Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark, © Krista Schlyer

© Krista Schlyer
The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s my big takeaway from Election Night 2012. The results were a big win for wildlife. President Obama—whose budget proposals have been environment-friendly and supportive of wildlife conservation—was reelected and pro-conservation voices were added in Congress. And yet, many of the same challenges that faced us before the election still loom large today.

The conservation outlook in the Senate has improved, but we still have a House leadership that is quite hostile to environmental programs. That means we’ll likely have to play defense on many of our key issues despite the election outcome. Indeed, we’re expecting aggressive attacks on everything from climate change to the Endangered Species Act to conservation funding. Many of these attacks will come in the form of small amendments and appropriation bill “riders” rather than big overreaching bills, and we’ll need to be more vigilant than ever to make sure none of them sneak through and become law. 

Sadly, this same dynamic of a divided Congress will also make positive, proactive efforts on our issues an uphill climb at best. The pro-environment, clean energy presidential candidate may have won reelection, but that doesn’t mean a pro-environment, clean energy agenda will sail through Congress. 

Happily, the election brought us some new champions to help with battles ahead. Sen. Martin Heinrich is the newest senator from New Mexico and a tireless environmental advocate. We’ll need his leadership now more than ever as perhaps our greatest champion, Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), is retiring after a long and distinguished career. It’s a bittersweet changing of the guard if ever there was one and we can’t thank Norm enough for all he has done for wildlife conservation in this country.

The rallies are over, the political ads have mercifully disappeared and the votes have been cast. I am hopeful that we can now turn our collective attention to meaningful progress on the wildlife and public lands conservation challenges facing our country. There is a lot of work to do. It’s time to set the election aside and get cracking.

Jamie Rappaport Clark

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