The future of conservation may depend on YOUR vote
by Joe Thurston, SCA
At the core of SCA’s mission is our effort to grow and empower the next generation of conservation leaders. Key to any sort of leadership, conservation or otherwise, is civic engagement. One can’t claim to be a leader within a democratic society if one declines to participate in democracy’s defining institution.
Thus, as an organization of people dedicated to creating the strong and well-rounded leaders who will carry America’s conservation legacy forever into the future, we urge you—yes you—to vote in this year’s election and in every election after that.
The people who America elects to Congress, the White House, and state and local governments this November will arrive in office at a particularly crucial moment. They will be tasked with major decisions on many issues of enormous consequence for conservation in both the immediate and long term. We think it’s best for all of us if they make these decisions equipped with the electorally supplied input of as many conservationists as possible.
Here are three major environmental issues that will be critically impacted by legislative and executive decisions in the coming years.
Climate Change – Prevention and Preparedness
The emissions reductions goals laid out in the Paris Agreement are not designed to prevent climate change—it’s already well underway—but to stop it from becoming an unmitigated catastrophe. Even if we meet the agreement’s goals—a necessity that will require radical and immediate changes—global warming and its consequences will continue for many years. That means we need to prepare. Natural resources must be protected and conserved. Cities and towns must be made resilient enough to withstand extreme weather and rising seas. Public lands managers must understand how the ecosystems in their care will change, and act to preserve them to whatever extent possible.
The leaders who we elect in 2016 will make critical decisions not only on whether and how America meets its Paris Agreement obligations, but also on whether and how we prepare our nation and everything in it—from densely populated cities to wide open national parks—for climate change’s inevitable effects.
You have a voice on this matter. Please express it with your vote.
We all deserve air that’s safe to breath and water that’s safe to drink. We all deserve access to city parks that aren’t crumbling, where men and women can safely exercise, where families can safely picnic, where children can safely play. We all deserve to live in towns and cities and neighborhoods that are as prepared as they can be to withstand the extremes that climate change may bring.
We all deserve to feel welcome in America’s national parks, to look at park rangers and see people who look like us, who know what it’s like to walk in our shoes, who can serve as examples for our kids as to what’s possible for any American to achieve. We all deserve to see national monuments and historic sites that acknowledge and celebrate the history of our people, the achievements of our people, the contributions of our people to the shared culture of this great and fundamentally diverse nation.
An environmentally just future is possible in America, but we cannot claim it until we’ve realized these goals and many more. We’re closer to some than we are to others—NPS and SCA, for example, are working hard to make our parks and monuments inviting places for all Americans to work, visit, and learn about their history—but we’re not there yet.
Decisions made by the winners of 2016’s local, state, and federal elections may well determine whether our march toward environmental justice for all accelerates or slows. Please keep us moving with your vote.
The Future of America’s National Parks
The National Park Service has plenty to toast in its Centennial year—a system of awe-inspiring, world-renowned parks, a new historic site, Stonewall National Monument, dedicated to the LGBTQ community, and tens of thousands of acres of new land added to its protection.
But even with those and other sources of pride, the future of NPS and the 413 sites it manages is far from assured. Visitors have been showing up to marquee parks in record numbers, straining staff capacity to keep them safe and mitigate their impact on the land. Budget cuts have left the organization short on funding when it needs it most, making it impossible to expand staffing and maintenance efforts in the face of sharply increased visitorship.
As a result, the list of NPS backlogged maintenance needs, currently valued at $12 billion, just keeps on growing. Making matters worse, climate change is already severely impacting some parks—consider Glacier’s disappearing glaciers—and will severely impact others in the near future (Joshua Tree’s Joshua trees are under threat, for example, and the adorable pika could be wiped out at several parks, including Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone).
On top of all that, the Park Service’s most precious asset, the strong support of the American people, is showing signs of wavering. By its own admission, NPS is having trouble appealing to the young and increasingly diverse Americans who will soon assume our country’s leadership roles. Without their support, it’s hard to see how protecting public lands will remain a national priority.
The politicians we send to Washington in 2016 will make decisions of crucial importance to all of the above. Please inform those decisions with your vote.