Editor’s Note: The people have spoken and in Tuesday’s election, voters in several states “used their outside voice” to pass ballot initiatives for land and water conservation. The conservation of wetlands, floodplains, forests and estuaries are important for all the reasons we need nature – clean air, pure drinking water, healthy soil for growing food and sustaining populations of fish and wildlife. But with extreme weather becoming more frequent, scientists say these natural areas not only help nature to rebound and stay healthy, but can also serve as “green infrastructure” that helps to protect people in the face of storms, flooding and droughts. Today’s post is an excerpt from The Nature Conservancy’s news releases.
ARLINGTON, VA — Overwhelming support for land and water protection emerged as a rare area of unity from this week’s U.S. elections, offering the nation’s elected officials a new opportunity for bipartisanship.
American voters passed 46 out of 57 state and local conservation funding measures, for a passage rate of 81 percent. That makes 2012 one of the most successful years for conservation ballot initiatives ever — particularly remarkable during this period of fiscal and budget austerity. These measures will generate over $1 billion for land and water protection.
“As we see time and again, conservation is an issue that unites the American people. American voters clearly see the value of nature in supporting clean air and water, local economies, storm and flood protection, jobs, healthy communities and recreation,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy.
Ballot measures to fund land and water conservation passed in every region of the country, in so-called “red” and “blue” states, and in some economically challenged areas. Specific measures approved by voters include:
- Alabama: Amendment 1, which will provide $15 million per year for the next 20 years for land and water protection
- Rhode Island: Questions 5 and 6, two $20 million bonds that will be used to protect land and water around Narragansett Bay
- Maine: Question 3, which will provide $5 million to protect natural areas, waterfronts, and develop new parks and trails
- Austin, Texas: Propositions 13 and 14, which will provide over $107 million for parks and the protection of the Edwards Aquifer watershed
- Polk County, Iowa: Measure A, which will provide $50 million to protect drinking water sources, help prevent flooding, and improve parks and trails
- Ohio Metro Parks: Two property tax levies for Geauga County and Lake County in the Cleveland metropolitan area will provide over $85 million for regional parks
- Bozeman, Montana: A $15 million bond for parks, trails and natural areas
A national poll conducted in Spring of 2012 also reflected strong bipartisan support for the outdoors, with 80 percent of voters saying they believe that “conserving our country’s natural resources – our land, air and water – is patriotic.” Support for that statement came from 89% of Democrats; 79% of Independents; 79% of Republicans; and 79% of Tea Party members.
A new study in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences similarly found that more than three-quarters of those polled believed the U.S. could have both a strong economy and good land and water protections. (To date, Gallup polls have only framed this question as jobs versus the environment).
“This election presents an open invitation for legislators to break through the partisan logjam that has stalled our nation for too long,” Tercek said. “If they want to achieve progress on critical issues and represent the desires of their constituents, support for conservation is a clear choice.”
Among the Nature Conservancy’s recommendations for natural resource policies for the next four years are investing in natural infrastructure, helping communities conserve their lands, waters and coasts and addressing the reality of a changing climate.
Lisa Hayden is a blogger for The Nature Conservancy
Featured Photo © Hunter Nichols (A canoe on Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf coast of Alabama and Mississippi.)
Photo © Mark Godfrey (Tucker Pond, in Kingstown, Rhode Island, part of The Nature Conservancy’s South County landscape.)
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