After a long, divisive presidential campaign, the election is finally over. While we’re all working to move forward and understand the implications of the election results, there is much that we do not know. Our initial assessment is limited to preliminary announcements from the Trump transition team and the rhetoric of the campaign trail, rather than firm policy positions of the president-elect. However, we do know that the change in Washington will directly impact the work of Save the Redwoods League and the future of redwood conservation.
To be sure, we have our work cut out for us. If his campaign rhetoric is to be believed, our president-elect believes that climate change is a hoax, the California drought is a hoax, the EPA should be eliminated, that the United States should pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and that regulations protecting the environment should be rolled back. He chose a running mate who distrusts science and scientific expertise. President-elect Trump has also tapped “climate contrarian” Myron Ebell to lead the transition of the EPA, heralding a fulfillment of his campaign promise to roll back protections for our clean air and water. Likewise, initial potential candidates for Secretary of Interior are known for their distaste for federal ownership and science-based conservation management of our public lands.
How might the election outcome affect the League and the protection of redwoods?
The primary area of potential impact is funding. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a critical program supporting the League’s work with federal agencies active in the redwood range. The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service are all seeking federal appropriations from Congress to fund our projects this year and next. From the restoration of the Prairie Creek corridor in Redwood National Park, to the acquisition of key recreational access into Headwaters Forest Reserve; from the protection of an expansive working ranch in the redwoods of Mendocino County, to the protection of the largest remaining stand of unprotected giant sequoia left in the world, many active Save the Redwoods League projects are reliant upon federal funding from the LWCF. Maintaining the 50 years of bi-partisan support for this funding program is critical to the future of our redwood forests. While the majority of the current Congress is strongly in support of conservation funding, we take nothing for granted. Funding levels will be proposed by agencies that will soon be led by Trump administration appointees and authorized (or not) by a Congress whose trust in science and support for public land is under question.
There are, of course, broader policy issues at stake for the redwoods beyond immediate budget concerns. Research shows that redwood forests store more carbon than any other ecosystem on Earth. Yet carbon programs, climate resiliency and mitigation investments, federal land acquisition, and ecologically driven forest management policy could all be in jeopardy if the new administration rejects the science-based expertise of its land managers and researchers.
In addition, the programs that work to restore fish and wildlife habitat, protect endangered species, and safeguard clean air and water — all powerful tools for the League’s work — are almost certainly going to come under threat. There have long been voices in Congress pushing for aggressive commercial forestry and even the privatization of public lands. These voices may hold more sway than ever before.
However, we know that our country values kindness, knowledge, empathy, and responsibility for one another. I am confident that the election results do not equate to a rejection of these core values, nor can we allow the results to undermine the prevailing sense of a shared obligation to our natural resources and treasured landscapes.
In our assessment of last Tuesday’s results, there are elements of solid footing on which to position our defense of good conservation policy:
- At the national level, there were many successful local bond measures for land conservation that demonstrate support for conservation. Over $6 billion in tax increases or bonds were approved for land conservation, parks, and restoration by voters in red and blue counties and states across the country. Of the 86 local measures on the ballot, some 68 passed.
- In redwood country, Prop 64 is expected to bring between $100 – $200 million annually for restoration and management of forests and parks in the redwood range. Furthermore, it is anticipated that the legalization of marijuana will go a long way toward eliminating the scourge of illegal grow sites that are wreaking ecological havoc in our redwood forest watersheds.
- California’s legislature remains firmly supportive of conservation investments and there were multiple successful local conservation measures – Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Napa to name a few, indicating that our voters still care deeply about the fate of California’s ecosystems and natural lands.
While there are clearly positive notes, particularly in California, it is certain that the coming years will require the conservation community to step up its game dramatically. We will need a strong, vocal, and diligent constituency holding our government to the highest possible standard in protecting the natural resources we all hold dear. Likewise, the need for philanthropic support to bolster conservation programs will be ever more critical as we navigate uncertain political waters.
The League and its supporters have been in a race against threats to our ancient redwood forests for 98 years and, with our loyal friends and supporters to bolster our capacity, we will be protecting, restoring, and connecting people to the redwoods long into the future. As the uncertainty of this political transition resolves, we will keep you informed of developments. Follow our Giant Thoughts blog and sign up for our eNewsletter for future updates.
The League has a long history of working cooperatively with state and national agencies, and as a non-partisan organization, our work inspires champions of all political persuasions. As the implications of this new political era become more clear, Save the Redwoods League will be actively coordinating with our agency partners and elected officials to advance our goals and urge their partnership in seeking what’s best for redwood forests, the wildlife therein, and the communities that they sustain in so many ways.
As we work hard to fulfill our mission during these uncertain times, we appreciate your support and encouragement more than ever. We have all had a week to process the election results, and now we must steel ourselves for the coming challenges, redoubling our commitment to protect and restore our cherished redwood forests.
We want to know what’s on your mind and what concerns you most about the future of the redwoods. Share your comments with us below.