A note from John Sterling, Executive Director.
At a meeting earlier this year, The Conservation Alliance board and staff learned from a pollster that roughly 75 percent of voters in the Intermountain West support stronger protections for public lands and open space. In the wake of the 2012 elections, it is tempting to assume that the results reflect that public support for conservation. Time will tell.
The Conservation Alliance Staff and Board spent three days in Boulder, CO earlier this month, at our annual Board Retreat developing our Annual Operating Plan for 2013. Among other things, we discussed what the election means for our conservation efforts, and the work of our grantees.
In general, we see a lot of encouraging signs. Second-term presidents tend to start thinking about their legacy, and most designate new National Monuments to leave their mark on the land. We have supported several campaigns to designate National Monuments, and have every reason to believe that President Obama will lead on this front before he leaves office (he has already designated three small monuments).
Obama's Interior Department is also poised to finalize a historic management plan for the Western Arctic that will protect up to 11 million acres. Congress will likely remain a dysfunctional mess. But the Senate – with a larger pro-conservation majority – is in a better position to move public lands legislation.
Notably, Sen. Jon Tester from Montana narrowly won re-election while touting his proposal to protect 750,000 acres of Wilderness in the state.
The House will remain challenging, but the election (and redistricting) created several new opportunities for land protection, particularly in California.
Conservation is never easy, but it's worth the effort. The projects we fund promise to permanently save many of our last wild places. As we drafted our 2013 Annual Operating Plan – a mundane task – we kept those places in mind.
We wrap up 2012 with optimism that our efforts are broadly supported, and that our decision makers will honor the will of the people who elected them.