Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 20 Town Hall

I participated in a "telephone town hall" meeting on October 20 with over 13,000 other sportsmen and women from across the country. The meeting was hosted by Ted Roosevelt IV, John Warner (retired senator from Virginia), George Cooper (president of the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership), and Captain/guide Franklin Adams. The purpose of the meeting was to garner support for a strong Federal bill regarding climate action.

The four speakers each discussed the reasons behind their support for a strong climate action bill.

Mr. Warner’s epiphany came six years ago when he re-visited the forests of Idaho, where he’d worked as a trailblazer in 1943. A bark beetle infestation, made worse by mild winters and warm summers, had decimated the forests he remembered so well. When he was Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he was directly responsible for sending troops into drought-stricken areas, tsunami-hit areas, and other lands where uncommon weather patterns contributed to already-dangerous situations. Mr. Warner now works for the PEW Foundation.

Mr. Roosevelt (who would rather tell whoppers about his latest fishing trip than discuss politics) wants the nation’s sportsmen to become an active voice to help the Senate pass the bill. He cited the recent phenomenon of un-fishable waters due to climate change and pollution, as well the science that shows that warmer mean temperatures lead skewed sex ratios in sea turtles due to the incubation temperature of the eggs. (Some scientists are now suggesting that global climate change has the potential to eliminate the production of male turtle offspring if mean global temperatures increase 4°C, and that increases of less than 2°C may dramatically skew the male-female sex ratios. http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/biology/turtles/ )

Mr. Cooper asked that sportsmen take an active role in this legislation because they (we) have such credibility in this arena. Sportsmen know the land like few other people do- many fish the same streams and ponds, and hike the same hills, year after year. Mr. Cooper wanted to stress that the Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is reasonably happy with the House version of the bill, but the Senate version could use some work. He stated that the bill needs an adaptive management clause and that there should be no new bureaucracy; the bill should simply use and strengthen the tools that exists.

Captain Adams runs a fishing service out of Naples, Florida. Florida has seen a sea level rise of approximately 10” since 1930. Given the fact that the mean elevation in the Everglades National Park is only 3’ above mean sea level, a rise of nearly 1’ is drastic. He also discussed the problem of coral bleaching caused by warmer, more acidic oceans. (Coral reefs are the ocean’s equivalent of tropical rainforests- they support an amazing amount of biodiversity.) His take-away message was that listeners should educate themselves about the climate change phenomenon and science before making quick conclusions, and that everyone should get involved.

Due to the large number of people on the call and the fact that the organizers wanted to keep it brief during the dinner hour, only three questions were taken.

Q: Given the GOP’s history of support for conservation, what are the prospects for GOP support of the climate change bill?

A: Mr. Warner, the only Republican to vote for the initial version of the bill, believes we’ll see more Republican support after the health care debate is over; he cited a belief that representatives from Maine would probably vote in support of the final bill. He also believes that partisan politics shouldn’t dominate the issue.

Q: What does the bill mean for rural economies and agriculture in particular?

A: Revisions to the bill are currently being considered to protect agriculture interests. Mr. Cooper cited carbon sequestration credits, which could provide a great financial incentive to both farmers and sportsmen who own land. He discussed how incentives (such as carbon credits) should be included in the bill, rather than disincentives like fines. Mr. Roosevelt then discussed how making ethanol from agricultural waste could also provide an economic boon to rural economies. (He wanted to point out, however, that corn ethanol is a completely different beast and is not all it was cracked up to be at first blush.)

Q: How will the bill change conservation funding?

A: The House bill appears to promise up to $1.7 Billion for natural resource conservation, and the Senate version appears to be tracking the same level. A portion of the funds will likely be used to support state-developed plans for resource management.

The meeting concluded with the hosts acknowledging that many more people had questions that there just wasn’t time for. A website has been set up at www.targetglobalwarming.org to facilitate discussion and answer the questions that could not be answered over the phone.

Other resources on this topic:
http://www.trcp.org/ The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
http://www.pewtrusts.org/ The PEW Foundation

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