The Nature Conservancy works at the state, national and global level to affect policy change. Working to advance legislation as well as defending core environmental policies can have a huge effect on our ability to achieve our conservation goals. This year we are particularly excited about two pieces of legislation that we worked very hard to advocate for, one at the federal level and one at the state level.
Fire Funding Fix
At the federal level the wildfire funding fix was included in the 2018 spending bill that was signed into law in March. This monumental policy shift allows the federal government to use disaster funds to cover catastrophic wildfire costs. This change protects funding for proactive programs that make forests healthier and less fire prone – programs that are so critical to our forest work in Colorado.
Over the past two decades, fires have increased in severity, intensity, cost, and fire seasons have grown longer. Yet the structure for wildfire budgeting had not changed significantly at the U.S. Forest Service or the Department of the Interior.
In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent roughly 16% of the agency’s annual budget on fire suppression. Today, the agency spends more than half of its annual budget on fire. This dramatic increase in the cost of fires meant that fewer resources were available to manage our National Forests and provide the visitor support services, conduct forest research, and fund State and Private Forestry programs that touch every state in the U.S.
This fire fix will break the chains that have been tightening around the Forest Service budget over the past decades to ensure that the agency both has the resources it needs to continue to protect human lives and property from wildfire disasters while doing more of the pro-active work to better manage and restore forests across the country.
At the state level the Colorado State Lottery was reauthorized for 25 years! The Lottery is the sole funding source for Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), and reauthorization makes sure that GOCO has the funds it needs through 2049 to invest in land protection, open spaces, and wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy has been a leading partner of Keep It Colorado, a coalition that worked to get the Colorado Lottery reauthorized by the Legislature in 2018. Reauthorization was among our highest priorities because the Lottery—and funding for GOCO—was scheduled to sunset in 2025. In addition to creating, improving and protecting trails, rivers, parks, and playgrounds, GOCO has invested in the conservation of more than 1,000,000 acres of land through acquisition or easements. Many of the Conservancy’s land protection projects and preserves in Colorado have been funded through GOCO, including Carpenter Ranch Preserve, JE Canyon Ranch, and the Medano-Zapata Ranch.