by Whit Gibbons

January 3, 2016

Everyone should start the new year with environmental resolutions to complement the usual ones of losing weight, exercising more and vowing never to watch another negative political advertisement. Last year I suggested that students be the focus of our pledge, with the goal being to get someone who is in school, from kindergarten to college, to complete a checklist of six environmental resolutions. This year appears to be a good one to focus on another group - political candidates and incumbents.

I recommend that we each resolve to pick out someone who holds or hopes to hold a political office and send them an email, a comment via their website or by an old-fashioned letter. My congressman's site says, "Regrettably, I am unable to reply to any email from constituents outside of the district." Make sure you are sending the communication to someone you could actually vote for (or against). Your message could read something like this:

As a voter in upcoming elections, I would appreciate your considering the following simple checklist of environmental resolutions in addition to whatever resolutions you have already made for this year. Our natural habitats and the native wildlife they support are important to me and my family, and as you are representing us, please consider these suggestions. Two are what any citizen should resolve to do this year. Two are ones in which you can have direct influence through your political office.

1. Do whatever you can to provide support for our National Park Service and the USFWS National Wildlife Refuge System. Our national parks, seashores and wildlife refuges are vital not only for preserving critical components of our natural systems but also for providing endless opportunities for citizens to learn about our native wildlife and appreciate what we have. Encourage others to visit these protected sites by assuring that they are well-managed ecologically from a conservation perspective and have well-maintained facilities open to the public. A commitment to fund these programs should be made by elected officials in all regions.

2. Do what many of your constituents do as parents, grandparents, teachers or just everyday citizens: encourage a child to join you on a trip to visit a natural history museum, nature center, zoo or public aquarium. Many such institutions are highly informative regarding basic environmental topics such as endangered species and the importance of maintaining wetlands, streams and rivers for all wildlife. By helping cultivate a child's interest in nature, you might well make a lasting contribution to environmental education beyond what you do in your capacity as an elected official.

3. Another exercise for all of us is to take a walk to enjoy trees, shrubs, birds, insects and other forms of life. Often we take nature for granted, and for someone in a position of responsibility to others, it is important that you not let our natural legacy be infringed on by special interests that benefit only a few. Are you doing what you should to protect our native wildlife from the smallest to the largest? The unseen as well as the obvious? Looking closely at the natural world around us is the best way to gain an appreciation of what we have - and what we stand to lose. You should be doing this along with the rest of us, and you should let your voice be heard about the importance of preserving natural habitats.

4. Give this checklist to your political colleagues and ask them to follow your example. The more elected officials pay attention to the natural world, the better off our environment will be. When you check off this last item, you will have kept some meaningful resolutions.

I plan to vote for someone who views our natural heritage and a clean environment as a priority for our community, region and nation. I trust you will join me by completing this simple list of resolutions and supporting programs that enhance this effort.

Happy New Year!

If you have an environmental question or comment, email

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