Statement endorsing Initiative 1631

Statement endorsing Initiative 1631

ConservationNWAdmin / Jun 12, 2018 / Climate Change, Connecting Habitat, Protecting Wildlands

Climate initiative supports our program objectives for wildlands and wildlife, Washington’s rural and urban communities, and a healthier future for our planet.

For more information, please contact Policy Director Paula Swedeen: pswedeen@conservationnw.org

Conservation Northwest is pleased to announce our endorsement of Washington Initiative 1631. We believe this approach to addressing climate change is based on sound science and principles of equity and justice for residents of both rural and urban Washington. And it makes unprecedented investments in natural and working landscapes for both reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and helping wildlife and people adapt to climate changes that are already underway.

What is I-1631? 

Initiative 1631 levies a $15 fee per ton of greenhouse gas emissions on large sources of climate change causing pollution in Washington state. The fee increases by $2 per ton every year until the state’s 2035 emission reduction goal of 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses (Definition: GHG’s, measured as carbon dioxide equivalents, CO2e) below 2018 emission levels are met, and the state is on a trajectory towards reducing emissions by 50 million metric tons CO2e below 2018 levels by 2050.

The initiative sets up an investment fund from the fees collected. Funds will be directed to projects that:

  • Directly reduce GHG emissions through clean energy and protecting and managing forests, grasslands and wetlands for increased carbon sequestration
  • Help workers affected by the transition to a new economy
  • Create new jobs in numerous ways
  • Restore resilience to forests and floodplains, and
  • Clean up the legacy of fossil fuel-related pollution in impacted communities.

Why Does Conservation Northwest Support I-1631?

At Conservation Northwest, our mission is to protect, connect and restore wildlands and wildlife from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies. We also recognize that for long-term progress, conservation of animals and wildlands must go hand-in-hand with healthy communities.

We believe that I-1631 supports our mission, programs, and values in many ways, including:

Big Picture

  • Society needs to address climate change if we are to have a livable future. It is time for Washington state to join other states, Canadian provinces and countries that already have legally binding greenhouse gas reduction goals, and contribute our share of tackling this global threat to people, wildlife, and the planet.
  • While CNW has not engaged historically in the fossil fuel emission reduction side of the issue, we’ve invested very heavily in both sequestration through forest and rangeland protection and adaptation through forest resilience and landscape level habitat corridors. We’ve also long been a member organization of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.
  • CNW’s work of protecting, connecting and restoring wildlands will become entirely moot if temperatures increase too much for native fish, wildlife, and ecosystems to adapt quickly enough to survive in our region.

Direct Support to Our Program Work

I-1631 devotes a portion of the revenue gathered from the carbon fee to programs which conserve forests, grasslands, and aquatic ecosystems, and requires that they be managed for increased carbon sequestration. I-1631 will provide tens of millions of dollars per year to carbon sequestration projects that also provide habitat protection. The initiative establishes habitat connectivity and ecosystem health as goals of these programs. This is truly groundbreaking as there are currently no state-based funding sources devoted explicitly to improving connectivity.

Many of our programs revolve around protecting and restoring forests, sagebrush and grasslands, and watersheds in key places to establish large landscape connectivity for the species that rely on our region’s ecosystems, efforts that will be supported by I-1631.

Examples include:

  • In the Cascade to Olympics landscape, acquiring conservation easements to prevent development or other conversion in habitat bottlenecks near I-5 and to restore large blocks of forest to an older, more complex condition is a crucial piece of our strategy to recover or maintain populations of deer, elk, fisher, marten, spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and aquatic species. Easements on developable and private forest land are expensive and there currently is not even a fraction of the funding available to accomplish our vision. I-1631 directs the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office to develop programs that both prevent conversion of working forests to non-forest uses, and to increase carbon sequestration through improved forest management. Science has clearly shown that growing forests longer stores far more carbon than high intensity, short rotation forestry practices. Long rotations also make it easier to create habitat for wildlife that needs larger trees and more complex forest structure.
  • Protecting working ranches from subdivision in strategic places is a linchpin of the Working for Wildlife Initiative that we coordinate in Okanogan County. Finding dollars for easement acquisition that allows these private ranches to stay as working landscapes that support local economies, county revenues, and provide important habitat and movement corridors is always a challenge. Loss of sagelands, grasslands and forests regularly occurs when private ranches are broken up or developed.
  • Our Sagelands Heritage Program works in Washington’s arid landscapes to restore habitat for sage and sharp-tailed grouse, pygmy rabbits, pronghorn antelope and mule deer in a connected backbone running north to south east of the Cascade Mountains, while also working with local ranches and communities to support their needs. I-1631 is tasking the Washington State Department of Agriculture to develop programs that conserve and increase soil carbon, including preventing conversion of grasslands and sagebrush habitat to housing developments. Preventing the loss of existing habitat and restoring low-productivity farmland back to native vegetation conserves and increases soil carbon stores.
    The grasslands and shrub-steppe of the Pacific Northwest are important for wildlife, people and carbon sequestration. I-1631 will help provide resources to conserve them.
  • For two decades, our Forest Field Program has advanced ecological forest restoration and community collaboration to help restore and protect forests, rivers, and other wildlands while also promoting sustainable forestry and benefiting local communities. The initiative creates a program to invest in making Eastern Washington forests more resilient through selective thinning and prescribed fire. There is a backlog of acres of lands that need ecologically appropriate thinning and prescribed burning. Because increased temperatures and drought will stress our forest and aquatic ecosystems, including exacerbating wildfire risks, a separate program has been created to fund restoration projects that help forests, and people living near them, adapt to a hotter and drier future.

Tackling Climate Change Consistent with Our Values: Support for Rural Communities, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • I-1631 is designed to create jobs and direct investments to communities that have been hit hard by pollution, and/or will disproportionately be affected by climate change. Many of these jobs will come from the clean energy sector, which creates opportunities in both urban and rural communities.
  • The investments in healthy forests will support needed thinning and prescribed fire projects which will increase the need for forest workers, and should increase the stability and predictability of wood supply to mills. These projects should also reduce the risk of uncharacteristically intense fires and chronic exposure to smoke for those living in rural areas.
  • Land conservation and restoration of working and wild landscapes maintains jobs in forestry, ranching, recreation, and supporting businesses in rural areas.
  • At least 10 percent of the funds from the carbon fee will be invested in projects directed and/or supported by Washington Native American nations and tribes. Tribes have expressed a strong interest in using funds to restore aquatic and terrestrial habitats, increase the resilience of their reserved and treaty access lands, and increase economic opportunity for Tribal members. Conservation Northwest has long partnered with Northwest indigenous and First Nations communities in our work, and we deeply value the leadership of our tribal allies. This initiative will help provide the resources they need to support a wilder future for all Washingtonians.
  • Fifteen percent of the investments will be directed specifically to projects that reduce energy cost impacts of the clean energy transition to lower income residents in both residential and transportation energy costs. These programs may include cost rebates in addition to making renewable forms of energy less expensive and more accessible.
  • Manufacturing facilities such as timber mills can apply for funds to increase the energy efficiency of their operations and switch to clean energy technologies. This should allow for these important employers in rural areas to transition to a clean energy economy and compete in the global economy without job loss, and could even add jobs by requiring skilled workers to install and maintain new equipment.
  • Investments will also be directed towards increasing the development and deployment of zero emission vehicle fleets and associated infrastructure for both personal and commercial use. Where zero emissions technology is not yet available or feasible for farming and forestry equipment, funds will be directed towards improving fuel efficiency. While there is understandable concern that a carbon fee will increase gasoline prices, I-1631 will help move our transportation infrastructure away from being as dependent on gasoline and diesel fuels. Designing and building such vehicles and infrastructure also creates new jobs.
  • Investments in high-speed rural broadband are authorized and envisioned as a way to reduce the need for driving as many miles to work, which is another way to soften the impact of increased gasoline prices. High-speed Internet in rural areas is also widely seen as a means to spur economic development.
  • There is worker transition assistance for people in fossil fuel-based sectors who may lose their jobs as a result of the carbon fee.

Strategically applying the funds that will be made available under I-1631 will directly support our program objectives and protect Northwest wildlands, wildlife and the climate through increased natural carbon sequestration, the capacity for Washington’s landscapes to support our native wildlife and our eastside forests to become resilient in the face of climate change.

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