Tell D.C.: Make Environmental Protection A Priority
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.