By Michelle Werts
Today, American Forests is on the Hill — Capitol Hill that is — co-hosting a briefing and panel discussion titled “Protecting the Economy and Communities: Shared Risks, Shared Responsibility in Planning for the Effects of Climate Change.” Being held in one of the Senate office buildings, this briefing aims to build support for and understanding about a newly introduced piece of legislation: S. 1202, the Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment Act (SAFE Act).
Introduced by Senators Baucus and Whitehouse in June, the SAFE Act is “a bill to establish an integrated federal program to respond to ongoing and expected impacts of extreme weather and climate change by protecting, restoring and conserving the natural resources of the United States and to maximize government efficiency and reduce costs, in cooperation with state, local and tribal governments and other entities.” A lofty and worthy aim, in my opinion.
Two of the key ways the act would accomplish its main goal are 1) through the establishment of a Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Panel comprised of federal agency heads and other natural resources experts and 2) through the newly established panel’s adoption of a National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. This strategy would be a plan designed “to protect, restore and conserve natural resources so that natural resources become more resilient, adapt to and withstand the ongoing and expected impacts of climate variability and change.” Again, all good things, but as we all know, what sounds good and beneficial for society doesn’t always become law.
The SAFE Act was first introduced in 2011 as S. 1881 and never made it out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. We don’t want this bill to get stuck in committee again, which is why we’re joining with other partners to bring attention to this bill and the issues it represents through today’s briefing on the Hill. It’s often a long road to get a bill through Congress, but when it comes to protecting our natural resources, we’re in it for the duration.