Become a Member

Exclusive Webcast Library

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.
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

See Your Support At Work

Learn more about the impact you're making with these special recordings and resources.

Sunrise over an alpine lake
Behind the Mountain The sun rises behind the Zugpsitze mountain in the Alps. © Nicolai Brügger/TNC Photo Contest

Member Tele-Townhall: Climate & Biodiversity

Listen to this interactive Q&A with our Chief Conservation Officer on the most urgent issues. (Recorded September 29, 2022)

Download Audio
Share

Dave Strauss:

Good evening, and welcome to tonight's live Q&A with David Banks, the Nature Conservancy's chief conservation officer. I'm Dave Strauss, director of membership at the Nature Conservancy, and I'll 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 discussion, so please ask away.

Dave Strauss:

If you're just joining us, welcome to tonight's live Q&A with the Nature Conservancy's Conservation Leadership. We're thrilled to have our chief conservation officer, David Banks, with us tonight. He is here to talk about our urgent conservation priorities and answer your questions. If you'd like to ask a question, press zero at any time to enter the queue. Thanks again to everyone for joining us for this live discussion. Your support means so much, and I'm really glad you that you've taken the opportunity to connect with us this evening. Our thoughts are with those of you have been affected by Hurricane Ian, and I hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well this evening. Thank you again for joining the call. We're glad you are able to participate.

Dave Strauss:

Our featured guest, David Banks, has a distinguished career in conservation. We are honored to have him here to talk with you, answer your questions, and share his perspective on how we will continue working to safeguard the lands and waters that sustain us all. David is the chief conservation officer and has been with the Nature Conservancy for more than 27 years, leading conservation work in TNC priority areas around the world. He previously served as the executive vice president for Africa, Europe, and India, and led TNC's Africa region for more than a decade. Further, he managed the Alaska program and served as their conservation director and conservation planner. David is proud to have started his career serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. In his free time, he enjoys rafting wilderness rivers in western North America and skiing the back country of Montana.

Dave Strauss:

Welcome, David. I know our supporters on the phone will have great questions for you this evening. 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, David, to welcome those who have just joined us and share a few of your thoughts before we open up the lines for questions. David?

David Banks:

Thanks, Dave. Hello, everyone. I'm excited to be here with fellow members. I'm also a member of the Nature Conservancy and a member of our Legacy Club as well. It's really good to be in this call because I spend my days and sometimes evenings working on conservation, focus on the science, and trying to get things done for our planet. It helps me to be able to hear from all of you and what you're excited about, what you're concerned about, what you're curious about because it helps guide our work. Our teams are working very hard right now. This is a important time for our mission of conserving the lands and waters that we all depend on.

David Banks:

We have a number of challenges that we face right now. I don't think it's news to all of you that the issues of climate change, the climate crisis, and the biodiversity crisis is not only impacting nature, the plants and animals around the world at an unprecedented scale, but it's also impacting all of us. Hurricane Ian is a good example of the kind of events that we're facing these days. But we also see this in the science and the reports. I'm sure many of you have seen the latest UN climate report. The findings from that present a pretty daunting world that we need to face up to as humans and fight hard to make a difference to address those threats to climate and to nature on this planet.

David Banks:

I'm actually quite hopeful despite the news that's out there on a daily basis, and I'm convinced that we can step up to make a difference for the planet and for the people that live here. It's going to take us all leaning in together using good science, being innovative, and working on a scale that is unprecedented in our history, but we can do that. TNC has always been grounded in science. Science is the fundamental way that we decide what to do and where we decide to work. It is possible that we can meet the ambitious climate targets that we've set and at the same time protect 30% of the lands and waters on Earth by 2030. This is something scientists believe we need to do to conserve the lands and waters that we depend on. We have to act now in order to do that, and we have to act at a bigger scale than we have in the past. I feel like we're ready for that.

David Banks:

The Nature Conservancy is poised to make a contribution because our teams have the unique combination of skills, the experience on the ground, the relationships that come from that, the resources to make a difference, and the support from people like all of you that believe we must do more to change the trajectory of our planet. The world needs the best of us, all of us, you, me, our leaders, people that we meet every day working together to be successful to address the challenges that we face right now. That's why TNC has looked at how we can make our best contributions to dramatically reduce the rate of species loss and drastically cut carbon emissions. Our roots as an organization in land acquisition simply isn't enough to make a difference. TNC has to be focused on strategies and policy efforts that are at a bigger scale. We simply can't buy enough land to make a difference.

David Banks:

Our team has led an effort to bring together Nature Conservancy staff and volunteer leaders from around the world to identify a few key areas where we can make the biggest difference in the next seven years by 2030. Some of these are things like using the power of nature to tackle climate change: protecting forests, grasslands, mangroves. These are the natural things that sequester carbon, that store carbon. We don't have to create machines. Nature has provided that. It's the roots, the leaves, the stems, the things that sequester carbon. If we can protect more forests, restore more forests and grasslands and mangroves, we can make a huge difference for us, our children, and our grandchildren that depend on a stable climate.

David Banks:

Our goal is to remove about three billion metric tons of carbon emissions per year. That's about the same as removing 650 million cars from the road. We're also ramping up our legacy of land conservation. We aim to conserve 650 million hectares of healthy lands around the globe. This is an area twice the size of Indiana where I started with Nature Conservancy as an intern. A thriving and vibrant future for all of us and those species that we care deeply about is possible if all of us and the local communities that we work with shape decisions about the lands and waters we all care about so deeply. We're also increasing our work on community-based conservation efforts, supporting 45 million people around the world, indigenous communities, local communities who depend on healthy lands and waters and oceans for their livelihoods and wellbeing. It's bold, it's ambitious, and, more importantly, it's achievable, but we must act now.

David Banks:

This is what we face. I'd love to open it up to questions. I'll probably turn it over to Dave. Thank you everyone for being here, and I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Dave?

Dave Strauss:

Thank you, David. I really appreciate your opening remarks. What stood out was act now and act at a bigger scale, so I think that's really where TNC sits squarely right in the middle of all of this. I want to welcome to anyone who just joined us. It's a privilege to have David Banks, the Nature Conservancy's chief conservation officer, 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 keypad at any time. While we wait to get our first caller, I wanted to thank you again to everybody 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 reasons.

Dave Strauss:

I want to ask a quick poll question to get a sense of why you've chosen to be a Nature Conservancy supporter. To respond, press the corresponding number on your telephone keypad. So the question, why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one if you're concerned about the climate emergency. Press two if you care about saving endangered species. Press three if you want to preserve beautiful, natural places. Press four if you want to keep the air we breathe and water we drink clean. Press five for all of the above. Press six for other. Again, I repeat, why do you choose to help protect nature? Press one if you're concerned about the climate emergency. Press two if you care about saving endangered species. Press three if you want to preserve beautiful, natural places. Press four if you want to keep the air we breathe and water we drink clean. Press five for all of the above, and press six for other. Your answers will help guide our discussions, and we'll have the results for you in just a bit. Again, be sure to press zero if you'd like to ask a question live tonight.

Dave Strauss:

Tonight's event is meant to be a dialogue about issues that are important to you, so we sent an email earlier this week, an email survey asking participants what question they wanted most for David to answer this evening. The majority of the supporters said this question was top of mind for them. So David, the question is, what's the most critical solution to address climate change?

David Banks:

Thanks, Dave, and thanks, everyone. The most critical solution is to rapidly convert to a low-carbon future. This is primarily through investment in renewables, like solar and wind, as a way to move away from fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis. That's the big one. But let me add one other that's critical to us and we're investing a great deal of our money is in what we call the natural climate solutions. I mentioned this earlier. It's about both protecting nature, forest, grasslands, mangroves, as well as restoring forests and grasslands because nature can absorb a huge amount of carbon that is emitted into the air. So while we're converting to a low-carbon future that's based on renewables, we need to absorb more carbon by protecting nature, and we get these ancillary benefits of protecting biodiversity through that strategy. Dave?

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you. We have our first caller on the line. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight. We'll try to get as many as possible, so listen for your name once you get in the queue. We have Daniel from New York. Daniel, welcome.

Daniel:

Hello. I was wondering what the Nature Conservancy will be doing as far as agriculture and the climate change by the year 2030.

David Banks:

Great, thanks. We do have a program that's dedicated to providing food and water sustainably that's heavily focused on agriculture. Our focus with that program is primarily in two areas. One is helping farmers convert from agriculture that has huge fertilizer and pesticide inputs to what we refer to as regenerative agriculture, which is more organics, buffer strips, no-till farming. By helping farmers, by educating and providing support for this, we can help move farmers to a more regenerative way to produce food. In the long run, they can get a better income, and it has less of an impact on biodiversity, and it improves soil health which sequesters carbon in the soil. So this is a really important effort on the agriculture side.

David Banks:

The second piece of this is what we call zero conversion commodities where we're working with large industrial farmers to make sure that they don't impact high-quality forests or other areas of important biodiversity so they can protect that and try and push to more regenerative agriculture in places where they can produce more food. So it's much more of a mapping and planning exercise to avoid the places where there'd be very high impact.

Dave Strauss:

That's great.

David Banks:

Dave, I'll just point out one other thing. We're working now in India, which is a newer program for us, where we're working with farmers in the Punjab region to reduce crop residue burning. This represents about 30% of the pollution in Delhi. It's also a terrible way to produce food in that region. So helping them with new technology and equipment that can reduce the crop residue burning which improves the air quality in Delhi and also improves the food production and the habitat in the Punjab region. That's just a good example of where we're doing this.

Dave Strauss:

Thank you, David. That's a great example. Thank you, Daniel, for your question. I want to quickly share the results of our first poll before getting to our next live caller. I'm happy to see that 73% of you said that you choose to support the Nature conservancy because you're concerned about the climate emergency. I've been doing this for a few years now and that percent continually increases, which just shows the urgency around climate. 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 Amparo from California. Amparo, did I say your name correctly?

Amparo:

Yes, you did.

Dave Strauss:

Fantastic. Yes, absolutely. Feel free to ask your question.

Amparo:

Hi. I'm Amparo, and I'm from Fontana. We are in a part of California that is overrun with a big warehouses that's causing a lot of havoc in our area. I wanted some recommendations on what we can do to have better community resilience to the climate change since we really do sit in a valley that's suffering from a lot of inversions. Thank you in advance.

David Banks:

Great. Thanks, Amparo. This is something many of our urban areas are seeing. I started talking about the strategies we use to tackle climate change. Many of these strategies also help us address the pollution issues and inversions that are there as well. I talked about strategies around forest protection and converting to a low-carbon future. But the most important thing we all can do to make a difference in this is to help elect politicians that understand the climate crisis and are willing to make the hard choices to move to a low-carbon future that includes renewables and the protection of forests and grassland. Amparo, I think a key thing is with this election year coming up, I'm not telling you who you should vote for, but really work hard to understand how candidates feel about climate change and help elect those candidates that will make a difference on the climate crisis because we need government to step up to address the pollution issues and the climate issues on a bigger scale.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, David, and thank you, Amparo, for the question. Let's take another caller. We have Liz from the Midwest, from Wisconsin. Liz, are you with us?

Liz:

Yes. I had another question that I put into the system. I just wanted to know how involved is Nature Conservancy in the Endangered Species Act and helping animals such as wolves thrive instead of being hunted down. I think of Yellowstone and when they reintroduced wolves in the parks, the entire ecosystem had changed for the better because the herbivores were no longer taking over the parklands. It's a real problem here in Wisconsin that the hunters are just chomping at the bit to hunt wolves. I just don't understand it. They just seem to think of wolves as the worst animal on the face of the Earth. I think we need to have a new appreciation and maybe a whole new system of communication to communicate the benefits of wolves and other top-tier carnivores and their role in the ecosystems. I wonder where you stand on that.

David Banks:

Thanks, Liz. It's a great question, and I appreciate your knowledge of the Yellowstone system. I'm lucky enough to live in Montana right now, so I have the pleasure of being able to get to Yellowstone and Glacier and see wolves. Our teams in places where we do have wolves are very active in helping conserve them and also helping the local communities deal with the real pressure of wolves, and other carnivores for that matter, where there can be conflict between the animals and people's livelihoods. I'm happy to say that where we've engaged with ranchers and with farmers that are often threatened by wolves and historically would've killed them, wolves and bears for that matter, we've been able to work with many of these ranchers and farmers to help them understand other ways of avoiding the impact of wolves.

David Banks:

One of the techniques we've used in Montana is called a range rider program where there are some wolves and bears that are collared and we can track their movement within the system, and the range riders communicate with the ranchers so that cattle can be moved away from where wolves are. Then through that you develop this system where the cattle are kept away from the wolves, and wolves are kept away from the cattle. Wolves tend to focus more on elk which are an easier target in those situations, and it's kept the natural system in place.

David Banks:

Interestingly, it's also changed the mentality of the ranchers. I know from several of the ranches we're working with in Montana, you had ranchers that would actively have killed wolves in the beginning. But over time of working with Nature Conservancy staff and educating and working on these alternative ways to address gradation, they've changed their mind completely now to where they really value the presence of wolves and bears because to them it represents the wildness that Montana's all about. I know Wisconsin's facing some of these things as wolves move in. I'm not sure exactly what the Wisconsin program is doing, but I think there could be some similar opportunities there.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, David. Appreciate that. As a reminder, you can press zero at any time on your telephone keypad to ask a question live tonight. David, we have another caller. We have June from Illinois. June, are you with us?

June:

Hello? Yes, yes.

Dave Strauss:

Hi, June?

June:

Hi, hi, hi. Thank you. I'm very interested, and I didn't catch too much of what you said about policy, but you said that the Nature Conservancy is going beyond land acquisition. That won't solve all the problems. What about policy? Are you talking about governmental policy? How is the Conservancy trying to promote a change in policies that will affect the environment and help with climate change?

David Banks:

Great. Thanks, June. It's good to hear from you. I mentioned policy because many of the challenges we're facing today are so big that we need government to step up and help us with this in the United States and also outside the US where we're working. We have a growing team that is helping government to draft policy that benefits biodiversity and helps us address climate change. We also provide good science to guide government to come up with solutions to address climate change and protect biodiversity. A good example of this is the recent Inflation Reduction Act that just passed Congress. It's something we worked very hard on and are happy that it passed because it has a significant amount of funding to help advance renewable energy and also to protect nature in a way that sequesters carbon. That single act helps us address 22% of our climate mitigation goals, these goals we've set for 2030. It would take us so much more to do that through individual actions. That's why that policy engagement becomes so important.

Dave Strauss:

I would absolutely agree with you, David. Our next poll question is around policy. Policy is such an important part of how we make meaningful change on today's challenges such as the Inflation Reduction Act. Many of our members are actively speaking out more in conservation policy through our online action center. I'm curious how many people have signed one of our pledges, so I wanted to take a minute to do a quick poll. Press one if you've signed a policy action in our online action center this year, press two if you have not visited our online action center, or press three if you do not recall but would be interested in learning more about the action center. Again, press one if you've signed a policy action in our online action center this year, 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 the action center. Thank you. Let's go to our next question from the phone. We have Sarah from Virginia. Sarah?

Sarah:

Good evening. Thank you for taking my question. I'm wondering how can or does collaboration with other environmental organizations help with the work of the Nature Conservancy? I am interested in how the organization collaborates with other groups.

David Banks:

That's a great question. It's something that's been really important to me and our team over the years. As Dave mentioned, I've been around here for 28 years, and I've seen the organization evolve. It's always been a hallmark of the Nature Conservancy that we collaborate and help support other organizations and work together. Many of you know the local land trusts in the communities where you live. That's an area where we help get the land trusts movement started, and we still collaborate very actively with land trusts. In my hometown, we donate to land trusts. We help them in managing land. We work together on bond initiatives. This is true in many of the states where we work. The land trusts and the Nature Conservancy work closely together.

David Banks:

Then the latest one that I'm very excited about is a big collaboration with World Wildlife Fund globally as well as the Pew Foundation on how we can protect 30% of the planet through a program called Enduring Earth, which is all about working with governments to protect new national parks or protected areas, have governments commit money, the Nature Conservancy commit money, World Wildlife Fund commit money, and Pew Foundation commit money. So we're all working together as one team to get a common outcome in these important countries. That's unprecedented in the scale of collaboration. It has the potential to change the face of protected areas around the globe.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, David. I wanted to quickly get the results from our second poll question. 12% 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 an easy 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. We have Susie from Salt Lake City, Utah. Susie?

Susie:

Hello.

Dave Strauss:

Oh, welcome. Feel free to ask your question.

Susie:

Thank you. I'm wondering if it would be helpful since there has been an increase in forest fires in the West, and, of course, our forests are a very important part of reducing carbon, would it be helpful to increase the tree cover in urban areas such as people's homes? Add more trees to your front yard or your backyard. Do we really need so much lawn?

David Banks:

Great question, Susie. Absolutely. I think every tree matters for sure. These trees in urban environments make a huge difference for... You may have heard of the urban heat islands. That's a new term that I learned about in the last few years. Because of all the asphalt and buildings, our cities are getting much hotter than they have in the past. So when we plant trees in our backyards, on the streets, it helps provide the shade and reduces that urban heat effect. Those trees also sequester carbon. So the more that we can do of tree planting in our own yard, our own communities, it can make a huge difference for the planet. We have a program at the Nature Conservancy called Plant a Billion Trees, and you can probably find it on our website, which helps provide some guidance on this and what you can do to make a difference.

David Banks:

Susie, while you're on, I know you're from Salt Lake City, because I think the other big issue that you face is the water crisis for the Great Salt Lake. This is another thing that's impacting us through climate change. The Nature Conservancy in Utah is working very closely with the state of Utah to try and improve water flow into the Great Salt Lake and make a difference because it's so important to the future of that state. The reduced water flow into the lake and the drying of the lake also contributes to air pollution that we talked a lot about earlier. So a really important connection between nature and people there in your great city.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, Susie, for the question and David for the answer. Let's take another question from the phone. We have Stephanie from Portland, Oregon. Stephanie?

Stephanie:

Yes, I'm here.

Dave Strauss:

Great.

Stephanie:

Can you hear me?

Dave Strauss:

Absolutely. Feel free to ask your question.

Stephanie:

My question is the following. I'm just an individual. I try to vote correctly. I support the Nature Conservancy and other organizations as I can. What I'm worried about, what I think I can do, and I want to see if you think this is of value. At the local level, I'm hoping to become head of our neighborhood association. After reading the comments of George Monbiot and Peter Kalmus and Peter Dykstra where they say nobody talks about the climate. Everybody goes about their daily business. I'm thinking that as chair of the neighborhood association, I can have us start talking about the climate and talk to the city officials, talk amongst ourselves, take little steps that we can do that don't really mean a whole lot but are educational, like different kinds of food waste or not driving with the kayak holder on the top of the car and so on. Do you think this can be a value of getting people to not be afraid to talk about the climate collapse?

David Banks:

Thanks, Stephanie. It's a great question and a great point. We've come a long way on this issue. There was a time when people didn't feel like they could talk about the climate crisis, and now it's becoming more mainstream. Your point is exactly what I hear when I'm out there in the field is people are still not talking about it as much as they should be talking about it, as much as they need to. So everything that you can do with your neighborhood association, with your friends, with your community to talk about why it's important and how our individual actions, both the choices we make at home and with transportation and the food we eat as well as who we vote for, makes a difference for the planet.

David Banks:

We have a chief scientist, her name's Katharine Hayhoe. You can google her. She has the highest number of Twitter followers of any scientist in the world. So she's very influential, and she has a lot of good guidance on how you can talk about climate change with people that wouldn't normally understand it. She also did a show on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I'm not promoting Jimmy Kimmel in any way. You can Google that and find that episode where she talks about how you can have a conversation about climate change with your neighbor. It's really helpful to use language that can convince our friends and neighbors that this is very important to our future. Thanks so much for that question and good luck with it.

Dave Strauss:

Thank you for your question. They're all really great questions. I'm just looking at the queue, and there's many more folks that have questions. Just thank you for your patience. Again, if you do have a question, press zero to get into the queue. Before we go to our next caller, I wanted to go back to the responses to our first poll question because many of you said you choose to protect nature because you care about endangered species. David, I know you've spent many years leading TNC's Alaska program and all of our work in Africa, both places where there are so many threats to wildlife. I'm wondering if you can share some thoughts about the best ways to protect threatened species.

David Banks:

Thanks, Dave. I have to admit that I'm somewhat obsessed with the species conservation part. I've always enjoyed seeing wildlife in their natural setting especially when I had the chance to work in Africa and Alaska, just given the scale that you can see them in. When I think about this, by far the most important thing we can do as an organization and you can help us with is protecting their homeland, their habitat. For many of these species, particularly those that are endangered, their land or water that they depend on has shrunk so much because of human development and human pressure, either from agriculture or industrial or residential development.

David Banks:

What we need to do now is rapidly protect what is still left that these animals and fish depend on, and then restore those areas that connect the big places so that animals can move between places once again. So we've set a goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030. That's both on land and in oceans. We think this is the least we can do in order to provide good habitat for these important species. All of you could help us with that, both by advocating and supporting our work on big species conservation.

Dave Strauss:

Couldn't agree with you more, David. Thank you. Let's take another question from the phone. We have Nina from Sacramento. Nina?

Nina:

Hello. I had a question about exactly this, what you were just talking about because is protecting 30% of the rivers and streams and the lands sufficient really to protect the species that are declining so quickly. My concerns are really the impacts of climate change that we're seeing across the globe, either floods that are destroying rivers and streams or drying that's also destroying those habitats, let alone the social impacts that are occurring, invasive species, and just the rapid loss that we see in aquatic species throughout the world. That's really the crux of my question. Is 30% enough?

David Banks:

It's a great question. My quick answer is no, it's not enough. Our goal is the 30% by 2030. We think that's a feasible goal. If the global community steps up, we collaborate with partners, that we can protect 30% of the oceans, the lands, and freshwater systems. It's a start there. There's a famous scientist, E.O. Wilson from Harvard, that worked with us. He's written a number of papers indicating that we actually need to protect 50% of the Earth to conserve the important species that we care about. There's quite a bit of debate about that in the science community, but clearly it needs to be more than 30%.

David Banks:

At the same time we can protect land, but we also need to work on the other threats to land and water that you can't really address through protection. It's hard to put a fence around a river and deal with things. So we have to work on, as a previous caller mentioned, agriculture. We need to work on pollution emissions. We need to work on land use planning and make sure that the laws are in place and that we educate landowners and farmers and ranchers on better techniques so that we don't have to protect everything, and we can still address the impacts to the things we care about. But it needs to be a multifaceted approach.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you. Nina and David, your question and answers really lead in well to our next poll question. That connection to the places and species in your community is so important. So much of our work at TNC is done in partnership with communities and private landowners, and we're also lucky to have many Nature Conservancy protected areas across the country that are open to the public. I want do a quick poll. Have you ever visited a Nature Conservancy preserve? Press one for yes. Press two for no. 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. Now, David, if you're ready, we're going to go to our next caller. It is Penny from North Carolina. Penny?

Penny:

Hi.

Dave Strauss:

Hi, Penny.

Penny:

I was a little confused by needing to record before now being with you, but thank you for taking my call. I'm particularly concerned about the joint impact of the fires and the droughts and the decreasing level of waters, particularly in the West, and what it's going to take and what the Nature Conservancy is going to do to help get more active willingness among the Western states to making serious changes in their water usage. I can't any longer separate the climate issues from the water crisis. I'd like to know more about what Nature Conservancy plans to do in addressing the water crisis.

David Banks:

Thanks, Penny. You are absolutely right. There really isn't a separation between the climate crisis and the water crisis. They're so directly linked. As you point out, we're seeing this in such big ways. The Colorado River is probably the most obvious or visible example of the water crisis in the West where the Glen Canyon Dam is almost at a point, within several feet, of not even being able to produce electricity anymore. We have cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix that depend on water from the Colorado River, and there are numerous other examples I could use around the West like this.

David Banks:

These are big, complex problems that the Nature Conservancy is tackling. We have a Colorado River team that is working very closely with governments in the Colorado River Basin, with farmers and ranchers and really important now with the tribes in that area that are also trying to influence sustainable water use. I think what we're seeing is that the cities, the state governments recognize now more than ever that they're in a crisis and this is going to require very hard choices, and they need good science to help them make those choices. So we're providing the science, the guidance, and the suggestions on that, and we need them to act right now. So it's a combination of influencing that action and providing the information to make the good decisions.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, David. Let's take a brief minute to get the results from the poll. 49% of you have visited a Nature Conservancy preserve. I can say if you have not, which makes 51% have not visited a preserve, I would highly recommend it. I had the opportunity a couple years ago to travel the country and visit multiple preserves throughout the country. Each one is so unique and fascinating to learn about how the Nature Conservancy is protecting land. Even had the opportunity to head over to Missoula almost in David's backyard and hang out with David for a moment or two. So that was great. You can learn more about our preserves at nature.org. Let's take another question from the phone. We have Judith from Virginia. Judith?

Judith:

Oh, good evening. Well, my question was almost a two-parter, so that wasn't fair. I'm not sure how to... I know what you're doing now. I've gotten a pretty good idea from these other excellent questions. I guess my question is very simple. What percentage of time and money do you spend on the United States as opposed to other countries now, or is that even relevant? Do you not have the figures? If you don't, then it isn't very relevant. I was very surprised, however, to find out about six years ago that that's what you also did. You went outside this country, which in many ways is going to benefit everybody, of course.

David Banks:

That's a very good question. Having worked for a lot of my career in the United States and also having run our Africa program, it was a number I paid attention to a lot. We've been working hard to increase the percentage that we invest outside the United States. We now work in 72 countries around the globe, and many of our biggest projects now are outside the United States with a rapidly growing program in Africa and Asia, India, I mentioned earlier, and we have a program in Europe that works on policy reform. So a lot of really exciting investments outside United States.

David Banks:

At this point, roughly 70% of our annual budget is invested in the United States, and then the rest of that is outside the United States. There's probably a little bit of fuzzy overlap there because, interestingly, many of our state programs are also helping our non-US programs as well. You've got really great experts in places like Illinois or Oregon that are providing expertise to our programs in Africa or Mongolia. So we like to talk about this as the one conservancy spirit. It doesn't matter where you're based, you can help make a difference on those most important issues for our mission.

Dave Strauss:

Great. Thank you, David. You ready for another question? We've got Doris from North Carolina. Doris?

Doris:

Hello. I would like to ask what you are doing concerning our oceans. They are just so filled with plastics and just so much that is harmful to our fish, our turtles. This is very concerning to me. Thank you.

David Banks:

Great question. Our work in the oceans, it started probably 20, 25 years ago, and it's something we have increased our investment there significantly in the last few years. Our focus is primarily in two areas. One is in ocean protection because an incredibly small percentage of the ocean is actually in a protected area, so it's open to fishing and now in some cases ocean mining. So we're working really hard with governments to protect oceans. A great example of this that we just announced is a project in the country of Barbados where we purchased the sovereign debt of the country of Barbados and renegotiated that debt with the government of Barbados. Through that effort, the government of Barbados got a lower interest rate, lower payments, and they agreed to protect 30% of their marine area in the country of Barbados. So it's a great win for conservation, it's a great win for the finances of Barbados, and it didn't cost us a lot to do that. We're trying to execute this in a number of places around the globe to increase the scale of protection.

David Banks:

The second area that's important for us is changing the way that fisheries are managed. One of the most important areas is something we call electronic monitoring where large-scale ocean fisheries can have cameras that are linked directly to regulatory agencies to manage the catch of those fishermen so that they can control how many fish they catch, whether or not they're catching the right species, and, through that, better manage the fishery in our ocean. If we can scale up that electronic monitoring, we can make a huge difference in the sustainability of fisheries.

Dave Strauss:

Great.

David Banks:

I could probably talk about oceans for a long time, but we should leave some more time for questions.

Dave Strauss:

We do have another question. We've got William from Charleston. William?

William:

Thanks for taking my call, for taking my question. What I'm particularly curious about is if there's any effort to develop some kind of model legislation like the Wetlands Act to manage the development of rural communities to respect the hydrology, the natural watershed, the natural resources, the green space. Because what I see is that there have been many errors in the past that have cost billions of dollars by filling land, etc., and not respecting the watershed. It's an opportunity for those rural communities not to make the same mistakes again. That's my question.

David Banks:

William, that's a great question. We haven't worked on that yet, but I'm going to talk to our team that works on US policy because we've done similar things around a uniform conservation easement act. All the conservation easements around the United States came from an act that we helped write, and then every state has adopted that act. What you're talking about is the kind of feedback that I need in this role because I can go to our government relations folks and see if there's some opportunity to write something because I think we know what works and what doesn't work and providing that information to rural communities so that they can enact the policies to better manage those lands. It's a great idea. Thanks for that.

Dave Strauss:

Yeah, William, great question. Well, this has been an incredible conversation. Thank you, David. I do have a question for you. If there's one thing you want our listeners to take away from this conversation, what would it be?

David Banks:

Dave, where I sit and you're working in this all the time, it's easy to get down and have feelings of real despair about the future of the planet, so the one thing for me is to remain hopeful. I'm around people every day, some of the smartest people in this business that work really hard, work their tails off every day, and they want to make a difference in this. Knowing that you're all behind us is a key thing. So my point to everyone is let's keep our heads up. Let's stay hopeful. We can actually make a difference in this work, but we need to do it now. So thanks everyone for your time tonight. It's been a pleasure speaking with all of you.

Dave Strauss:

Thank you, David. I really appreciate that. We have one final poll question. Do you feel that this live Q&A was informative and insightful for you? Press one for yes. Press two for no. Thank you to everybody for joining us tonight for this live call. I can't thank you enough for all of your support for our cause. We'll be following up with a survey by email. If you're not on our email list, go to nature.org and sign up. David, I just want to just thank you for being our guest this evening and taking these calls and answering these questions, which were wonderful questions. 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 we will certainly get back to you. Thanks again for your time. Have a wonderful evening. Thank you.

 

Sunset with rainbow over mountain lake
Lago di Limides Sunset with the rainbow in the valley. © Torsten Richertz/TNC Photo Contest

Q&A with Joni Ward

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

Download Audio
Share

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.

 

Aerial view of fall color in Adirondack Park, NY
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)

Download Audio
Share

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.

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

Download Audio
Share