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Rays of Hope for Wildlife in 2014 Midterm Elections
The 2014 midterm elections brought progress for wildlife, from Florida’s panthers to Alaska’s wild salmon, despite some setbacks for friends of conservation. Much of the good news comes from state ballot measures. Given the chance to directly protect wildlife, Americans from the Gulf Coast to the Bering Sea repeatedly cast their votes for conservation:
- Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a measure backed by the Florida Wildlife Federation to provide dedicated funding to conservation programs, desperately needed in the wake of recent deep cuts.
- Louisiana voters told state legislators to keep their hands off funds to build and maintain artificial reefs that provide fish habitat.
- New Jersey voters passed a measure to invest in open space preservation that was championed by our state affiliate New Jersey Audubon Society.
- Alaska voters told the legislature to stop Pebble Mine and others like it in the Bristol Bay watershed if the projects are found to threaten wild salmon. Our state affiliate, the Renewable Resources Coalition, played a big role in the win.
Meanwhile, Congressional and other statewide elections were a mixed bag. While National Wildlife Federation Action Fund-endorsed Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina Mark Udall of Colorado lost their re-election bids, other Action Fund-endorsed candidates rode conservation issues to victory:
- Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf ran on a platform of conservation and protecting public lands and beat incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, an ally of the fracking industry. Wolf has also pledged to bring Pennsylvania into the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which could double the size of the program. “I think we’re seeing that a lot of the rhetoric nationally is just that, and once you have a program in place it’s less controversial,” Peter Shattuck of the Acadia Center tells National Journal. “It’s been proven over the last five-and-a-half years that the sky hasn’t fallen and in fact we’ve seen electricity prices come down.”
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beat climate science denier Scott Brown in the key 2016 primary state of New Hampshire.
- Other NWF Action Fund-endorsed winners include Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen.-elect Gary Peters (D-MI), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
So what does it mean looking for wildlife as we look ahead to the convening of the 114th Congress in 2015? Here’s what Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, told reporters:
Wildlife conservation issues have long enjoyed bipartisan support across the nation. Yet for the past few years, numerous bipartisan conservation bills have stalled. With both sides calling for greater cooperation among the parties, wildlife conservation issues should be among the priorities for early action. A fresh start in the new Congress should include measures that would enhance protections for fish and wildlife habitat, promote sportsmen access, improve community and natural resource resilience, and deliver resources to farmers and ranchers for on the ground conservation practices.
That’s not to say there won’t be major clashes in the weeks and months ahead. For our part, the National Wildlife Federation remains committed to working with all parties at the federal, state and local levels, with Republicans and Democrats, with the President and members of Congress, with governors and state legislatures, and with our 50 state and territory affiliates and four million members and supporters. We’ll continue seeking common ground to not only protect fish and wildlife but the interests all Americans have in a sustainable economy and a healthier environment for our children.
In its “lame duck” session this fall before the 114th session convenes, Congress may take up a package that includes incentives for renewable energy. Please take a moment right now to ask your members of Congress to support wildlife by extending incentives for clean energy.