“If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense.”
Our nation’s foundational environmental laws are part of what makes America great. Laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon have perhaps come to be taken for granted as part of our heritage, part of the public trust and part of what it means to be an American.
But in announcing his proposed budget and its cuts to environmental protections, President Trump has made it clear to every American that we can no longer be complacent.
All around the country and especially in Wyoming, people depend on healthy lands and waters for jobs, food, economic security and prosperity. Stewardship of these irreplaceable natural resources is indeed part of Wyoming’s way of life, reflected in our long agricultural and outdoor traditions. And we count on our elected officials to make sure funding is in place to meet these obligations. President Ronald Reagan understood this. In his State of the Union speech in January of 1984, he called for increased funding to reduce the threat of hazardous waste sites, money to clean up Chesapeake Bay, and resources to find the cause of acid rain (a scientific effort that resulted in the nation turning to low Sulphur coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin which in turn heralded an economic boom for the state).
Unfortunately, President Trump’s recent budget proposal doesn’t begin to match the vision of President Reagan. Mr. Trump’s budget would reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, and reduce staffing by more than 3,000 people. What this means in Wyoming is that our state’s environment could be at risk –Wyoming relies on EPA grants and standards to help protect our lands and water. And there are more radical cuts to other agencies, too. The president’s budget reduces funding for the United States Department of Agriculture by 21 percent and includes cuts to forest management, rural development programs, county farm service agencies, and conservation planning. It would reduce the Department of Interior by 12 percent, including reductions in payments to states for abandoned mine land cleanup and wildlife conservation grants. It would also turn funding away from our nation’s signature conservation achievement – the Land Water Conservation Fund. Conserving our nation’s natural resources is not optional – it is an obligation we have to our own and future generations. Nature is essential to everyone’s well-being - it offers solutions to some of the greatest economic and security challenges we face.
Congress should prioritize investments in nature and encourage partnerships with the private sector to leverage those investments.
As a full budget is proposed and as Congress works to fund government, here are four ideas that we at The Nature Conservancy offer:
- Strong funding for conservation and science programs, which make up only about 1 percent of the federal budget, so will do little to trim the overall budget but represent a massive return on investment for the health and economic well-being of Americans.
- Infrastructure investments that are practical and cost-effective including proven natural infrastructure solutions, such as restoring floodplains and wetlands that shield communities from storms and provide clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.
- Adequate funding for the Farm Bill and continued support for voluntary efforts by farmers, ranchers and foresters to improve the health and productivity of the land they steward.
- Tax Reform. Congress can and should enact tax credits or other fiscal incentives to stimulate cost-effective private investments in built and natural infrastructure that create public benefits.
At The Nature Conservancy, we believe Congress and the administration – by working together and with the engaged and informed stakeholders -- will have significant opportunities to invest in nature to provide cost-effective solutions to some of our biggest national challenges in the months ahead. We are ready to roll up our sleeves to work with the Congress and our President to help craft a budget that represents the best of America’s commitment to conservation.
We invite everyone in Wyoming to speak up for our nation’s proud heritage of conserving nature by encouraging our elected officials to take advantage of these promising opportunities to invest in our nation’s lands and waters – investments that bring benefits home to all of us. Go to www.nature.org/act to help.
Milward Simpson is the state Director of The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming which is committed to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends.
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