A message from our Executive Director after the 2016 election
A lying, bigoted brute has seized power, and you’re well familiar with his intentions. Potential horrors abound on every facet of civil, sustainable life. One that has gotten less attention hits us close to home: The national group advocating for the transfer of public lands to states, counties, and private interests, gloated yesterday about their role and expectations.
We must resist and fight Donald Trump. But those who elevated Trump to power warrant a different, much more considered reaction. Conservation Northwest is well positioned and skilled for that work.
Since the time of Teddy Roosevelt nature conservation has been a third rail that can bridge partisan divide. Not only does that remain true today, but collaboration toward common ground can meet conservation goals while building honor, trust and prosperity. America needs that. Washington state needs that.
While it’s true that Washington is blue, with Democrats serving in most statewide offices (including now Hilary Franz, a former board director of Conservation Northwest, as our new Commissioner of Public Lands!), all but a few of our counties voted red, and do so consistently. The divisions and pains of America at-large are not far from your front door, or from our work.
Trump has nothing but rage and distraction to offer rural or rust belt people. His agenda can’t revitalize those economies. Some politicians have thrived by indulging the outrage of the changing rural West while denying the funding needed for effective government services, including quality management of national forests. The new regime will double down on that deceit.
Conservation Northwest knows a lot about quality, cost-effective management of land and wildlife, and about the partnerships and collaboration that can improve both our environment and rural communities. Our extensive collaborative work to restore national forests and to find a path for coexistence of wolves and livestock gives us more than insight; it gives us binding relationships and models of progress.
People yearn for that progress even in remote places. It appears that Okanogan County replaced two old guard commissioners with quality, conservation-minded leaders.
My team—the exceptional staff of Conservation Northwest—just finished a strategic planning retreat in the Okanogan. We reflected on the elections and on our work. Within our existing strategic plan we found plenty of objectives and programs still viable: Wolf recovery, fisher reintroduction, linking the Cascades and British Columbia Coast Ranges for grizzly bears, protecting ancient forests, and much more will continue on track.
We also found cause to shift resources to deeper defense of our public lands from heist. Most importantly, we found opportunities to expand collaborative work into more red counties, where we see common ground on which to build partners and hope.
In Lewis County, improving wildlife habitat connecting the Cascades and Olympics will help reduce damaging floods. In the Columbia Basin, we see ways to conserve dwindling shrub-steppe habitat through programs that allow landowners to prosper while protecting natural heritage from vineyards and powerlines.
We also seek more equity and empowerment for disadvantaged communities. Our effective partnerships with native communities across B.C. and Washington have honored their sovereignty while protecting cultural and natural resources
At the national level we’ll see new threats from Congress and the Trump administration to much we value. I’m comforted by our new affiliation with the National Wildlife Federation and our potential to defend against attacks on public lands, the Endangered Species Act and other bedrock environmental policies.
So rise, Conservation Northwest. The shock of the election is fresh, and the danger ahead is real. But our conservation community will meet both with active engagement, with a fighting but constructive spirit, and with our own way of making America great.
For the wild,
Mitch Friedman, Executive Director