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What Does the 2016 Election Mean for the Valley’s Lands?

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US Capitol at night

The 2016 election has brought about changes in federal leadership that will make local land conservation more important than ever.

During the past election season, one thing almost everyone could agree on is that it highlighted deep divides in our country. Despite those differences, we believe most people truly care for the land—especially in the Pioneer Valley—and in protecting it and caring for it together, we can find common ground.

Even so, there are clearly challenges ahead. Here’s a look at what could change for land conservation at the federal level, and what we can all do to help locally:

1) The President elect’s chosen leaders of our nation’s environmental agencies will likely propose changes to weaken federal laws that protect the health of our land, air, and water.

What We Can All Do
Stay informed and advocate to your elected officials so your opinions are heard. To ensure that they understand why you care, we need to work harder at building bridges across political and cultural divides. Kestrel will do this by showing how farms and forests are relevant to the lives of people everywhere.

2) The United States could cancel its participation in the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement, which is intended to strengthen ways to reduce carbon emissions by promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and forest conservation.

What We Can All Do
Do your part to reduce your carbon footprint, and support organizations that offer solutions. Kestrel is committed to conserving our region’s forests—the lungs of the earth—to help sequester carbon and slow the rate of climate change.

3) Land trusts’ most important source of federal funds, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), could be weakened or lost. LWCF has provided critical funding for 50 years in all 50 states to protect land. It comes from fees on offshore oil and gas drilling, NOT from your taxes.

What We Can All Do
Kestrel will continue to advocate to ensure that federal funding for protection of our nation’s land and water remains a bipartisan priority in Congress. Federal funding makes up about 30% of all our project funds. The other 70% comes from our leveraging of municipal and state funding, which your support enables us to do. Our work to conserve land is only possible because of private donations from thousands of people like you.

One bright spot on the federal horizon offers promising news for forests. Kestrel recently led a land trust coalition to double the designated area that’s open to federal Forest Legacy grants in Massachusetts. Landowners in 51 more towns will now be eligible to sell their development rights and permanently protect their forest land. In fact, for 2017, a Forest Legacy grant totaling $2,895,000 is awaiting Congressional approval to conserve 2,000 acres of woodlands in Shutesbury.

Amidst these uncertain times, all of us at Kestrel are more motivated than ever to conserve and care for the places that matter to you—and you have the power to help us do it.

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