we're really hoping that this project serves as a model for Dominion and other energy companies for how solar project can be developed without harming healthy natural areas. So that's just one example of the kind of creative partnerships and what happens when we start talking to a lot of people we haven't talked to in the past necessarily.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks, Jan. I really appreciate that site. So it's one of those unusual suspects our organizations or companies out there that you wouldn't typically think we would partner with and there's such a great synergy with that so that's wonderful news. A poll question. So many of our members are actively speaking out more on conservation policy through our online action center. I'm curious how many people have participated. So I wanted to take a minute to do a quick poll, press one if you've signed a pledge or petition or some other policy action in our online action center.

Dave Strauss:

Press two if you have not visited our online auction center or press three if you do not recall but would be interested in learning more about our action center. Again, I'm curious how many people have participated in our online action center, press one if you've signed a pledge or petition or some other policy action in our online action center, press two if you have not visited our online action center or press three if you don't recall but we'll be interested in learning more about our action center. Let's get back to a few more questions from the folks on the phone. We've got Priya Graves. I'm not sure exactly where you're from but Priya.

Priya Graves:

Sorry. I am Priya Graves. I'm from Palo Alto, California.

Dave Strauss:

Fantastic.

Priya Graves:

And I'm curious as to what, if anything Nature Conservancy is doing in the area of regenerative agriculture. I've been reading fair bit about it in places like Australia, which is where my mother came from. It's a very exciting thing that people are doing with this. And I just was wondering what, if anything Nature Conservancy is doing?

Jan Glendening:

Yeah, this is another great question, Priya and I have spent a big chunk of my conservation career working in agriculture and regenerative ag it is a priority for us for the organization. So food is the most basic and essential way that we interact with nature and agriculture is the world's largest industry. Landowners, farmers, ranchers, and so forth, all have a huge role to play in helping us to meet our conservation goals. So the way we produce our food becomes one of the most powerful solutions for nature. And we're also finding really strong synergies between our agriculture work and carbon and so forth as well. Many landowners, farmers, ranchers they also care deeply about the land and conservation and are among our greatest allies in conservation.

Jan Glendening:

I grew up on a family farm and my dad always told me if you can take care of that land, that land will always take care of you. Unfortunately, the way the agriculture system is set up, they don't always have farmers and ranchers. They don't always have the tools or resources including financial that are needed to really help implement those best stewardship practices. So one of the ways we're doing that is to really ensure that federal policy provides the right incentives and support to these groups to help ensure that they benefit by being part of the climate solution. So TNC is a founding member of the food and ag climate Alliance, and has developed an advocates for federal policies and recommendations to ensure that producers have every opportunity to be part of the climate solution in a way that really sustains their livelihoods and benefits the environment.

Jan Glendening:

And what we're talking about are the types of practices and working with farmers and ag associations, things that will help reinvest in the soil, that regenerative piece that you're bringing up here. So how do we help build and get more carbon into the soil, for example how do we make it healthier that really can help us and not just sustain but prosper going forward. It's really important that we think about that diversification in our ag work. The great question.

Dave Strauss:

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Jan. Let's take another question from the phone. We have Judith from New York. Judith, are you with us? One more time, Judith. Well, let's go to the answers to the poll question. So 22% of you said you have taken one of our policy actions, the pledges and letters to congress that are in nine action center, our chancellor supporters to add their voice to critical conservation policy issues. It's a way for us to Speak Up for Nature, be sure to visit nature.org/act, to see the urgent issues that need your voice right now. So we are now going to move to our next caller, and that is John from Texas John are you with us?

John:

Yes, I'm here with you. Thanks for taking my question. My question is somewhat related to the last, how are changing weather patterns affecting crop yields in the Great Plains area and how is Nature Conservancy involved in discussions considering this?

Jan Glendening:

Yeah, that's another great question. I can give you very specific answer in a couple of months when my dad's done with harvest on what yields are looking like and everything else here shortly. So it's this mix when you start looking at yield, but I don't have the specifics right in front of me on the Great Plains, but we are seeing an increase in technologies coming out of agriculture companies that are allowing them to develop corn tolerance or seed tolerance and so forth or seed varieties that are more tolerant to drought and so forth.

Jan Glendening:

So that part is going, but what we're losing often is top soil and some of those really key places with these extreme weather events. And so as many of you may know, soil is one of the most diverse habitats on earth, and it's really crucial for food production, clean and abundant water supplies in the stable climate. And so us working really closely with agriculture and with the federal government, we're really trying to, again, make sure we're moving and growing robust crops while protecting water sources and really storing carbon to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks Jan. I have a question written in from Jane actually from North Carolina and she's asked what are some TNC program projects that you think are innovative and new approaches to conservation?

Jan Glendening:

Oh, that's a really good question. I think the one I just spoke about, about the Dominion Energy partnership is one of them that I think is really innovative thinking about how do we take old coal production lands and turn them into solar in a way that can benefit local economies. That's a great one. There is another project that we have going on. Another example we have going on in the Mississippi, we've done a lot of work here working on flood plain mapping to try to really think about where can we restore the most critical habitats around the Mississippi river flood plain. As many of you may know, flooding is becoming more and more productive and unpredictable and it can be just catastrophic. And at the same time restoring the floodplain and improving the floodplain has really strong benefits for wildlife, for reducing flooding, for outdoor recreational opportunities and so forth.

Jan Glendening:

And so we partnered together and put together a floodplain prioritization tool. That's really helping them maximize the multiple benefits of flood risk reduction, nutrient capture, and ecological impact. And we're using that tool with local governments, state governments, and so forth to really help drive where do we protect the flood plain, and how do we help local communities make decisions that can benefit both people and nature. So those are just a couple of projects, there are so many, that's one of the neat things about the position I'm in. We have a 2,500 staff working across the region doing innovative work really trying to push the needle and figure out how we can find that place where conservation and nature come together and people.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight. Let's go to Brandy.

Brandy:

Hello. Can you hear me?

Dave Strauss:

We can, welcome.

Brandy:

Okay. I'm live in Erie, Colorado right now, but I was born and raised in Wyoming. So I love wildlife and I love open spaces. And I think maybe 20 years ago I would have been maybe pro wind energy because I'm all for renewable energy. I have solar panels on my home, recently my stepdaughter who's a pilot just two weekends ago took me on a flight over Denver and the front range. And it really made me sad to see how very few rooftops have solar panels on them or people are using energy not enabling all the solar power energy that can be obtained. And I'm wondering, I'm hearing from people in Wyoming that there's a Rail Tie Wind Project that's going to eat up, they're putting wind farms eating up all over Albany county, which is prairie land and this obviously is going to... I've heard it's one of the biggest in the country and that they're using giant maritime turbines.

Brandy:

The problem obviously with the wind energy is A, migratory animals, birds kill the open space, but these turbines are gigantic and they're not made of renewable materials. And they have to be, when there's a problem with them hauled they take energy to be hauled, to set up, take energy to be hauled to landfills. That again is another problem with utilizing land for landfills for these materials and I've wondered if all these different charities I'm giving money to, if anybody is trying, first I wanted to know Nature Conservancy where they stand on the wind energy and also if they've thought of reaching out in a different way, which is to try to get the cities to get the solar panels on structures that already exist.

Jan Glendening:

Yeah. Well, this is a great question because we are actually actively working in both areas. I know we have a number of state programs that are working on rooftop solar. We've got a couple of them here in Iowa where we're working with local communities on group solar buys to reduce the cost for local landowners and then allowing them to get out in cities. New York has a solar map, the Long Island as well. So that's an area where we've worked and I see that growing, especially if we're able to be successful this fall with the bills that are in congress right now. The other thing we're doing is we have a program called Site Wind Right. And Site Wind Right is really the Nature Conservancy work to create an online mapping tool that shows developers where wind projects can be cited that will have the least impact on people and wildlife.

Jan Glendening:

The tool shows where there's really low conflict and with wind sites to meet our climate goals. And it was given an award, the Site Wind Right tool was given an award for advancing climate science by the American fish and wildlife association. The cool thing is our scientists right now are working to expand Site Wind Right for solar energy. So by this fall, we should have a brighter or a broader renewables site platform that can help address climate change and the conservation of biodiversity. So hopefully we have fewer of those eye clashes. I don't know if that's quite the right word or not, but those places where unfortunately the sighting is occurring in a key wildlife areas, what we want to do is try to find the best places where we can put these things so they have that least amount of impact. So it's a great question. It's something that's very active right now in the Nature Conservancy work.

Dave Strauss:

Yep. Thanks, Jan. Our next question is from John from DC, John.

John:

I think that's me.

Dave Strauss:

That is you.

John:

First I'd like to thank both of you so much for taking the time to speak with us all this evening. And thank the Nature Conservancy more broadly for all the work it does. One of the things I so appreciate about the Nature Conservancy as opposed to some other nonprofits is the dedication it has to preserving lands and making that direct effort to preserve these lands that we all love and are so important to our nation's future. And frankly, just our personal enjoyment and that they spend this time doing this rather than focusing on partisan political lobbying and whatnot. As the Nature Conservancy looks forward, what are the biggest obstacles that you see, then what also can the Nature Conservancy members do either through donations or political action or, whatever to help you overcome those obstacles?

Jan Glendening:

That's a great question, John. And thank you so much for your support. It's a good question and partly because I'm hopelessly optimistic on this and so I see obstacles as opportunities. We've talked a lot so far in this call about the importance of private lands and working lands across North America. And I think that's a piece on how do we effectively conserve private lands, but still allow them to make an economic return for people is a piece that we need to think of. People need to be able to live and make, I mean, support their families and so forth, and they care about conservation. So that's one that definitely comes to my mind. I think that the other thing that I honestly worry about is just people getting up in some ways, because there is so much going on in the world right now.

Jan Glendening:

And so I think apathy potentially could be an obstacle or people not caring. Now, hopefully I see so much hope with members like you and talking to people and getting these great questions. Also from the youth, we have so many exciting people even my own kids, they don't question climate change, they know it's real. They want to make a difference in the world. And I hear that time and time again. So I think ways to get involved first, never underestimate the power of a single action that you take, your support of the Nature Conservancy and other conservation groups makes a big difference and we are forever grateful for that. I think also what you can do, not being afraid to have a conversation with your friends, with your family, with people you don't always agree with about conservation and the importance of it goes a long way.

Jan Glendening:

We have an initiative and I'm hoping I'm going to get this right called Speak Up for Nature but we have an initiative right now or Let's Talk Climate that are really, really important about how you individually can start a conversation locally. And there's more on our website on this too, how you can start a conversation locally, local conversations, local people talking in their local community about climate change, about conservation, and it's Let's Talk Climate, can make all the difference here and as a way that you can really engage. So thank you John, for that question.

Dave Strauss:

Yes. Thank you, John. I would also say our online action center or other online action centers are really important, it just gets your voice out there. We do have another call from Idaho, Sandra.

Sandra:

Hello, I think the previous caller very much touched upon my concern. And my question is how is the Nature Conservancy able to approach people or groups who do not believe the climate is changing?

Jan Glendening:

That's a great question. And again, what we've found is it's all about local people having conversations locally. So Let's Talk Climate is a great way to go about doing that and it should be a helpful resource guide that it really makes all the difference. It really does. So farmers talking to farmers, ranchers talking to ranchers, local mayors talking to local mayors about the impacts that they're seeing. Well-respected people in the communities having open conversations are really critical. So I highly recommend you check out the Let's Talk Climate section of our website.

Dave Strauss:

Great, thanks, Jan. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad, ask a question live and we our next caller is Kay, Kay.

Kay:

Hi.

Dave Strauss:

Hi.

Kay:

Hi. How are you?

Dave Strauss:

I think we're doing really-

Kay:

My question has to do with, how do you use farm ranch, others, I workers and communities. How can they help and how do you prioritize land protection? Do you work with land trusts?

Jan Glendening:

That's a great question, Kay and yes, we work with land trust and we also work with farmers and ranchers on different protection methods. If we want to be most effective, what I would say generally how we protect lands, we can't guess which lands and waters we should focus on protecting. So I would say the biggest thing we're doing right now is we've been able to use plants to guide us throughout our history. And just this last year Nature Conservancy scientists unveiled a map of the most climate resilient and connected lands across the US. So this map which is up on our website too, it's a roadmap of our natural highways and neighborhoods and it shows where plant and animal species have the best chance to move away from our growing climate threats. And the lands map on this map cover 3% of the lower 48 states.

Jan Glendening:

So as we work to protect 30% of the lands and waters by 2030, we literally have this roadmap that we can use to identify lands that we can keep nature healthy in the face of climate change. And we work really closely with the Land Trust Alliance and have shared this map very publicly with them, with state and federal government agencies and so forth. So it's not just a map for us but it's really a map for the conservation community to use. And then that develops our conservation plans and so forth, and really helps us focus and target our work. We're going to be adding more layers to the map too including a freshwater layer that'll be coming in the next year and also a carbon stock layer. So we have a sense of where we can focus protecting for carbon stocks in addition to biodiversity. So that's really that foundational underpinning that's driving where we do and target our protection efforts.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks Jan. We have another caller. We've got Michael D, Michael.

Michael D:

Yes. I'm in Manhattan, Kansas. And I've been a fan of the Nature Conservancy since I spent the summer of 1962 on a property in Perry, Maine that the owner Cynthia spoke to her husband gave a conservation easement to the Nature Conservancy, which I thought was a great idea. But my question here in Kansas concerns wind energy and what seems to me a stampede by green groups to support a sort of unrestricted wind energy development is causing all kinds of problems in Kansas, not least divisions between conservation groups, several themes that have come up in these conversations that people have been having of conservation groups working together and protecting land owners. And various issues like that are impacted by this, the Nature Conservancy and Sierra club, it turns out have been on the opposite side from automotive Kansas.

Michael D:

And trying to defend the rights of land owners and county commissions in counties in Kansas, where they're fighting wind energy companies that are installing their wind farms on unplowed prairie and migration corridors for hooping cranes. There was one set of wind farms that went up in Marion county and one of the local, well, that's the end of prairie chickens in Marion county. And what can the Nature Conservancy do to get together so that we're not splitting conservation organizations between those who are in favor of green energy, just across the board and people who want to preserve endangered species and wildlife and native habitat, which is being fragmented and destroyed by these wind farms.

Jan Glendening:

Yeah. This is a great question. And I'm not the expert in everything going on in Kansas, but I do know this is exactly why our Site Wind Right tool was developed. So we could really use it as a platform. And we worked very closely, not just with Nature Conservancy staff to develop that, but with a lot of local conservation groups and the state agencies, including in Kansas to help really target where are the best places for energy development and where are the places we want to make sure that we are really protecting those native prairies. And I'm a big fan of the Flint Hills, I've spent some wonderful time in May in the Flint Hills, it's just one of the most beautiful places on the planet. And so we've got to make sure we're protecting those grass lands and making sure we're doing that very collaboratively. And so I would encourage you to reach out to our Kansas chapter and they can talk more specifically about the issues going on there, but this is of high priority for that program.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks Jan. We have another caller. We've got Eleanor from New Jersey, Eleanor.

Eleanor:

Yes. Hello. Thank you very much for what you're doing in Nature Conservancy, but also just as fact that you give us an opportunity to ask questions and things and to speak our mind, maybe on certain things. I noticed that you were talking before about your connection with farmers and ranchers and working with them. And I think that's a wonderful thing to do, but I'm wondering how your relationship or your contact is with the indigenous people in the United States, their traditions and their lifestyle and their knowledge of nature I think is so important. So I'm wondering what your relationship is with the indigenous tribes, particularly in the United States right now.

Jan Glendening:

Great question Eleanor, and a very important one. So indigenous people have sustainably steward lands and waters across North America for thousands of years, and they are really the original stewards of the natural systems. They have extensive experience and knowledge of how to effectively manage and care for nature. And we are growing our partnerships with them throughout the US and throughout Canada as well. So there's more than 1200 indigenous communities throughout the US and Canada. And we've collaborated with indigenous people in more than 30 states and three Canadian provinces and territories. We are really learning that when place-based indigenous communities have the authority to manage lands and waters, it leads to more durable conservation as well as stronger more vibrant communities.

Jan Glendening:

And like I said, we're working to increase our engagements here, maybe a couple of examples. We have the indigenous people burning network. So in 2015, the Nature Conservancy sat down for a listening session with leaders from various tribes of Northern California to learn about how we can revitalize indigenous communities, fire cultures. And from those meetings, these indigenous people burning network was born. Indigenous communities across North America's have long practiced fire management to maintain the health of their ancestral lands. The network brings together native American people working to revitalize traditional fire cultures in a contemporary context.

Jan Glendening:

And the network conducts controlled burns to bring back native foods and fiber, and it connects elders and youth to prepare the next generation of cultural fire practitioner. So we're really excited, that's just one example I know in the Great Plains. Another example is we are working really closely by providing animals from our own bison herds to help restore the ancestral herds of indigenous people. So just two quick examples, again, we're partnering with more than 30 states across North America. So a lot of work going on here.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks for the question Eleanor, on a really important topic. We have another caller, we've got Donna from Oregon.

Donna:

From Oregon and from coastal Southwest Oregon. And my question is how do you really convince people that these experiments discovered that thinning forest and then using control burning after thinning really work the best to stop fires, because the fires would just go along through on the bars floor and not up into the trees. How do you convince people that this is there to use some kind of burning, which people are afraid to prevent them from being absolutely wildfires and gasp, people unable to breathe the way we've been having a problem.

Jan Glendening:

Donna, I am so glad you brought this topic up because it is top of mind for me and for many of our leaders across North America right now. Again, we've been in the middle of another very extended and hard wildfire season out West and I know you're living in that right now. The amazing thing as you're already well aware of fire has a natural role to play on many of our landscapes and we need fire to remain healthy and resilient. In the last a 100s years or so, fire has largely been excluded from landscapes across the US as part a federal policy of fire suppression. So we are really working to shift that. And I want to tell you an example of what happened on one of our properties in Oregon, this fire season just a few months ago. So the bootleg fire, which many of you might have heard of on the phone at our Sycan.

Jan Glendening:

Part of it was on our Sycan Marsh preserve. And it's a great example of the benefits of our firework. So the bootleg fire burned for eight days on our preserve and it largely resisted or obstructed all fire fighting effort. And one of our Oregon fire staffers who has 15 years of experience said the bootleg fire exhibits some of the most extreme fire behavior they've witnessed in their career. But on the eighth day, the fire hit an area where our staff had conducted prescribed fires two years earlier and shifted from being a fire that was moving quickly through the canopy of the trees back to a fire burning on the forest floor, which is exactly what you were just describing. Our staff noticed that the areas where thinning and prescribed fire have been completed, tend to moderate the fire behavior in a way that made it so much safer and more approachable for the firefighters on the ground.

Jan Glendening:

There are numerous places on the preserve that were previously untreated or that were treated only with mechanical thinning, where the outcomes were just dramatically different from the areas where the prescribed burn treatments had occurred. So we can't say with a 100% certainty yet that the previous treatments of thinning and prescribed burning are ultimately what brought the bootleg fire under control. There's too many factors into play on how fire acts, but we are going to be doing follow up research on this and it was definitely a sign and a big sign to our staff who've been working really hard for a number of years on this that we might be headed in the right direction here. So more science, more of us telling the story as we do the science and sharing that broadly is a big part of our plan going forward.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks Jan, this is a great transition to our preserves. So there's nothing like just getting outside and seeing these places and species you're protecting up close. So much of our work at TNC is done in partnership with private land owners and communities and we're also lucky to have many Nature Conservancy protected areas, our preserves across the country that are open to the public. And so I wanted to ask a quick poll question to our callers. Have you ever visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one for yes, press two for no and press three for not sure. Again, have you ever visited a Nature Conservancy preserve press one for yes, two for no, three for not sure. Now let's go and take another question from the phone. We've got Suzanne from New York, Suzanne.

Suzanne:

Yes.

Dave Strauss:

You are all and you can ask your question.

Suzanne:

My question is how do we help this generation of children realize how important such things are? For instance, in my grandson's high school the school let the bus take them to an environment that they had never seen and learned a lot about it, but I don't feel that the children know when we're talking about these things, what it really means. I mean, not to scare them but to help them understand the words that we're using and what they can do about it. It used to be scouts and 4H and all those things are leaving the country and to bring them back to nature I'm wondering, do you have any program at all for that? Thank you.

Jan Glendening:

Yeah, this is a great question, Suzanne and one that's something I think about personally as a parent on am I doing everything I can to make sure my kids understand what's going on in the world today. And the amazing thing I can say about that is I learn more from them daily than what I think I teach them myself to be honest. A few years ago, my son and I were driving across Iowa and for any of you who've ever been to Iowa or from Iowa, there's a lot of corn and soybeans and some beautiful landscapes. And my son as we were driving across, says to me, he says, mom, why didn't we save just a little bit more prairie because the bison and the species that are in the prairie, they deserve lands too. Don't they have a voice.

Jan Glendening:

It was such a proud mom moment to be honest, but it just came out of the blue and I've heard that time and time again. So part of it I think as adults and what I've done just personally, is helping my kids be aware of nature wherever it is. So even just spending time in our backyard and looking for bugs when they were little, little things like that can go a long way in just bringing up people's awareness. Now more directly, what is the Nature Conservancy doing? Well, we support over 130 youth programs across the globe at TNC. And that includes some incredibly aspiring work by young people like the main environmental change makers network.

Jan Glendening:

We have a youth engagement team which is housed in the North America region. And that works to really inform young about conservation issues, connect TNC's community outreach staff with youth across the globe to help drive collaboration. And they work to elevate the voices of our young activists. So there's a lot more that we can be doing and need to be doing and I would think about locally, what more can you do personally and I'm glad you're bringing this up and how do we help have conversations and just help people see and then really listen to the kids too. Listen to what they're saying.

Dave Strauss:

Thanks, Jan. Let's take a brief moment to get the results of that poll question. 57% of you have visited Nature Conservancy preserve that's fantastic. You can learn more about ones near you @nature.org. And now let's go to our next caller. We've got Bill from Santa Monica.

Bill:

Hi, I'm interested in the initiative to get 30% of the lands and waters of United States protected by 2030. I know, and I appreciate that the Nature Conservancy has embraced this goal and the president of the United States has embraced it, but operationally how's it working or how's it going to work? Who's identifying the most high priority lands and waters and formulating a plan to have to start incorporating them into protection.

Jan Glendening:

This is a great question and something we are working on very closely, actually Tom Coors, who is from our North America policy and government relations team happens to be leading much of this effort. So Tom, I'm going to let you take this.

Tom Coors:

Sure. So thanks for the question. This 30 by 30 effort is really frankly kind of a rebirth of how we think about conservation over the next decade, but longer term. I mean, I see this 30 by 30 effort is something that we get to figure where we prioritize investments for conservation and how much conservation is going to be enough then more importantly, how do we influence policy. And so the United States rebrand this global protecting 30% by 2030 goal into something called America The Beautiful, and we put very extensive input into the administration and the administration's recommendations really frankly matched what we had proposed, which is to have a collaborative inclusive approach for conservation, that it should be locally led and locally designed. And that should honor tribal sovereignty and protect priorities of tribal nations, and also that it should be respectful of private property rights and voluntary.

Tom Coors:

And so the question is really how do you operationalize it? And what we have been saying for the last year in change is that we need to do more of what we're doing. We've got a lot of great tools across different kinds of geographies and different agencies, but we need to do more of it. Last year we had The Great American Outdoors Act, which is kind of the first step, but we need to think bigger and we need to think about how we can increase the pace of conservation over the next decade. Because we know that biodiversity loss is a crisis and equal to the climate crisis that we're solving. But we also know that by doing conservation in this America The Beautiful or 30 by 30 contexts, we can actually protect biological diversity, really make advances on mitigating and reducing admissions for climate change and really make an impact in people's lives. So we're embracing it wholeheartedly and we're working very much with the administration and also more importantly with partners on the ground to really advance and accelerate conservation. So thanks for your question.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thanks Tom. Thanks for joining us. This has been an incredible conversation. I really appreciate everybody on the phone, our members, our supporters. Jan, one last question for you. If there's one thing you want our listeners to take away from this conversation, what would it be?

Jan Glendening:

Oh, that's a great question. Well, first of all, I am so inspired by this conversation. So let me say that and thank you all for your membership and everything you are doing. Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is going to take extensive collaboration from everyone who cares about safeguarding our natural world. So it's from our leaders, from farmers and ranchers and foresters, fishers, indigenous people, communities, and people like you and me. So all of you and being a Conservancy member are providing a significant contribution towards solving these issues. And you should all feel very proud of the part you're playing in supporting lasting conservation.

Jan Glendening:

If you would like to have your own lasting impact in your own conservation legacy, I'd encourage you to think about a planned gift and we have a variety of ways to help make that happen. Keep pressing forward with the conservation mission, go out and have conversations locally with the work and the issues that you care about and have hope. You are very much the reason for a brighter future here in North America and beyond and I'm just so grateful for your support, for the conversation we've had today and for all of us being together in this great community. Thank you, Dave.

Dave Strauss:

Yeah. Thank you, Jan. We've got one quick final poll question. Do you feel this live Q and A was informative and insightful for you? Press one for yes, press two for no. And we are at the end of our hotel town hall. And thank you to everyone for joining us live to this call. I can't thank you enough for all your support for the Nature Conservancy. We'll be following up with you at the survey by mail so if you're not on an email, lets go to nature.org and sign up. And thank you Jan, I really appreciate you taking the time this evening and answering questions for our members it's really appreciated. And unfortunately we couldn't get to every question, but if you have any additional comments, please press one to leave a voicemail for us. We always value your feedback and thanks again for your time and have a great evening.

 

One of the largest remaining intact forests of its type in the world, this mixed temperate forest supports a combination of conifers and broadleaf trees.
Adirondack Park One of the largest remaining intact forests of its type in the world, this mixed temperate forest supports a combination of conifers and broadleaf trees. © Blake Gordon

Member Tele-Townhall: Conservation Policy

Listen to this interactive Q&A with our conservation policy leaders on how to Speak Up for Nature. (Recorded September 15, 2020)

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Dave:

Good evening, and welcome to tonight's live Q&A with Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer, and Hazel Wong, director of conservation campaigns, for The Nature Conservancy. I'm Dave Strauss, director of membership at The Nature Conservancy, and I will be your moderator tonight. Looking forward to hearing your questions. We'll get started in just a moment. Right now, we're waiting for everyone to join the call and we're expecting a strong turnout, so we'll begin shortly. This is a live event with lots of opportunity for you to ask questions and share your thoughts. If you have a question for tonight's speaker, please press zero on your telephone's keypad. Either now or at any point during the event. Your questions will help guide tonight's discussion, so please ask away.

Dave:

If you've just joined us, welcome to tonight's live Q&A with The Nature Conservancy's conservation policy leadership. We're thrilled to have Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer, and Hazel Wong, director of conservation campaigns, with us tonight. They are here to talk about urgent conservation policy priorities and answer your questions. Thanks again to everyone for joining us for this live discussion. Your support means so much and I'm really glad we have a chance to connect with each other this evening. Thank for being part of our Nature Conservancy community and I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well this evening. I'm so glad you were able to join us for this unique, live telephone town hall event.

Dave:

Our featured guests, Lynn Scarlett and Hazel Wong, have distinguished careers in conservation and public policy. We are honored to have them here to talk with you, answer your questions, and share their perspectives on The Nature Conservancy's policy agenda, working hand in hand with the tangible conservation work we're known for. Safeguarding the lands and waters and us all. Together, Lynn and Hazel lead The Nature Conservancy's policy and conservation campaigns work at all levels. As chief external affairs officer, Lynn Scarlett directs The Nature Conservancy's public policy work in the US and in the 70 countries where we operate. She is a leading expert on climate policy and is former deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the US Department of the Interior. Hazel Wong leads The Nature Conservancy's efforts to generate conservation funding by placing measures on ballots in states through the initiative or referendum process. In her longstanding tenure with The Nature Conservancy, she has helped raise over... get this... $100 billion in public funding to protect land, water, and wildlife. Thank you for joining us, Lynn and Hazel. I know your supporters will have great questions for you this evening.

Dave:

Again, if you'd like to ask a question during tonight's telephone town hall event or if you have any comments for our speakers, please press zero at any time to ask your question. We'll also have a couple chances for you to share your thoughts with a few interactive polling questions as we go along. Let me hand it over to Lynn and Hazel to welcome those who have just joined us and share a few thoughts before we open up the lines for questions. Lynn?

Lynn:

Thank you, Dave. It's really just terrific to join everybody on this call tonight and so great to be with my colleague, Hazel. Many of you are familiar with our decades-long, on-the-ground conservation work. Our policy work, in the US and around the globe, is central to advancing those efforts. Policy work helps bring conservation funding. You've just heard some of the numbers that Hazel's team has helped to rack up. Think of the recent big success in getting permanent, full funding of the land and water conservation fund. $900 million per year for conservation in perpetuity, essentially. It took us 10 years to really get over the finish line, so policy work is not easy. But policy also helps set the rules of the game. Removing barriers, for example, like prohibitions on the Army Corps of Engineers even considering nature as it looks at infrastructure investments to protect coasts. It also helps to advance incentives. Think, for example, of the farm bill and provisions in the farm bill that reward practices that protect biodiversity and improve soil health.

Lynn:

So policy... Yes, it brings money, but it removes barriers and it creates incentives. It creates rules of the game that help everybody else to march in the direction that we're trying to go. Our efforts unfold globally and they unfold in the Congress and in the states. Over many years, we've helped to bring big conservation victories in states through ballot initiatives. Hazel will talk a little bit more about that. We bring some really unique characteristics to our policy work. We're nonpartisan. We're science-informed. An organization with over 500 scientists on board. We're very solution-focused. What's the problem and how do we solve it? Sometimes I'm asked whether nonpartisanship means that we don't weigh in on tough issues and work on really defending those bedrock environmental laws. We are vigorous and assertive in defending those bedrock laws, but we use that same voice, that voice of science, solution-focused, constructive dialogue, a respectful tone, as we're assertive in saying we need these laws. We need to protect them. Here's what our science shows. We can't unravel them. So we move forward positively. We try to prevent any rollbacks.

Lynn:

With that, I want to turn to Hazel because a really important part of our work are the ballot initiatives. The other [inaudible 00:06:10] that Hazel's team does around the world... Recently, they, for example, were working in the European Union to help our European colleagues build relationships with private landowners to sort of replicate what we have in the US with conservation easements and so forth. Hazel and her team helped our Europeans do that kind of work. So, Hazel, over to you.

Hazel:

Thank you, Lynn. And hello everyone. Thank you so much for your generosity of time this evening and, of course, your support for Nature Conservancy. It truly is wonderful to be on this call and knowing that all of us share a common value and passion for protecting our natural world. As we have all seen in the past six months, this unfortunate pandemic, there is even more of an awakening by people that our natural world is important for our quality of life and overall wellbeing. So, again, thank you so much for your support and for being here. Lynn introduced me, and Dave. I'm Hazel Wong, director of global conservation campaigns, but I'm going to give you a quick background before I dig into work here. I was actually born in the Seychelles and, in many ways, I grew up outside. Whether it was playing hide and seek in the forest, hiking, or partaking in ocean and beach activities, I spent a lot of time outdoors and that was all year round. So, really, this work that I do now and how I show up, it's part of my DNA and it makes a lot of sense that I've actually been at the Conservancy now for 18 years. 18 years of both professionally and personal rewards.

Hazel:

So when people ask me, what do you do? I always happily answer, well, let me tell you. I get a paycheck for using my energy, my creativity, my passion to protect our beautiful, natural world. I will tell you that protecting our beautiful, natural world is capital intensive. It is very costly. We have to rely on private philanthropy and we also, as The Nature Conservancy and a lot of other NGOs, we have to show up and make the case to decision makers at the local, state, and federal level that they must invest in nature. Let me give you an example. The state that I live in, Nevada. It is estimated that, annually, we need 80 to 100 million dollars just for conservation. As all of you know, we have very limited public resources, and so The Nature Conservancy is part of that value system to show up and advocate on the part of nature. Data shows that 88% of on-the-ground conservation funding comes from the public sector. As much in private funds that we raise in the United States, overwhelming amount of money comes from the public sector and some of the policies Lynn mentioned earlier. The farm bill, Great Outdoors Act, and what have you. So, again, lobbying, advocating, is a fundamental part of the work that we do at The Nature Conservancy to protect the places that all of you love and hold dearly.

Hazel:

I am blessed to have a team of 10 that work with our state chapters and our partners to generate funding at the local and state level through the legislating process, but really, with a focus on ballot measures. Every election cycle, many states, counties, municipalities put questions on the ballot asking voters to support conservation financing. If you and I walked into the state capitol right now and said, "Give me $300 million for conservation," they would look at us and go, "Oh, we have education, healthcare, transportation, you name it, that is heavy competition for those dollars." However, if we walk in with our partners and we say, "Okay, we need $300 million for conservation. Let the voters decide and let the voters decide if they want to increase their own sales tax by 3/8 of one cent and that will generate $300 million a year to do the great conservation work on the ground." That is what we do and that happens often. That's what happened in Minnesota in 2008, when voters, 62%, overwhelmingly voted to tax themselves to protect nature. This money is leveraged with private money, with federal money, and local NGOs, agencies. They all do great work for conservation.

Hazel:

Let me give you a quick snapshot of what's happening this year. Things are not... As you can imagine, things are tough out there in the public landscape, so we are very lucky right now to have eight campaigns. We have three in Colorado, Clay County in Texas, Toledo, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, and two state-wide in Michigan and Montana. If all of them pass, we are looking at creating 2.2 billion dollars this election cycle. Unfortunately, we had 10.2 million dollars at stake, but California and New York will not be on the ballot because of the COVID impact. So we're looking at a much smaller take-home this election cycle, which is fine. We're very happy with the outcomes that we... well, with the measures that are on the ballot and will hopefully have a really good outcome.

Hazel:

As Dave mentioned and Lynn mentioned earlier, this body of work has been incredibly fruitful. Over 32 years, The Nature Conservancy have been advocating at the ballot box to generate funding to do the fantastic work and we are looking at $150 billion altogether. From protecting the Columbia plateaus to the Sierra Mountains, the grassland prairies, coastal wetlands... We've even put [inaudible 00:12:03] back in the river. Protected key [inaudible 00:12:05] habitats. And now when you think about national infrastructure and the changing world because of climate, we've actually, in certain places, had to rebuild because of heavier precipitation that was seen because of climate change.

Hazel:

The good news about the work that we do, also, is that we do a lot of research. If we're going to go out there and spend money on a campaign, we want to know that we can win. We do win nine out of 10 our of campaigns. Altogether, in the past 32 years, we've won 235 measures. These campaigns are sophisticated. We poll test the funding mechanism. The messages, the TV ads, direct mail, the get out the vote efforts, and more and more, we are now engaging in digital outreach as well and social outreach. But, lastly, I'm going to reiterate a point that Lynn made. In the polls and at the ballot box, we see that conservation enjoys bipartisan support. We also see time and time again that communities of color across the United States show up and vote overwhelmingly to tax themselves to support nature. It really, truly, at the end of the day... Conservation is something that unites us all and especially at this time when we need the beauty of our world to unite us. So I thank you for your time this evening and I look forward to answering your questions.

Lynn:

Thank you, Hazel, and before we turn to the questions, I just want to join Hazel in emphasizing that we understand these are challenging times. Whether it's the pandemic or hurricanes or the devastating fires that so many communities right now in the West are experiencing or the matters of social justice and racism that Hazel briefly mentioned. We all feel those struggles and feel those tensions. They seem to permeate our communities. But at the same time, I am still seeing, and we are still experiencing in our policy work, a desire to seek solutions. Just today, for example, I took part in a panel discussion on the Hill... or that is virtually on the Hill... with the Congress and others on forestry and interest in reforestation and bringing to bear that climate solution that's hidden in plain sight. Nature. And then, no sooner was that event over, I took part in an event with farmers and others on agriculture. 2000 folks in the agricultural sector wrote Congress saying, we want to be part of the climate solution. Amid the pandemic, amid the strife, amid these challenges, there is a thirst for solutions. There is a thirst for this policy action. With that, we really look forward to hearing your questions. As Hazel said, you're an incredibly important set of partners for us. So I'm going to hand this back to Dave and let's get rolling.

Dave:

Thanks, Lynn. Thanks, Hazel. I'm always impressed by the scale and scope of TNC's impact. And welcome to anyone who just joined us. It's a privilege to have Lynn Scarlett and Hazel Wong with us this evening for this live Q&A discussion on conservation policy. As a reminder, to ask a question, please press zero on your telephone keypad at any time. Again, to ask a question, please press zero on your telephone keypad. While we're waiting for our first caller, I wanted to say thank you again to everyone participating in this virtual town hall event tonight. On behalf of all our staff and scientists, I wanted to thank you for your support over the last few months as we've had to navigate changes to local events and conservation projects in your community. It's been somewhat of a challenge, but we are flexible and working through it.

Dave:

I'm honored that you chose to act on your values by entrusting The Nature Conservancy to care for the places you care about. We are united in our mission to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends, but each of us is inspired to act for different reasons, so I wanted to ask our first poll question to get a sense of why protecting nature matters to you. To respond, just press the corresponding number on your telephone keypad. The question, again, is why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one if you want to preserve beautiful lands and waters. Press two if you care about saving endangered species. Press three if you're concerned about climate change. Press four if you want to keep our natural resources healthy and clean. Press five for all of the above. And press six for other. Again, press one if you want to preserve beautiful lands and waters. Press two if you care about saving endangered species. Press three if you're concerned about climate change. Press four if you want to keep our natural resources healthy and clean. Press five for all of the above. And press six for other. Your answers will help guide our discussion and we'll have the results for you in just a bit.

Dave:

Tonight's event is meant to be a dialogue about issues that are important to you. And so, yesterday, we actually sent out an email survey asking our members and participants what question they most wanted to have answered this evening, so we'll start there with the top response. The question for Lynn and Hazel... At what level are changes in conservation and climate policy most needed right now? Locally, nationally, in the US, or globally?

Lynn:

Well, I'm tempted to sort of cheat and say all of the above. We need action at every single level. We need the ballot initiatives that Hazel is working on locally and in states. We really need US national action. I do want to press pause on that. The US has historically been a leader in conservation. In the previous administration, we've also helped to lead climate action and that in turn has a ripple effect. It joined with China in a bilateral agreement on climate and then all kinds of other nations around the world stepped up and brought about the Paris Agreement. With the US not playing that leadership role, it makes a difference. So I would really like to see the US back in the mix, back in the leadership role, but not because the US on its own can do it all, but because it can be a catalyst and a motivator and a funder of conservation work globally.

Hazel:

I would also add that, at the state level, The Nature Conservancy along with partners led with the I-1631 in Washington State in 2018. While that measure did not pass, to put a tax on carbon, it was the first ever ballot measure to attempt to put a tax on carbon that The Nature Conservancy worked on. We are also very much involved in a lot of the renewable portfolio standards at the state level. And of course the work of funding. This is something that is ongoing and it's the work of funding that we need in order to protect our forests and to also protect our wetlands and coastlines. That is something that we're constantly focused on at the state, local, and federal level.

Dave:

Great. Thanks, Hazel. Thank you, Lynn. I wanted to quickly share the results of our first poll before we get to our first live caller. I'm so happy to see that 37% of you said that you care about making sure our beautiful lands and waters are protected. As an avid hiker, I can definitely relate to that. So let's get to our first caller on the line. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question tonight. And we have Rosie from Seattle. Rosie? How are you this evening?

Rosie:

Hi. Do I have to say anything for you to hear me?

Dave:

No, ma'am. You are ready to ask your question. Any time.

Rosie:

I was reading your wonderful article in your most recent magazine about Bristol Bay and that the permit now was denied to the Pebble Mine company to proceed with more permitting or whatever they're going to be doing. I want to know do you think we can finally breathe a sigh of relief over this or is there more to come?

Lynn:

There's more to come. We can't quite breathe a sigh of relief. For all the callers, Pebble Mine proposal in Bristol Bay, in Alaska, has been a story decades-long, where one mining company after another has tried to get permits to develop mining in an area that is globally significant for salmon, for other biodiverse, valued, very important to the fishing communities in the area. Truly, mining would be devastating. The Conservancy has long been involved. We have provided a lot of the science that has been utilized in commenting on the various permitting documents along the way. What, Rosie, you're referencing is that there is a pause. Rather than the permit going forward full speed ahead, there's a pause with the administration saying... after they were under quite a bit of pressure... that the science in the planning documents were not sufficient and they needed to go back to the drawing board. So the reason that I say it's a pause, but we can't take a final sigh of relief, is that there will be some other chapters in this story. The good news is the Conservancy is all in. We have a near term plan to continue battling any immediate permit prospects, but then a longer term plan to say, can we help with some long-term, final solutions that just takes mining out of the mix for Pebble Mine and for Bristol Bay?

Dave:

Thanks, Lynn. And thank you, Rosie, for your question. We have another caller. David from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. David, are you with us?

David:

Yes, thank you for taking my call. We have a ballot proposal in the state of Michigan to continue to leverage tax revenues from exploration of oil and gas on public lands to protect public lands. My question is, isn't it counterproductive to support collecting taxes for gas and oil exploration to pay for public funds when that exploration will inevitably lead to burning more fossil fuels and polluting our environment?

Hazel:

Thank you for that question. It is an ongoing conversation, as you can imagine, and philosophical debate that we have at the Conservancy and in many places. The fund that you just mentioned was put in place, I want to say, in the 1970s. The year kind of shifts away from me. When that fund was put in place, what has happened over time is that instead of... They've put a cap on how much money conservation can receive and what we're trying to do... and all that money at this time... the rest of that money goes into a general fund. So what we're trying to do right now is say, okay, well, the intent of this law was to take that funding and put it for conservation. That funding is going to keep flowing right now. We're not at a point where we're going to stop oil and gas and mining for the time being. That money was promised for conservation. We would like to continue to use that money in the foreseeable future for conservation. So that's where we are right now in terms of thinking about if we don't use it for conservation, it's just going to go in the general fund for the time being.

Dave:

Thanks, Hazel. And thank you, David, for the question. We have another poll question. Many of our members are actively speaking out more on conservation policy through our online action center. I'm curious how many people have participated, so I wanted to take a minute to do a quick poll. Press one if you've signed a pledge or petition or some other policy action in our online action center, press two if you have not visited our online action center, or press three if you don't recall, but would be interested in learning more about our online action center. Again, press one if you've signed a pledge or a petition, press two if you have not visited our online action center, or press three if you do not recall, but are interested in receiving more information. So let's go back to a few more questions from folks on the phone. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask questions live tonight.

Dave:

And we have William from Bainbridge Island, Washington. William, welcome. William? Are you still with us? One more shout out for William. So we are going to wait for our next caller, but in the meantime, I do have the answers to our poll. And so I wanted to quickly get you the results from the second poll, which is what I just asked. We had 25% of you said you have taken one of our policy actions. The pledges and letters to Congress that are in our online action center are chances for supporters to add their voices to critical conservation policies. It's a way for you to speak up for nature. And then we have Rocky Face from Georgia. Is that right?

Gretchen:

Yes.

Dave:

Oh! Wonderful. Oh, is this Gretchen? Gretchen from Rocky Face, Georgia.

Gretchen:

Yes.

Dave:

How are you, Gretchen? Welcome.

Gretchen:

Fine. I'm interested in hearing more about the ballot initiative in Toledo, Ohio. An area that I'm from.

Hazel:

One moment. I believe that is a metro park measure. That money will go towards park and then acquisition. I don't have the details in front of me right now, but I can definitely get back with you in the very near future. I apologize. I'm looking at my notes right now and I don't have the details on the Toledo, Ohio measure. Gretchen, let me circle right back to you, okay? Thank you.

Dave:

Thank you, Gretchen. Thank you, Hazel. And we definitely follow up. We have Karen from Alexandria, Virginia. Karen, welcome.

Karen:

Hi. Thank you so much for having me speak tonight. My question is that I've always believed that the health of people and the planet are linked. How should we use nature to prevent a future global health crisis?

Lynn:

Wow, that is such a great question and, of course, really... always having importance, but preoccupying us right now. When the pandemic really went global, the Conservancy did a deep dive look at the science linking zoonotic disease, for example, to certain agricultural and land use practices. We've looked at the relationship between nature and health and many other of those dimensions. There's several things that we're doing on that front to really help people understand that nature matters. Nature's not just nice; it's essential. It's essential for economies. It's essential for health. It's essential for communities. It's essential for biodiversity.

Lynn:

First, there are trillions of dollars being expended by governments around the world on COVID recovery. Now, the initial expenditures were mainly on issues such as unemployment and helping people that were unemployed. Immediate healthcare needs. But we see on the horizon recovery spending that is going to try and be longer term and rebuild economies. It presents a huge opportunity to say, let's not build ourselves into the past. Let's look to the future. Let's look towards a nature-positive future. Let's invest in nature. Let's change our agricultural practices in such a way that we don't continue to have land transformation. So, number one, recovery spending presents a big opportunity. We actually presented, the Conservancy, on the Hill in Washington some ideas for consideration in investing in nature to benefit people's health and the economy in the US. But we're doing similarly very active in Europe and with the EU, in Australia, in Canada, and elsewhere.

Lynn:

But in addition to that, a lot of our work that has been unfolding in cities really presents opportunities for linking nature and health. Expanding tree canopies in cities. Using nature for stormwater management. Our work on water funds to invest in landscapes outside of cities and those natural systems to actually help clean the water and deliver cleaner water into cities. All of those things link nature and health. We're learning more and more everyday about the importance of that linkage. Even mental health links to exposure to nature, for example.

Dave:

Thanks, Karen. Great question. And thank you, Lynn. Hazel, if you want to jump right in there and talk a little more about Toledo?

Hazel:

Thank you, Dave. And Gretchen, hello. I was just sharing with my colleagues here that I've been interim state director of Texas for the past few months and sometimes I have to refocus on the details. But, Gretchen, the Ohio metro park, the Toledo metro park's bond is for $160 million over the next 10 years. It is a mill property tax and it is for repair, development, land protection, maintenance of the parks and greenways in Toledo.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Hazel. I just want to take a moment to go back to the action center, the online action center, and the importance of it as it is a voice for our members and people who are constituents of The Nature Conservancy. Hazel was instrumental with the membership team in helping launch our online action center and Lynn has personally brought our petitions to policy leaders and meetings on the Hill. So, incredibly important. I'm sure they can tell you just how much these online actions have made a difference in the work they've done. So, Lynn? Hazel?

Hazel:

I will start by saying once upon a time in my previous life, I actually worked for a state senator. We tracked phone calls and we tracked mail that we received on issues. Legislators care about what you care about, what their constituency cares about, and unless we... One of the focus that we need to do as an organization is figure out how to raise a collective voice. What we find time and time again is that people care about conservation on both sides of the aisle but it's not something that is activated at times unless we figure out a way to collectively activate it. And that's why it's so important for us to have this action center to be able to communicate to our membership and others what is happening and why you speaking up now is important for us to collectively get our voice heard as we're also actively lobbying face-to-face in the state houses and in Congress. Lynn, I'll turn it over to you.

Lynn:

Yeah, I'll just add to that. Many of us have on our minds, the recent great success of the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, permanent funding for the land and water conservation fund that I mentioned earlier. We could not have succeeded... we and our other colleagues in other organization... without an action center. Without the voices of our members, our participants. In that effort... which took years, but really active in the last year as we tried to get across the finish line... we had tens of thousands of people respond to our action request. And it matters. The members of Congress look at that and they say, whoa, this is important to our constituents. We need to stand up and act. It really is important, Dave, so thank you for raising that.

Dave:

Absolutely. Yeah, we're asking everyone to speak up for nature and the way to do it is the online action center. You can visit at nature.org/act. So we want to get back to callers. Our next one is Richard from Hedgesville, West Virginia. Richard?

Richard:

Hello. Can you hear me?

Dave:

Yes, absolutely.

Lynn:

Yeah.

Richard:

Thank you. My question is relating to the fires that are ongoing out west. I was wondering if Nature Conservancy properties are affected by those fires and what The Nature Conservancy's policy is with regard to fire management practices. Thank you.

Lynn:

Thank you for the question. Of course, this is ongoing and so devastating to communities. To your first question, yes, there is a Nature Conservancy preserve that has been affected by the fires in Oregon. We don't know the full extent of the impact, but we do know that there have been impacts on at least one of our preserves. Some of these areas, it's not possible to get into the really understand the full extent of impacts yet. With respect to fire risk reduction, forest management, The Nature Conservancy for several decades has been very active in advancing forest health and including a program called Living with Fire, reintroducing proscribed fire onto the landscape. Many of these places, especially public lands, because of a view over many decades of Smokey the Bear put out every fire, have resulted in large overgrowth of trees and tree stand densities. These are fire-adapted ecosystems. They need some fire periodically. So we have supported something called the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. We have fire teams. We go in and help manage some of these areas to reduce that fuel load and try to reduce the risk of fires. We work with communities on creating defensible space. The communities and their participation is important.

Lynn:

I will say though that that's just one piece of the picture. Because, as you've seen in the news, climate change is contributing or exacerbating the conditions such as extended drought, very dry condition of the forest, disease outbreaks and disease outbreaks that are more extensive than they might have been. All of those make those forests tinder boxes. And so when fires strike, we sometimes get these fires of catastrophic proportions. So there are many solutions. Forest management and forest health is part of the picture, but addressing climate change is part of the picture as well. And there are a number of other interventions, working with communities, too.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Richard, and thank you, Lynn. We've got another caller. We've got Linda Lee from Richardson, Texas. Linda Lee? Are you with us? Linda-

Linda:

Can you hear me?

Dave:

Yeah, Linda. Yeah. Awesome.

Linda:

Yes, I'm here. Well, my question is very brief because I don't want to sound defeatist. I became interested in environmental issues in 1974 and I am much older now and I'm very tired. Because I have seen so much of the wonderful things that got passed through for defense of the environment, the ecosystem, and when we were in with the Paris climate control conference. I am just wondering does The Nature Conservancy put any money into its legal forces so that we can fight some of the things that are getting thrown at us? To turn back the clock and allow robber barons to go in and cut the trees down, mine, and make the water dirty and heavy metals in the soil. Does The Nature Conservancy join with other environmental groups to sue to stop some of the things that are going on? That's my question.

Lynn:

Thank you very much and I certainly share your frustration, having also been around in 1974 and looking at all of the modern bedrock environmental laws that came foreword at that time and into the '80s. The Nature Conservancy rarely engages in litigation. We do very assertively weigh in with the rollbacks. We have weighed in, for example, on attempts to roll back the monuments. We've weighed in on the Endangered Species Act and the [inaudible 00:41:08]. We've worked in the Congress to actually help reverse or counterman some of these efforts.

Lynn:

Very occasionally, we do weigh in and particularly with amicus briefs. For example, one of the very challenging changes that occurred recently was with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It's an act that is a hundred years old and the administration made some changes to it that severely limited its effect. And so I was part of an amicus brief that challenged that change in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act interpretation. The good news is that round one resulted in a victory. As with so many legal cases, there's layer after layer after layer. Our California team weighed in in an amicus brief on a lawsuit pertaining to air quality issues there. It was an issue that our team there has worked on for many, many, many years and they had a particular voice and information to add. So very selectively, we do, but we try more to use our power of influence with influential voices and influential decision makers who can undo or counter these reversals as our primary path forward.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Lynn. Really appreciate that. We are going to take another caller. We are talking Arnold from Tampa, Florida. Arnold, are you with us?

Arnold:

Yes, I am. My question has to do with the fact that this administration has been bent on destroying national parks and other public lands as well as destroying endangered species, in particular predators. What are we doing to try to counter that activity on the part of the administration? Presenting science in terms of the administration. They ignore it.

Lynn:

Science or the application of science has not been very persuasive, that's true, over the last several years. Again, we have a very vigorous bedrock environmental law defense set of priorities, so we have vigorously weighed in on the Endangered Species Act, on the National Environmental Policy Act, and proposed changes there, as I noted on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. We try to work multiple channels. Partly, we go up to the Hill. For example, we've been working on the Hill with a lawmaker who is proposing a law that would essentially undo the changes in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is a measure that is getting some traction. So we go that route sometimes. Other times, we go the route of the action center that Dave mentioned to really galvanize thousands of people to weigh in. We do that with our compatriots at other nonprofits as well. That won't necessarily change the minds of the administration, but it can galvanize other lawmakers to raise their voice and change the course of their...

Lynn:

Pebble Mine, though, which was mentioned earlier, is actually a good example where our science and our voice and weighing in with others has been effective. We were able to get [inaudible 00:45:12] on that. Along with others. We never do these things alone. The administration had to push the pause button on that one. So we try to use all the tools in the tool kit. But we try to sustain relations that we're going to need over the long haul to get things done that we need to get done. And so it's an art to be assertive, play defense, build relations, get countermanded voices, and decision makers that can undo some of the negative things that are occurring.

Dave:

Great. Thank you, Lynn, and thank you, Arnold. I really appreciate the question. Before we go to next question, I want to talk about getting outside and enjoying nature. At The Nature Conservancy, we've all been moved out of the office and into our homes and I think one of the silver linings for me is being able to get outside more frequently. I have put lots of miles on my feet, going through trails and walking my dog, and it just makes me really appreciate what we're working so hard to save. So, Lynn and Hazel, how have you been able to get outside and outdoors safely?

Hazel:

I'll just share with you that I live probably less than an eight minute drive from Red Rock National Park here in Las Vegas. The other day, I actually went and got a venti latte, took my camping chair, and just put my chair out there, put my Audible on, and sat there for about 90 minutes and just enjoyed the view. And then went for a quick hike. I thought, why not? Why not just bring my camping chair, sit there, and enjoy the view of Red Rock? So I try as much as possible to get outside and now I'm having coffee in the national park. It's my new thing.

Lynn:

I have a confession. I am a passionate birder. And so every single weekend, first days of the weekend, at 6:00 AM or so, I'm at a local, wonderful, wonderful wetland preserve, where I go birding. Usually, I walk five, six, seven miles. And if you're really interested, you can see my bird photos on Facebook.

Hazel:

And they're beautiful. It's amazing.

Dave:

Yeah, I don't know if many of you probably know that Nature Conservancy has 120 million acres of protected land throughout the country and many of it is open to the public. I'm looking forward to being able to visit some of these one day. My goal in life is to take a camper and travel the country and go visit a lot of those. I'm excited about that. Whenever that may happen. So I wanted to take a quick poll of our callers. Have you visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one for yes. Press two for no. Again, have you visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one for yes. Press two for no. And, now, let's go to our next caller. We have Blake from Bristol, Tennessee. Blake, welcome. Blake, are you-

Blake:

Hello?

Dave:

Blake! How are you? Is this Blake?

Blake:

Yeah, this is he.

Dave:

Well, welcome. Feel free to ask your question.

Blake:

My question is... In regard to the Paris climate agreement that was just now... the current administration had just pulled out of it... and considering that other nations had also done it as well, my question is, what will happen now to basically the environment now that that has happened and could we end up seeing ourselves in another similar Dust Bowl like we had during the 1930s?

Lynn:

So the Paris Agreement still exists. The US is the only country in the entire world that has pulled out. Other countries are still committed. They have set goals to reduce their emissions. And those countries are moving ahead. Perhaps sounding a little bit Pollyannish or like I have rose-colored glasses, I also see some other good news even in the US, which is that we're seeing an unprecedented engagement by companies saying, okay, climate is the problem. The US isn't acting. We've got to act. And they're making pledges. So Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, the list goes on and on. They're accelerating and elevating their commitment. We have a big partnership with Amazon to help them invest in nature's climate solutions.

Lynn:

I get heartened when I look at the private sector, who has said, we can't wait for the Congress, we can't wait for the political leadership in the United States. We're going to power forward. I get heartened when I look at the states. Hazel may weigh in on some of our ballot initiatives on climate action at the state level. Many states are powering forward. They've said, okay, pulled out of the climate agreement federally, but we're still in. We're plowing ahead. We're setting renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency standards. We are very involved in the northeast on a transportation and climate initiative. Now, having said that, the problem is urgent and we're nowhere near on the trajectory that we need to be. So I have great hope that the US will get back in the game at the federal level even while companies and states and cities and other countries keep tearing forward.

Hazel:

I would add, Lynn, that after we... United States... withdrew from the Paris Agreement... The US Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of 25 states. 25 governors have signed on and are committed to reducing greenhouse gases. Those 25 states actually represent 55% of the US population. And so we are seeing the beauty of decentralization of power. We are seeing some actions in the states. At the end of the day, some of the states are the biggest polluters are not part of this alliance. So we do need for the United States to be part of the Paris Accord eventually again, but the good news is that there's actually state actions that are happening. Governors realize that something must be done. They have the power to do something and have signed on with the US Climate Alliance to work together to reduce greenhouse gases.

Dave:

Great. Thanks, Hazel. Thanks, Lynn. Just quickly, a brief minute for results from the poll. 49% said you have visited a Nature Conservancy preserve. I think every time I've asked that poll question, that is by far the highest, so kudos to everybody on the phone. Another caller. We have Tiffany from Salisbury, North Carolina.

Tiffany:

Hi, good evening. Thank you so much for taking my call. Listening to this conversation, I'm going to modify my question just a little bit. Because I so appreciate all the opportunities to participate at a national level politically. I'm very concerned... Even here in North Carolina, where The Nature Conservancy is doing good work around recovery and resilience, at the local and state level, those are not political issues that are addressed by candidates. So when I'm researching who to vote for, and that's one of my priorities, I'm finding it really, really difficult to pick people who are like-minded that I want to see in office. I am so convinced that we have to make this change at the local and state level if we want real change at the federal level. I know that's probably outside the purview of The Nature Conservancy, but do you know what's the best way for us to make this a local political issue? Who do we partner with locally so that politicians have to speak to these issues when they're running for office?

Hazel:

I'll take this, Lynn and Dave. This is the problem that we see time and time again. Politicians are out there polling and they're asking open-ended questions about what do you care about and people are responding the economy, now the pandemic, healthcare, education. So until this day, unfortunately, we do see climate change and the environment, what we call a secondary issue. When we poll on our issue, we isolate it. We ask questions about it. We see the numbers go up. But politicians, typically they ask open-ended questions. This is why it is incumbent upon you to outreach to your decision maker and you are telling them what you care about. Again, going back to using your voice and being active in your community and taking a stand. Because otherwise, you're absolutely right. They're asking these questions. They're not seeing it topped on the polls, so they're not talking about it. And we need to individually and collectively at The Nature Conservancy also uplift the issue. I tell you. We're in constant battle to uplift the issue. That's what we do all the time, but to your point, it is... It's rough out there. Let's just put it that way. Especially right now. With everything happening. We see it in the polling. So I encourage every single one of you to use your voice personally on this one.

Dave:

Speak up for nature. I think that's what we need to do, for sure. So we are coming towards the end, but before we wrap up, I want to ask Lynn and Hazel... If there's one thing you want our listeners to take away from this conversation, what would it be?

Lynn:

Well, if there's one thing to take away from this conversation, it would be that each and every one of you and your voice matters. It really links to the speak up for nature comment that Dave just made. It does matter. So speak up for nature. Take part in our action center, so that you have an easy way to speak up for nature. And retain some optimism. I always say, you see what you look at. We can look at headlines and things look very discouraging, but then you can look down in communities, in individual states, with other partners that we partner with, and you begin to raise hope again because you see some good conservation going on.

Hazel:

While my boss is on this phone right now, Lynn Scarlett, I also feel as if I work for every single one of you. At the end of the day, your commitment to The Nature Conservancy, your commitment to conservation, we have all in many ways have linked hands together and we, in essence, work for you. You have 4000 plus foot soldiers at The Nature Conservancy doing fantastic work and you have probably about 500 of us working in the policy arena. Well, maybe not so much 500, but quite a good bit of us altogether, touching the policy arena. And that's because of your support. That's because of how you show up and what you do in your own backyard. So thank you. Without you, there is no way we would be able to... I wouldn't be able claim all these successes by any means, so I appreciate everything that we do. And just know that we share the same values and we're working on your behalf. So thank you.

Dave:

Thanks, Lynn and Hazel. I would say from all our members to the policy team, we do have the best and we really do fight for nature. We do have one final poll question for you. If you feel like this live Q&A was informative and insightful, press one for yes, press two for no. Again, press one for yes, press two for no. We have come to an end. Thank you to everyone for joining us live for this call. I can't thank you enough for all of the support that you provide for The Nature Conservancy. We'll be following up with a survey by email, so if you're not on our email list, go to nature.org and sign up. And thanks, Lynn and Hazel so much for being our guest this evening. You both were tremendous. Unfortunately, we couldn't get to everyone's questions, but if you have an additional comment or comments, please stay on the line and you'll be able to leave a voicemail at the end of the event by pressing one. We always value your feedback. Again, thank you again for your time. Have a wonderful night.

A rainbow appears above Phantom Canyon Preserve.
Phantom Canyon Preserve A rainbow appears above Phantom Canyon Preserve. © Joe Esparza/TNC

March 2020 Conservation Leader Call: Sally Jewell

Listen to this interactive Q&A with The Nature Conservancy's Interim CEO and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell

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