The POW Dispatch: Our Take On The Climate News, November 20, 2020

WORDS & FEATURED IMAGE: DONNY O’NEILL

As we inch closer to December, the snow’s beginning to fly across the country and we’re all prepping for a deep winter (knock on wood!). At the same time, the window is closing on the current administration’s time in office, as well as the current session of Congress, and things have been busy in Washington D.C., with far-reaching ramifications for our public lands and the ongoing battle against climate change. Below  you’ll find our take on this week’s biggest climate stories, including the current progress of the CORE Act, the latest updates surrounding the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the possibility of a present-day Civilian Conservation Corps and much more.

Clare Gallagher running on public lands in Summit County, Colorado.

Photo: Protect Our Winters

 Notable Quote:

They’re well aware of the broad support for this bill in Colorado and I think we’ve got a real fighting chance.” – Senator Michael Bennet, Colorado

Our Takeaway: 

Years in the making, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (CORE) received its first U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday. This is huge. The bill had passed in the House of Representatives twice already but up until now had stalled in the Senate. The CORE Act will protect 400,000 acres of public land in the state, establish new wilderness areas and safeguard opportunities for outdoor recreation. Getting a hearing in the Senate is a massive accomplishment for Colorado as well as the POW community, who sent over 7,500 emails to their local elected officials to ask them to support the act.

While the CORE Act’s movement into the Senate is exciting, it still has an uphill battle before it’s made a law. Unfortunately, majority lawmakers and public lands officials of the current administration pushed back, stating the CORE Act doesn’t focus on the priority of American energy dominance. The window is closing on the current lame-duck session of Congress, and with it, the hopes of the CORE Act. However, House Democrats added the bill to its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual military-appropriations bill. The Senate began discussions on the NDAA on Wednesday, and hope remains that the CORE Act can pass before Congress adjourns on January 2.

To learn more about and support the CORE Act, click here

Notable Quote:

“Joe Biden’s presidency could bring new efforts to use regulation on Wall Street and action from the Fed and the Treasury to press big companies to take climate change more seriously.” – Ben Geman, energy reporter at Axios

Our Takeaway:

According to POW’s Theory of Change, addressing the financial aspects of the climate crisis is vital and encompasses the adoption of climate pricing legislation, subsidizing renewables and providing tax incentives.

The new administration’s focus on climate regulation likely means added pressure to the financial sector to be transparent about climate-related risks and to influence companies to cut emissions. Regulations that could be greenlit include creating special positions for economic growth and climate, developing climate priorities with financial regulators and heightening the priority of climate with the Financial Stability Oversight Council, led by the Treasury.

Earlier this year, Protect Our Winters joined the Stop The Money Pipeline coalition to expose 35 international banks that have continuously invested in fossil fuel companies. We reminded you that putting your hard-earned ski bum savings into any one of these banks means your dollars could contribute to fossil fuel development and to consider keeping your money in a bank that’s more responsible with its investments. Holding banks responsible in this way can be effective at the federal policy level and at the personal level, with you. If all sides hold banks accountable for their irresponsible, dirty energy investing then we can continue to the shift toward renewables and alternatives. 

Montana.

Photo: Adam Clark

Notable Quote:

In places where rural folks are wary of overly restrictive land designations, backcountry conservation areas provide durable conservation that won’t be rolled back.” — Joel Webster, senior director of Western Programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Our Takeaway:

Backcountry conservation areas were conceived under the Obama administration as a way to protect wildlife populations and support outdoor recreation without giving a piece of land full wilderness protection. The first backcountry conservation areas were designated in Montana in 2020, however, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) didn’t outlaw oil and gas development within their boundaries, which has led many state officials and public lands advocates to call the designation meaningless. Now, the entire designation has been nullified as William Perry Pendley, the head of the BLM, was found to be unlawfully occupying that position.

The willingness to allow fossil fuel drilling on public lands and incompetence at the head of the agency has caused a complete lack of trust in the BLM from the public. Protect Our Winters is committed to ending oil and gas development on public lands, where over a quarter of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions stem from; if the BLM was equally committed, it would go a long way toward earning back its credibility.

Luke Nelson, Clare Gallagher, Tommy Caldwell and Austin Siadak in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo: Austin Siadak

Notable Quote:

It is disappointing that this administration until the very end has maintained such low regard for America’s public lands, or the wildlife and Indigenous communities that depend on them.” – Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.

Our Takeaway:

The continued attack on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been a continued attack on public lands, and therefore the citizens who recreate on them, wildlife that migrate through them and small indigenous populations who have depended on them for thousands of years. The pivot away from fossil fuels and toward renewables is not only a way to safeguard our planet, but it makes sense economically. Even the article notes that should sales of oil leases proceed, it would be at least a decade before anything would be extracted, and “by then the drive to wean the world from fossil fuels may have lessened any need for it.”

The continued efforts of the Outdoor State can help ensure that foreshadowing comes true. POW has worked extensively to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as protecting public lands is synonymous with climate action. Learn about POW’s efforts in the Arctic, here. 

Notable Quote:

Having a proactive message on climate was a winning issue for folks on the right side of the aisle. These are all people who have been proactive on these issues, have led bills, have been cosponsors, have been talking about the issue of climate change.” – Quillan Robinson, vice president of government affairs for the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), a conservative environmental activist group.

Our Takeaway:

It’s more important than ever for legislators to reach across the aisle to create a meaningful impact in the climate fight. It’s evident that representatives of both parties are making climate change a top priority, and their constituents back home are rewarding them with their support. All 24 of the Republicans endorsed by the ACC won their races in the election, further evidence that climate change is top of mind for most Americans, and legislative cooperation can help protect our common grounds and livelihoods in the future. 

POW’s in-depth research conducted with the Neimand Collaborative highlights that passion for the outdoors and a desire to combat climate change exist on all sides of the political spectrum. The fact that there is active support of climate change legislation across both sides of the aisle is positive news and further emphasizes a commitment to find common ground, address climate change and protect our natural playgrounds. 

A CCC member transports timber, circa 1936-1941.

Photo: USFWS

Notable Quote:

As the pandemic has wrought the greatest economic destruction since the Great Depression, it makes sense that some look to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s effective public jobs programs as a potential solution.” – Daniel Munczek Edelman, a political strategist with Next100.

Our Takeaway:

FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did wonders as a Great Depression-era program that created employment opportunities for young men on resources projects across the United States. A similar strategy could prove effective in combatting the current pandemic-caused economic downturn. Establishing a present-day climate corps aimed at natural resource management in preparation for a clean energy economy could provide countless job opportunities for those in need.

A present-day Climate Corps would be best suited for short-term infrastructure projects, including ecosystem restoration, invasive species removal, improving wildlife migration corridors, building hiking trails and other recreational wilderness amenities, as well as community engagement and education. Tying the health of the overall American economy to the improvement of its outdoor recreation economy (which provides 2.1% of total GDP) is a surefire strategy to improve the country’s economic well-being as it moves through the pandemic. POW is excited to see what comes of this idea as we move into 2021.

The beautiful waters of Michigan. 

Photo: Andrew Christ

Notable Quote:

“There are alternatives to moving that oil. I think that we should be really careful and really skeptical of arguments that shutting this pipeline down will result in some dire circumstance and that the sky will fall.” – Margrethe Kearney, senior attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Our Takeaway:

The Great Lakes region is home to countless opportunities for outdoor recreation and a large and passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts. By revoking the 1953 easement allowing for the operation of pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac, a waterway connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is safeguarding the health of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. This ensures recreational access and the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem isn’t harmed due to unplanned complications with an oil pipeline below the surface of the water. 

Michigan is already being impacted by the climate crisis today, threatening its natural resources, and the sports Michiganders love. Click here for more on the potential impacts on the Great Lakes State