Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Conservancy Leaders Tell Congress “Invest in Nature”

By Will Whelan, director of government relations, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho

Recently, two Nature Conservancy volunteer leaders joined me in Washington, D.C. to deliver a simple message to Idaho’s senators and representatives:  conservation makes a good investment.
Idaho Chapter Board of Trustees Chair Peter Gray and Vice Chair Penn Siegel spoke about their personal connection to Idaho’s natural places in Idaho. They also made the broader point that America’s natural and outdoor recreation resources are an essential foundation for our economy and for the health and well being of the American people.

Idaho Board of Trustees Chair Peter Gray and Vice Chair Penn Siegel. Photo ©Will Whelan/TNC.
In Idaho and across the nation, federal conservation and outdoor recreation programs represent essential investments that support:
       Local communities and small businesses that depend on our multi-billion dollar recreation industry;
       Farming, ranching, and forestry jobs;
       Safe and adequate water supplies for drinking and other uses;
       Protection of communities from storms and droughts; and
       Healthy outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing.
Nationally, outdoor recreation, natural resource conservation, and historic preservation provide a minimum of $689 billion in direct economic activity in the United States and support 12.8 million jobs.    In Idaho, a remarkable 74% of residents participate in some form of outdoor recreation.  All told, outdoor recreation supports 77,000 direct jobs and $1.8 billion in wages.

Source: TNC U.S. Government Relations

The American public has a solid grasp of the value of nature.  In a national survey conducted last September, 73% of respondents agreed with the statement that “Wc can protect land and water and have a strong economy with good for Americans at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.”
Spending on conservation and natural resources amounts to just 1.18% of the federal budget.  That small sliver funds a huge range of things:  the national parks and monuments, all other federal lands, wildlife conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, federal firefighting, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Corps of Engineers, and ocean fisheries management.  Idaho – with its vast open spaces, outdoor tourism industry, and heavy reliance on scarce water resources – is more dependent than most states on sound management of public natural resources.
The conservation of our natural resources is central to our nation’s health, yet congressional appropriations for natural resources management have been declining for more than three decades. The portion of the federal budget devoted to conservation and natural resources has fallen by nearly half since the late 1970s.  Conservation has already sacrificed more than its fair share for deficit reduction and further cuts would gravely compromise the ability of key programs to accomplish their objectives.
The Conservancy used these facts to underscore our request to Idaho’s congressional delegation: investments in conservation have well documented returns for our economy and way of life, and deserve strong support from elected officials in any in upcoming budget negotiations.

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