State Legislators Call for a Strong National Nature Assessment
March 31, 2023
Today more than 120 state legislators from 38 states and territories submitted a comment letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy about the importance of a strong National Nature Assessment. Our planet and nation are facing an alarming biodiversity crisis. However, we do not currently have a clear and consistent picture of where America’s biodiversity stands today.
“The world is headed toward a biodiversity crisis. The only way to avert disaster is to truly understand the scope of the problem,” said Massachusetts State Senator Michael Moore. “A National Nature Assessment will help us establish a set of facts that policy leaders across the country can unite around and develop plans for in protecting biodiversity in their own unique states, lands, and territories. Humans are not separate from the ecosystems that surround us – when our ecosystems are resilient, so are we.”
States are the stewards of biodiversity within state borders and therefore will be among the primary users of the Assessment. This moment presents an important opportunity to set states on the right track to protect and restore biodiversity. The comment letter submitted by state legislators outlines three main requests for the assessment to consider.
- Definition of Nature: The assessment should consider the definition of “nature” within the National Nature Assessment as biodiversity (i.e. plants and animals) and the ecosystems that sustain them.
- Analyze the Threats: To inform effective conservation decisions for biodiversity, we need to focus on the root of the crisis. The assessment should use the latest data and science to analyze direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, and pathways for their mitigation. The letter includes a variety of questions that should be answered by the assessment around the leading drivers of biodiversity loss at the state and national level, the current status and trends of the drivers, and where biodiversity loss is occurring.
- Assess Social Implications: The assessment should consider the major economic, public health, and wildlife impacts of biodiversity loss by state; how this loss disproportionately impacts certain social groups; and include analysis of biodiversity loss impacts for key sectors including agriculture and rural communities, human health, Tribes, and Indigenous People, and for various regions of the U.S.
This year, there are currently at least four states working on biodiversity protection bills, 18 states working on species protection bills, and 25 states working on habitat protection bills.
“States play a critical role in protecting biodiversity,” said New Hampshire State Senator David Watters. “That’s why I’m pursuing legislation to increase considerations of biodiversity in investments for natural resource protection. But New Hampshire can’t do this alone. Biodiversity doesn’t recognize state boundaries. That’s why we need the support of the federal government, through the National Nature Assessment, to know how to best protect biodiversity in our states but also how to work with our colleagues in neighboring states to protect biodiversity.”
The U.S. must make substantial progress in ensuring the conservation of the nation’s biodiversity. The Constitution gives state legislators the most responsibility over our states’ biodiversity. A National Nature Assessment that includes state-specific information would be an important catalyst for urgently needed and long overdue policy action to address America’s biodiversity crisis.
“States are leading the charge in addressing the biodiversity crisis,” said Dylan McDowell, NCEL Acting Executive Director. “However, without a clear picture of the current status of biodiversity in their states or the biggest threats, states are limited in how effectively they can act. Done correctly, the National Nature Assessment will be a monumental tool in helping states take the steps needed to protect biodiversity for generations to come.”
The full text of the letter and a list of signatures is available here.
Created by and for state legislators, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that organizes over 1,200 environmentally-committed state legislators from all 50 states and both parties. NCEL provides venues and opportunities for lawmakers to share ideas and collaborate on environmental issues.