Of course I loved all of our great conservation stories from last season, but three themes really stick out in my mind that are very relevant now and into the future. As we enter the prime of hurricane season this fall, I can’t help but think about the Gulf Coast and the urgency to restore coastal wetlands, swamps and barrier islands in this region. As our stories from the Chenier Plain in season 6 (Episode 602) and this past season’s reporting from the Mississippi River Delta (Episode 803) demonstrate, we are in a race against time to rebuild our coastlines for protection against hurricanes and storm water surges. Loss of these coastal marshes are considered by many to be one of the greatest contemporary environmental disasters, and yet they’re widely underappreciated. The solutions are well known and rather straightforward – but we need greater public and political awareness, support, and most of all – MONEY to restore the Gulf Coast.
Our production team is hard at work on season nine of THIS AMERICAN LAND, coming soon to PBS stations nationwide, but in the meantime Series Host Ed Arnett reflects on some key stories from our last season and what lies ahead–
Second, our story on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF – Episode 804) was extremely timely last season, as Congress demonstrated overwhelming bi-partisan support in 2018 for this vital conservation and access program. On March 12 of this year, the LWCF was permanently reauthorized as part of a sweeping public lands package signed into law by the President. This was a major win for conservation since the fund has never been permanently authorized – meaning Congress had to constantly vote on whether to continue its funding. However, Congress still needs to actually fund the LWCF to its maximum level of $900 million annually. A bi-partisan bill to fully fund the LWCF recently stalled in Congress, and will now have to be considered as part of a broader budget deal yet to be worked out in 2019. The LWCF funds come from offshore oil and gas drilling revenues and have conserved and provided access to millions of acres of land for all Americans to enjoy.
Finally, WATER – a resource that we simply cannot live without, as demonstrated by many of our stories over the past several years. Our stories from season 8 on restoring the Colorado River Delta (Episode 805), balancing uses on the Verde River (Episode 802), and reducing the use of fertilizer to improve water quality on farms (Episode 804) all highlight how valuable water conservation is to our nation. Water demand will only increase in the future as human populations continue to expand, so it is vital that we use all the tools in the conservation toolbox to improve water quality, quantity and storage capacity. We depend on water conservation today, but future generations can’t afford for us to make mistakes – we must get this right!