Congress has a huge task ahead of them as we approach another year in the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the tremendous toll of human life, over 20 million Americans lost their jobs in the last nine months. We also saw a record number of billion-dollar disasters in 2020, including wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts. Meanwhile, our infrastructure struggles to keep up with the pace of climate change, as we've seen in last week's winter weather disaster in Texas and throughout the South. Fortunately, there’s a solution that can address many of these problems at once—invest in conservation.
From restoring the Colorado River watershed, to shoring up our beaches and wetlands on the coast, investing in conservation not only protects our communities from future droughts or floods, it also provides job opportunities as well as critical habitat for birds and other wildlife.
That’s why Audubon has teamed up with the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Ducks Unlimited, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and American Sportfishing Association to form the Conservation Works for America coalition. Together, we advance our shared priorities in Congress to make our communities more resilient to climate change, restore and preserve outdoor spaces, protect our air and water, and sustainably manage our water resources.
The pandemic has highlighted the huge inequities in our country, especially who gets access to nature as well as clean air and water. Due to racist policies like housing discrimination, communities of color are more likely to be affected by air pollution, climate change, and to face increased risk of getting sick from COVID-19. We need bold economic recovery that builds equity and makes lasting investments in communities that are disproportionately affected by these compounding crises.
To start, our coalition has shared our legislative priorities with House and Senate leaders this week. These priorities include a number of important federal programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Program, the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program, and NOAA’s shovel-ready grant program. We will work with them in the coming months to ensure that any upcoming stimulus, infrastructure, transportation, water, or disaster bills are designed to jump-start our economy while protecting the important places that birds and people rely on.