Climate Connections: Good news; bipartisan action benefits all
The purpose of this series is to move beyond arguments around climate chaos and to find areas we can agree. You may not believe in climate issues of today … but you may be concerned about use of plastics and the oceans. You may be concerned about air and water quality. Whatever you want to call it, the planet needs our stewardship. The writers here share their perspectives from many angles. Perhaps some will resonate with you, and bring to our awareness the necessary actions we can take. We will leave arguments and differing beliefs to others. — Marilyn Nyborg
One definition of good government is “the collective effort formed for the good of the people.” That happened! Both Republicans and Democrats working together initiated the Great American Outdoors Act, and it passed the Senate and House of Representatives.
It’s amazing that Democrats principally favored it, yet a surprising number of Republicans crossed the aisle. Enough Republicans joined to get a Senate majority and to impress and convince the president to sign the Act. This collaborative action bridged party lines and established up to $9.5 billion to address urgent and deferred maintenance needs on federal lands, parks and forests. These funds will go for lands administered by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education.
At the same time it delivers permanent, dedicated, annual funding of $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Fund, first established in 1965, has been essential for land conservation for generations and ensures that more people have access to nature. It spurs new investments into the outdoor economy. For decades sometimes the full funding was lacking and withdrawn or redirected, but now it is guaranteed and resolved. This money for the Great American Outdoors Act will not come from taxes paid by business and people. It will be paid and deposited into a fund equal to 50% of energy development revenues not to exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year from oil, gas, coal or alternative or renewable energy development on federal lands and waters.
This comes at a time when more people are going to National Parks and other public lands for outdoor recreation. People need to get space and relief from necessary pandemic COVID-19 sheltering in place. There is a huge and healthy need for access to outdoor lands, beautiful places, and many activities like hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, horse back riding, bicycling, experiencing wildlife, playing, sharing with family and friends and being alone in nature.
More money means expanded facilities, clean up and improvement of what’s there, and new lands conserved for public use. Yes, a huge amount of money will go into projects creating jobs. It is a kind of public works investment with a public environmental benefit. For example, it can be used to enhance Whiskey Town–Shasta-Trinity Recreation Area and greatly improve access and facilities within Mt. Lassen National Park. These funds can also go to cities, towns, and counties within the 1st congressional district for creating and improving parks and recreational opportunities.
In the district, it is public lands that most often burn and need programs to reduce fires hazards. Here is a way to meet the climate crisis. Money going to federal agencies can be used to restore forestland and protect public recreational areas.
Part of this story is that a set of photographs personally shared by two Republican senators with the President convinced him to buck majority Republican pressure to veto the Act. For the Act to get passed and become law, it took elected representatives in both the Senate and the House to act “out of the box”. Some decided to get past old and entrenched beliefs. Party line attitudes toward public land, and in this case spending for public lands protection, were set-aside in the spirit of compromise and cooperation.
I interviewed and researched positions on this Act by the two candidates for Congress: Audrey Denney and incumbent Doug LaMalfa. Ms. Denney was affirmative and pledged full support, and if elected, she would pursue use of these funds for projects in the 11 counties of the district. Mr. LaMalfa voted against the Act. His staff told me that he did not trust the Bureau of Land Management to get money, as they would just hire more staff and misuse the money.
Is this being stuck in old ways, instead of new ways of thinking that include cooperation? What’s important is that it did not take many elected officials to join this successful effort that shifted the dynamics forming a majority, which benefit all people and public lands in the U. S. This success can be an example for all elected officials, and those seeking election, of how cooperation can transform bipartisan rigidity. Finding new flexibility in order to get essential things achieved meets the definition of good government, which is “ the collective effort formed for the good of the people”.
Rondal Snodgrass lives in Nevada City, retired from a career as a founder and director of Sanctuary Forest and Northcoast Regional Land Trust and a conservation land consultant for private and nonprofit landowners, public agencies, communities, and other land trusts in Northern California. He is a member of Californians for Effective Representation and Elders Climate Action
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Is that how I wanted to spend my birthday? Yes and no. The original plan was to take a weekend trip to the coast for a few days of relaxation.