WASHINGTON — Local environmentalists from Montgomery County urged lawmakers Thursday to support environmental conservation policies in a lobby day that included meeting with numerous U.S. senators and congressmen.
Members of the Chevy Chase-based Audubon Naturalist Society conservation group explained the importance of numerous existing environmental laws while visiting Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on Capitol Hill.
“From the politics of the day, each of the senators comes down on different sides of the fence,” said Lisa Alexander, Executive Director of the Audubon Naturalist Society. “I think the environment is a nonpartisan issue, so I think we should receive support from both sides of the fence.”
Legislation discussed included the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
The Clean Air Act of 1963 and Clean Water Act of 1972 are designed to limit and regulate air and water quality through national standards as well as research the effects and ways to reduce pollution.
The Migratory Bird Act of 1918 is designed to protect birds that travel across international borders on a seasonal basis while the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects species that face extinction or severe decreases in their population.
Van Hollen responded to the legislation with enthusiastic support but explained the legislative environment under a Republican majority and Trump administration makes the passage or renewal of environmental policies uncertain.
“This Trump administration-EPA is trying to take a big step backward in all sorts of areas,” Van Hollen said. “So we have to be on full alert.”
Van Hollen also responded positively to the funding for programs to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the importance of those programs to Maryland.
“Given what the administration is likely to put out in their budget, in addition to full funding it’s important to have the grants that go out to the various states for the specific conservation programs,” added Eliza Cava, the Director of Conservation at the Audubon Naturalist Society.
The junior senator from Maryland added he plans to introduce “Healthy Climate and Family Security Act,” a ‘cap-and-dividend’ bill designed to use proceeds from a carbon-emission tax to provide financial relief for middle-class families.
Although Moran was unable to attend due to a voting session in the Senate Banking Committee, two of his staffers, Jordan Ebert and Judd Gardner explained the senator tends to support voluntary conservation programs in a conversation focusing mainly on farming and agricultural issues.
“The best way to protect endangered species and to recover them is through voluntary conservation plans,” Gardner said.
Ron Klataske, the executive director of Kansas Audubon, explained that numerous existing programs to protect certain bird species in the state are essential to avoid having them listed on the Endangered Species list.
“There’s no reason for celebration when anything is listed [as an endangered species],” he added.
Klataske also explained that Kansas experiences regular droughts which creates difficulties for farmers and ranchers.
“Preserving our waters is very important and having stream flows,” he said. “In western Kansas, we’ve lost most of our permanent streams and now they’re just intermittent streams.”
He also stressed the need for programs to improve sustainable agriculture which in turn helps preserve rural and small-town communities.
Both offices said additional considerations would have to be made as relevant bills are proposed in the legislative process.