After election day, the main storyline was the Republican wave that washed over the country. But there was another wave, a conservation wave, that touched shore that Tuesday as well.
Voters in 20 states approved 26 state and local ballot measures that will dedicate more than $28 billion – with a “B” – to natural areas, land and water protection, parks, and trails in the coming years. This is an investment far exceeding any amount approved by voters in previous election cycles. From Maine to Montana, from Ohio to Oregon, from sea to shining sea, Americans voted to invest public funding to conserve their land, water and wildlife.
|The bald eagle, national bird of the United States, in Idaho. Photo ©Ken Miracle/TNC|
For example, in Florida 75 percent of voters said yes to a Constitutional Amendment to acquire and restore conservation and recreation lands, crushing the 60 percent needed to pass. Voters rallied around conservation even though they split on the candidates. (Republican Governor Rick Scott eked out a narrow victory over Democrat Charlie Crist with just 48 percent of the vote.)
Like mom and apple pie, conservation of our natural heritage cuts across partisan lines and is as American as Old Glory. Idaho – “the reddest of the red states,” as Governor Otter declared in his victory speech on election night – is geographically and politically distant from purple-hued Florida. But conservation can be conservative. Just like Floridians, Idahoans care about conserving their land, water, and wildlife.
The Nature Conservancy knows this from our work with landowners in places like Bonner’s Ferry, Island Park, Carey, Salmon, Boise, Swan Valley, Leadore, Hagerman, and Marsing. Landowners see first hand how clean water, abundant wildlife, and healthy lands sustain our people, our economy, and way of life. And they’ve put their money where their mouths are to protect Idaho’s natural heritage.
These landowners know a good investment. Clean water and healthy lands drive Idaho’s economy, from our $7.6 billion agriculture industry and the nearly 40,000 jobs it sustains, to our $6.3 billion outdoor recreation economy and its 77,000 jobs.
|Camping at the Little Wood River in Idaho. Photo ©Hamilton Wallace/TNC|
We inherited an amazing natural legacy in Idaho, and it’s our job to make sure we leave it better than we found it. This will only happen if we care enough to invest in ourselves and our land, water, and way of life. It’s a matter of pride, self-determination, and even liberty itself.
For we are at our most free when we’re outside, whether at work or at play. We’re free to challenge ourselves, putting up a fence or chasing down an elk. We’re free to exercise our bodies and our minds. We’re free to partake in that most American of activities: the pursuit of happiness.
So next time you see your Mom, compliment her apple pie, and take her outside to enjoy your other Mother, Nature. After all, what could be more American?