Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Conservation: As American as Mom and Apple Pie

By Bas Hargrove, senior policy representative, The Nature Conservancy in Idaho

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
But as a state, Idaho hasn’t yet become a full partner in its own conservation. To be sure, certain sectors have ponied up. Hunters and anglers support wildlife through license fees. Voters in Boise City and Blaine County have anted up to pay for natural area conservation. Boaters pay user fees to protect water resources. And other interests have also contributed to our current patchwork of conservation funding. But we don’t have a statewide conservation fund like neighboring Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

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?


Ken Miracle said...

Sadly given our head in the sand tendencies from the majority of Idaho politicians Idaho State Government is not as likely to get involved in the same ways Oregon etc. have. However I am off to check on a sage grouse conservation project on lands managed by the State Department of Lands today ... a step in the right direction !!!

Bob Robideaux said...

I am most impressed with the efforts of the Idaho Nature Conservancy on projects throughout the State of Idaho-from projects in North Idaho to the recent Rock Creek project announcement in the Wood River Valley. Keep up the great work-Idaho Nature Conservancy staff-thanks for working with State agencies, local governments, corporations and individuals. You are making a wonderful and outstanding contribution with results in improving conservation in our great State of Idaho

Comments are from Bob Robideaux