Mid-term elections 2022: The main environmental issues

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From federal races to local races, conservation can either be boosted or set back with the results of any election day. But this year’s important issues – the national auction for oil and gas leases, forest fire prevention and mitigation, the amount of land and water protected, to name a few – boil down all to the same factor: whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress after the exams.

“We really think the Biden administration and Congress are just beginning to act on these issues,” says Leah Donahey, director of federal advocacy campaigns for the League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan environmental lobby group that has endorsed and aired advertisements supporting Democratic candidates in this election. “We’ve never seen a change on that level, and from our perspective, whether that can continue is up to Congress and a bunch of critical House and Senate races across the country. ”

Currently, Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate and have passed legislation seen as steps in the right direction by environmental scientists and policy experts. Chief among these is the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains numerous climate provisions as well as funds for sustainable forestry programs, including the ever-important wildfire prevention.

[Related: The future of American conservation lies in restoration]

The Biden administration has also taken a number of executive actions favorable to public lands that have not yet been challenged or opposed by Congress. These include the America the Beautiful Challenge, which directs $1 billion in federal funds toward conservation projects, executive orders restoring thousands of undeveloped acres to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah. , and the recent establishment of the 50,000 acre camp. Hale National Monument. The White House also restored the full force of the Endangered Species Act, an important tool to protect endangered wildlife and habitat that was weakened under former President Donald Trump.

The main criticism of the Biden administration — besides whether its actions go far enough — concerns its leases to oil and gas companies to drill on public lands and waters, a reversal of a campaign promise to end to practice. New leases were part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but auctions for plots in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming and the Gulf of Mexico took place before the passage of the legislation this summer.

Right now, Democrats hold a majority in Congress by a very narrow margin, and tight races across the country this election cycle mean it’s possible either party could take control. of the House and the Senate. If Democrats win more seats, executive action should be allowed to continue and new legislation from Congress supporting conservation and public land projects could be possible. But if Republicans win a majority in one or both houses of Congress, the situation could be very different.

“When [Republicans] have had the majority in the past, we’ve seen a lot of bills to expand drilling, leasing and development on public lands,” says Donahey. Measures enacted by executive orders like the creation of national monuments would still be possible, she adds, but a Republican-controlled Congress could get bogged down with oversight investigations and other administrative blockages. “The Biden administration will likely have less ability to advance its proactive agendas if we see a series of surveillance investigations,” a tactic that has been used by the Republican majority in the legislature under the Obama administration, says Donahey.

In addition to delaying the executive’s conservation agenda, Donahey notes that a Republican-controlled Congress could try to restrict funding for public land management, which they have done in the past. Opening more oil and gas leases, similar to the IRA, would likely also be a priority.

It’s not all or nothing, however. Whatever the outcome of this election, the president will still be a Democrat and will be able to carry out at least part of his program. The Home Office has also engaged and empowered indigenous peoples in land management decisions, which was not a priority under previous administrations.

[Related: Stronger pollution protections mean focusing on specific communities]

As always, important issues such as carbon emissions targets, air, water and soil pollution, and access to natural areas are also on the state-level ballot. , county and municipality. The form and scope will vary from place to place, but voters will have the opportunity to make meaningful choices for their region. With local ballots, conservation issues primarily take the form of bonds or levies, which establish a tax to fund public parks and other lands. Residents of Salt Lake City, for example, are voting on a parks, trails and open spaces bond, which would raise $85 million for recreation areas and greenways.

It can be difficult to see the on-the-ground impacts of voting each year. But the results of the 2022 midpoints will ripple through massive government systems that manage endangered species, critical resources, and habitable landscapes for people and nature. Whether it’s funding your local parks or huge swathes of remote forests, environmental progress is most certainly on the ballot in this election.

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