Conservation in 2011

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt

    By Scott Kovarovics.

    While most people began the new year with resolutions and college bowl games, many in Washington, DC, started by following the new Congress and preparing their game plans for the coming year. Politics, after all, is the number one sport in the nation’s capital.

    And there’s much to watch and plan for. When the Congress convened this week, more than 100 new Representatives and Senators – 96 new members in the House of Representatives alone – were sworn in. Control of the House flipped from Democratic to Republican and the Democratic majority in the Senate is significantly smaller than it was over the past two years. There are new committee chairs in the House and hundreds of new staff in Washington and offices across the country.

    How will these changes affect natural resource, conservation, and outdoor recreation issues important to the League? It’s hard to say less than a week into 2011, but a few things come to mind. The influx of new members of Congress and staff presents a positive educational opportunity. We’ll have a chance to help them understand more about the League and issues important to us and to answer their questions.

    On the other hand, we are likely to face challenges to conservation policies and investments that we support. Federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and critical conservation programs – including those that help to protect natural resources on farms and private lands (most of the U.S. land base) – could face deep budget cuts. Cuts to federal programs don’t just affect “bureaucrats.” These cuts would harm the people who hunt or camp at national wildlife refuges. They would harm our country’s fish and wildlife as many farmers look to replace lost conservation income by plowing native prairie or marginal lands to grow corn or soybeans.

    The League is prepared to defend the policies and investments that conserve natural resources, protect the water we drink, and support a system of public lands that is second to none in the world. And we’ll pursue a proactive agenda around issues that have been important to us for many years:

    • We’ll continue to lead on progressive farm policy that emphasizes conserving native prairie, wetlands, and soil. These policies benefit the American people, family farmers, and fish and wildlife alike.
    • We’ll be a strong voice for clean water by working to restore critical Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and lakes and by building on 40 years of successful Save Our Streams water quality monitoring.
    • We’ll remain at the forefront in the Midwest to ensure that renewable energy from wind, solar, and other sources continues to improve our energy independence in balance with fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation.

    This isn’t an exhaustive list of issues – just a brief overview of the policy landscape that could lie ahead. Some unforeseen issues are sure to emerge while others that we anticipate today will not materialize. In spite of this uncertainty, one thing is clear: League members and others who are concerned about conservation issues can make a difference when they get engaged in the policy process and let their elected officials know how they feel. One of the consistent themes from new members of Congress is that they’re listening to their constituents. With this in mind, we all have a renewed opportunity to make our voices heard on the issues that are most important to us.

    – Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director

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