Letter from Chairwoman Taylor
Dear fellow Nevadan,
It is with great pleasure that NCL presents the 2011 Conservation Scorecard, our very first on-line edition and a truly interactive experience. Our board and staff, working alongside some of our State’s most experienced and knowledgeable conservation advocates, have assembled what we hope will be a useful resource for those working to make our environmental values a priority for Nevada.
Leading up to the 2011 legislative session, NCL participated in an election cycle with tremendous impacts on the composition of our Legislature and the arrival of new leadership in our Governor’s office. We gained new leadership in both houses and welcomed 22 new legislators, or roughly one-third of Nevada’s legislative body, to Carson City. These new senators and assembly members had to learn about the legislative process while struggling to solve a budget crisis in a highly partisan environment.
In the context of these challenges, the conservation record of the 2011 Nevada Legislature is decidedly mixed. We saw positive results through the passage of AB 307. The conservation community engaged a bipartisan coalition of legislators to pass AB 307, our nation’s first “Smart From the Start” legislation, a policy that provides critical support to the development of our State’s renewable energy resources. This bill exemplifies what Nevada’s conservation community can achieve when it builds broad support between the business and the conservation community. It also underscores Nevada’s commitment to developing clean energy to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but in a manner that does not adversely impact wildlife and their habitat.
Despite this significant achievement, we also witnessed the ramifications of what happens when lawmakers vote on complicated environmental issues without involving the conservation community in early discussions and negotiations. This was the case with SB 271, sponsored by Senator John Lee, which withdraws Nevada from the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact in 2015 unless California and the federal government agree to a series of punitive demands. The legislation, advertised as a tool to “get California to the table,” is actually an attempt to weaken the leverage of the conservation community in updating Tahoe’s regional plan. Rest assured, NCL is working diligently to develop sensible solutions to some of the Compact’s issues and developing a strategy to rescind SB 271 in the next legislative session.
The key issue of the session was Nevada’s budget and our State legislature was forced to consider deep cuts to programs, including many important to the conservation community. Although the cuts were not as draconian as they might have been, significant impacts will be felt from the budget decisions that were made. One example is in the surveying needed to develop Nevada’s new energy economy. Adequate survey work is still needed for many critical species in order to prevent their gaining a federal endangered species listing. Yet, the ability to complete the surveys is severely compromised with the cuts to the Department of Wildlife’s funding, and renewable energy sites will face challenges without these surveys. Additionally, significant cuts to the budget for the Department of Water Resources will make the stewardship of our most scarce resource even more challenging.
NCL’s decade of work at the Legislature has now brought the conservation community together around the Conservation Priorities for Nevada. Our successes were more measured than in 2009. Yet, despite looming budget cuts, NCL was successful in maintaining the conservation priority of keeping our state parks open on a shoestring budget and NCL initiated a proposal that will guide future discussions regarding a sustainable funding stream for our state parks. Additionally, NCL facilitated discussions regarding how to best reform incentives for small-scale renewable energy and built the foundation for positive reforms in the 2013 legislative session.
We hope that you will use our Scorecard to gauge your representatives’ support of our shared values; protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our natural heritage. As you know, conservation champions do not emerge by accident. NCL works diligently to recognize and support our current champions, and to identify the next generation of conservation leadership in Nevada. Please consider being our partner in these efforts by making a donation to the Nevada Conservation League. Together, we can build a pro-conservation majority in Carson City.
Nevada Conservation League