Keeping Action Centered in a Chaotic Time
When I began this column over five years ago we reported on (mostly) good legislation and actions in Washington. President Obama was a firewall with a veto against the most egregious federal actions, so the details of goings-on in Washington was not of great interest to many. The elections last November and accompanying legislative agenda, however, have resulted in genuine concerns.
Ethical lows and a multitude of investigations have ramped up interest in news from Washington. I was just a few steps from the rotunda of the Russel Senate Office building, where major news outlets interview members of Congress on breaking news, when the firing of FBI Director Comey was announced. I had been in the building to attend a meeting of conservation organizations, ornithologists, and members of Congress to discuss ways to assure protections for migratory birds. Leaving the meeting, I saw a flurry of television pundits surrounding members of Congress who were confused, surprised and concerned with the news they had just received about Director Comey.
There is much to be concerned about, but we at the NEC are focused on the issues that affect the protection of our resources and public lands. We will continue to give you information on priority conservation issues and ways to effectively have a voice in those issues and leave partisan political news to the news media . The work for conservationists is to be informed of the larger political conversations but to remain focused on conservation.
At that meeting on migratory birds, Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI), who is the ranking member (senior Democrat) on the Senate committee investigating “Russiagate”, was hosting our meeting. Sen. Whitehouse carefully told us his concern: fake science. He reported that for every science issue being discussed in Congress, whether climate change or clean water, there is an active move to counter real science with fake science.
We have seen this in the public debate over climate change, of course, but he warned us that that is now the tip of the iceberg. For every issue that concerns scientists and conservationists, Congress is finding industry, corporations and politicians that are actively setting up shell organizations to provide counter arguments using fake science. These shell organizations do not vet their research and information in peer-reviewed scientific journals, they vet them on right-wing television to sway public opinion, and then engage the duped public in the political process.
We must be diligent in examining the source of information used to make decisions. In addition, we must assure that we are clear when referencing professional scientific sources vs. informed opinions, and remember that they are not the same. Both have a place in public forum, but they should not be used in the same way as equivalent sources.
If you want more information on legislation that is being discussed or acted on in coming weeks, I encourage you to join the NEC Conservation Action Group. Send your name and email address to email@example.com.
Good News, Bad News
In this divisive atmosphere, conservationists actually have cause to celebrate and champion some good news. Congress passed a continuing budget resolution that extends through August, that does not include the dozens of horrible legislative “riders” that would have weakened our environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act. This is a good time to thank your representatives in Congress for their careful work for a better bill for public health and our planet. However, these two items are in need of conservation voices: take action by writing to or calling your elected officials! (See contact info below).
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has released the list of priority areas to be assessed for acreage reductions by Congress. This would be unprecedented, and we have a real opportunity to stop this effort. Included in those priority areas to be reduced are several in California including Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument, which extends from southern Oregon to northern California and is one of the most biologically rich regions in the nation.
Click here for info on how to take action in support of our National Monuments.
Endangered Species Act (ESA)
As we have reported before, Congress has declared war on the ESA. Two bills were introduced in the Senate—S. 375 and S. 376—to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 in order to establish a procedure for approval of certain settlements.Write to your Senators to oppose Senate bills that would cripple the effective protections of our most vulnerable species and limit the ability of the public to assure enforcement of the ESA.