I recently had the opportunity to spend a day with diverse stakeholders from across the state to discuss the next Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (NEP). This plan gathers input from leaders in business, government, experts in scientific and research communities, and coastal residents to determine the most important needs in coastal Alabama. At the end of this full day of brainstorming and planning for the future of our state’s coastal resources, Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) took the stage to wrap up the day, and what he said was disheartening. He told us that his office doesn’t hear from voters about environmental protection, and that, unless he and others in Congress do hear from us, discretionary funding for programs like the Mobile Bay NEP will likely be cut.
This is not a new message, and it’s one that we hear from leaders at the local, state and federal level. Yet, we know by working with voters around our state that protecting Alabama’s natural resources is important across party lines. At the end of the day, Alabamians are clear that having places to hunt, hike, and fish are important to our communities and our culture. In 2017, when the first budget President Trump presented to Congress included cuts that would have gutted the Mobile Bay NEP’s funding, 34 businesses and 14 community groups from the coast signed a joint letter to Alabama’s legislative delegation asking Congress to protect funding for environmental protection. We all agreed that protecting our environment also protects our economy and communities.
Alabama receives nearly half of its money for environmental protection from the federal government. Not only would cuts to these federal dollars threaten our state’s ability to run programs aimed at reducing air pollution, cleaning up hazardous waste, and ensuring public water safety; they would also threaten our ability to maintain healthy coastal communities and beaches, which are a huge economic driver for our state. While these issues have been politicized, what we hear when we talk to voters in Alabama is that our ability to maintain clean water for swimming and fishing and healthy public lands for hunting and hiking are important to all of us across the political spectrum.
It’s time for us as citizens to remind our elected officials that they work for us, and that our priorities are clear: Protecting our natural resources in Alabama is the right thing to do because it benefits all of us, whether we hunt, fish, hike, or enjoy a day out on the water with our families. Let’s give Representative Byrne what he asked for – our voice. Tell your elected officials in Washington that environmental protection is your priority, and it should be theirs as well.
Without action from Congress, a program that has been in place for more than fifty years to acquire and improve public lands will expire on September 30. The Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped preserve natural resources and cultural sites that are critical to our country.
Congress created the LWCF in 1964 to protect natural resources and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation. Like Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust, the LWCF uses no taxpayer dollars and instead invests proceeds from oil and gas leases. The LWCF provides grants to states and local communities to acquire land, while also acquiring federal land to complement our national parks.
In Alabama, the LWCF made grants to fifteen communities in 2017 alone for projects including a splash pad at Selma’s Riverfront Park and renovations to East Lake Park in Birmingham. From Battleship Park along Mobile Bay to Little River Canyon in North Alabama, our state has benefitted tremendously from the LWCF. Communities have added and expanded recreational facilities and provided invaluable access to our public lands.
Please join us in asking Congress to take action and renew the Land & Water Conservation Fund. If the LWCF is allowed to expire, the legacy of public lands in the United States expires with it.
Over the weekend, a juvenile bald eagle was released back into the wild at Roland Cooper State Park after being treated at the Southeastern Raptor Center. Bald eagles can be found all over Alabama, but just a few decades ago the species was in danger of dying out because of habitat destruction and pesticide use. Unfortunately, the law that brought bald eagles back from the brink is now in danger of being seriously weakened by the current administration.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon asked Congress to protect species that were approaching extinction. The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 to recognize that wildlife has immense value for our country, and as such measures should be taken to preserve it. Thanks to this law, habitats are protected so that species like the Bald Eagle can safely nest and raise their young. The pesticide DDT was banned because of its negative impact on our environment. We have the Endangered Species Act to thank for the recovery of iconic American species like the gray wolf, alligators, and the grizzly bear.
In the past two weeks, dozens of bills have been introduced in Congress that would weaken the Endangered Species Act. These include provisions to end protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming and along the Great Lakes, as well as a plan to prohibit the greater sage-grouse from being listed as endangered for the next decade regardless of how few remain. One proposed change to the legislation would make it easier for development projects to be approved even if they threaten critical wildlife habitat. Please ask your members of Congress to defend the Endangered Species Act against these attacks.
The Endangered Species Act works. It has restored animal and plant populations to healthy levels and proven that we can preserve American wildlife. The Act has broad, bipartisan support from conservation groups as well as hunters and property rights groups. When polled, four of out five Americans support the Endangered Species Act. The changes being proposed would limit the Act and ultimately hurt American wildlife. Please join us in asking Congress to protect the species that help make this country great.