Washington, D.C., Jan. 8, 2013 – As the nation strives to strengthen the economy and reduce federal spending, conservation requires new approaches and innovative ideas rooted in fiscal responsibility, limited government and market entrepreneurship in order to address America’s ongoing environmental challenges, a group of leading conservatives told an audience today at a landmark event in Washington, D.C.
The inaugural Conservation and Stewardship Conference is the culmination of a year of activities by the Conservation Leadership Council (CLC), an organization committed to addressing the nation’s environmental challenges through the application of conservative principles, policies and approaches. The conference brought together dozens of leaders from federal, state and local government, the private sector, conservation groups and academia who share an interest in advancing policy solutions that reflect the CLC’s principles.
“Conservation, free market solutions and American ingenuity are core American values that can produce innovative results for protecting our open spaces, valuable natural resources and iconic natural wonders,” said Gale Norton, CLC member and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior. “As the demand for fiscal responsibility grows, the CLC is at the forefront of reigniting the passion that conservatives have for market entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship.”
In addition to establishing the conservative voice for environmental stewardship, the event marked the release of a set of commissioned policy papers on topics ranging from energy and water security to species protection and land management. The policy papers – available on the CLC website – offer a set of actionable recommendations that focus on private-sector and community initiatives reflecting the CLC’s principles of limited government, community leadership, and public-private partnerships.
“Too often we rely on the government to safeguard our natural capital when the private sector can implement practical solutions in a much more efficient and effective way,” said Gov. Ed Schafer, CLC member, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Governor of North Dakota. “The CLC has commissioned policy papers to highlight some of the great work that’s already happening in communities across the nation to address these issues.”
The policy papers complement a series of Conservation Roundtables conducted by the CLC in 2012 throughout the country. Those roundtables highlighted on-the-ground solutions and experiences showing how local engagement and bottom-up community involvement can provide better results than top-down, one-size-fits-all federal mandates.
The first roundtable took place in Denver, Colo., in July 2012, focusing on private stewardship and landowner engagement in conservation. The second was in Hilton Head, S.C., in September 2012, concentrating on habitat trading credits and other economical ways to conserve public lands. The third was held in Augusta, Ga., and emphasized water quantity and infrastructure financing in urban and agricultural areas.
The discussion at the CLC’s Conservation and Stewardship Conference focused on topics explored by the policy papers, which investigate where there is opportunity for meaningful action under the principles of the CLC. The participants highlighted efficiency measures and market-driven business ideas that provide promising new approaches to conservation.
These include the Blackfoot Challenge, a community-based partnership that has conserved 1.5 million acres of diverse habitats on working lands throughout Montana for ranchers, loggers and outfitters, and efforts by the Partners for Western Conservation to create a Colorado-based ecosystem services market that provides incentives for buyers and sellers to invest in protecting wildlife and habitats before they have to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The CLC plans to continue to engage national, local and regional leaders in dialogue and action throughout 2013 and beyond.