By Tim Manns
At this writing in mid-February, it’s 10 days after the assault on the U.S. Capitol and almost the end of an Administration that for the last 4 years busily reduced environmental protections. We all need reasons for political optimism, and fortunately some are at hand. The balance of power at the federal level has shifted just enough to maybe enable passing legislation addressing climate change, restoring protection for birds and other wildlife, renewing our government’s reliance on science, and so much more. Audubon Board Member Alice Turner brought to the Board’s attention an article from the Autumn 2020 issue of Living Bird magazine (Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology) describing a Bird Agenda for the 117th Congress. The article points out that the Congressional Review Act of 1996 offers a way to quickly reverse the outgoing Administration’s reinterpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in a way exempting all but deliberate killing of birds. Perhaps this is also how to reverse the Administration’s mid-January opening to logging of 3.4 million acres of old-growth Northern Spotted Owl habitat in California, Oregon, and Washington. The now unprotected area includes more than a third of what was set aside in 1994 by the Northwest Forest Plan to protect the owl from extinction and more than a half million acres on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Okanogan-Wenatchee, and Gifford Pinchot national forests.
The balance of power in Olympia remains favorable for environmental legislation, if not easy. When this newsletter reaches you the Washington State Legislature will have been in session several weeks. This being an odd-numbered year, the session will especially focus on writing the next 2-year budget; actually 3 budgets: operating (General Fund), capital, and transportation. All are relevant to Audubon Washington’s legislative priorities and those of its partners in the Environmental Priorities Coalition (EPC). Adam Maxwell, Audubon Washington’s State Campaign Manager, produces periodic updates on the progress of legislation. The link to these updates and information sheets are on this page: http://wa.audubon.org/conservation/legislative-session-2020. The EPC has posted brief papers on the coalition’s key issues: https://wecprotects.org/environmental-priorities-coalition-2/. EPC staff produce a weekly Hot List of top environmental issues in the House and Senate: https://wecprotects.org/environmental-priorities-coalition-2/bills-to-watch.
For a longer list of environmental legislation, sign up for weekly emails from Bellingham-based RE Sources (www.re-sources.org), whose weekly legislative alerts are easy to skim. There are action items too (https://p2a.co/T6LIzvq). With legislative hearings all virtual, you can sign in to support or oppose any bill having a hearing without needing to travel to Olympia. This replaces the sign-in sheets in the corridors familiar to those of you who participated in Lobby Days past. The Washington Legislature’s own website (https://leg.wa.gov) is an easy-to-navigate way to read and follow bills, learn what committees your senator and representatives are sponsoring, and submit comments.
The political climate and events of recent years and days have convinced many that it’s important to be an active citizen supporting the issues you care about whether that’s wildlife habitat, climate change, affordable housing, or many others. It’s easy to be overwhelmed but not difficult to begin with the help of the kinds of aids mentioned here.
For more about issues Skagit Audubon is tracking, go to “Conservation” on the Skagit Audubon website (www.skagitaudubon.org) and click on “Conservation Notes”.