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.
The Alabama State Legislature adjourned sine die on Thursday, meaning that the 2018 legislative session is officially over. As usual, the last week of session was action-packed as both chambers tried to tie up loose ends and pass their priority bills. You can find a great write-up of session’s last days at the Montgomery Advertiser.
Session can often pass in a blur, so let’s take a look back at what Conservation Alabama was able to accomplish in 2018 thanks to the help of our members, partners, and advocates:
- Killed three separate bills that threatened the Forever Wild Land Trust;
- Killed House Bill 362 twice in one week;
- Helped our members send 6,022 messages to elected officials in support of Forever Wild;
- Defended Alabama’s public lands for the third straight legislative session;
- Added 663 new advocates!
Thank you for every message you sent and each friend you told, and your continued commitment to Alabama’s natural resources!
As a funny end to session, anti-Forever Wild HB 362 was declared one of the “deadest” bills of 2018. Here’s the resolution:
Standing up for your conservation values is our primary role during session. The next step is electing conservation champions to represent us in Montgomery, and that’s where we’re turning our attention to now. In the coming weeks we’ll be endorsing candidates we believe will fight for Alabama’s public lands and conservation priorities. We’ll be sharing information about those candidates with you so you can make the best possible decision at the ballot box.
After the dramatic death of anti-Forever Wild House Bill 362 last week, we were hoping to finish out the 2018 legislative session without any further threats to Alabama’s public lands. On Tuesday night, Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), introduced Senate Bill 370, which would limit Forever Wild’s ability to acquire land in rural counties.
We got ready to once again go to bat for Forever Wild, but luckily the Senate Committee on County and Municipal Government voted the bill down during their Wednesday meeting. Several committee members spoke out against the bill, saying that it infringed on property owners’ rights by limiting who could purchase their lands.
SB 370 was another attempt to assist rural counties that are looking for ways to increase their property tax revenue. We don’t believe that a legislative “fix” is necessary to address these county-level concerns, particularly when the proposed changes negatively impact a conservation program that voters overwhelmingly chose to renew for another 20 years in 2012.
We’ll continue to watch for any new threats to Forever Wild and Alabama’s public lands as the session winds down. You can subscribe to our Hot List to get weekly updates on the bills we’re following, and check back here each week for a short recap of the legislature’s work.