November 21st, 2012 by

Senator Jeff Bingaman. Credit: SenJeffBingaman/Flickr

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a big ‘thank you’ to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who is set to retire at the end of the year. While thinking about everything we’re thankful for, I think it’s fitting that we also give thanks to those leaders who have prioritized our nation’s forests and public lands. After serving five terms in the Senate and several years as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bingaman has determined it’s time to step down.

Throughout his career, Bingaman has been a champion for forests and the environment. Aside from his devoted leadership as the Energy and Natural Resources chair, he has repeatedly spoken out for the protection of public lands and wildlife, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and restoration of our natural resources.

Bingaman has continually been at the forefront of conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), introducing a bill in 2009 to fully fund the program outside of the appropriations process. This year, the measure was included as an amendment to the transportation bill. The Senate voted in favor of the package, which will provide $1.4 billion in funding for LWCF over the next two years.

To help with emergency wildfire suppression funding in the western U.S., Bingaman helped spearhead the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act in 2009. American Forests has supported this measure through coalition work, Congressional testimony and letters to lawmakers.

Bingaman also introduced the Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008. This piece of legislation established the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program that carries out landscape-scale restoration projects. American Forests advocates for this program through the CFLR coalition.

Over the years, Senator Bingaman has been a voice for restoration work, hazardous fuels reduction and cleaning our natural resources. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Senator Bingaman, showing us his motivation for being the environmental champion he is: “Protecting special places and landscapes for the common good has always been a great American idea that we have exported to the rest of the world.  By protecting natural systems, we’re protecting human health as well as the economy by providing clean water, clean air, livable coastal areas and the quality of life that is so important to all Americans.”