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What Will the Next President Do to Protect the West?
Presidential elections present Americans with an opportunity to discuss the biggest challenges we face, and for candidates to propose ideas to address those challenges. Thus far in the 2016 primary race, some of the candidates have done little to address the issues all Americans care about: good jobs, opportunities for our children to get the education they need, and access to care that allows us to lead healthy lives. Here in the West, voters also want to know how candidates will address our unique circumstances. However, through the first two western contests in Colorado and Nevada, many candidates have yet to present a vision to preserve the legacy of the West for all Americans and for future generations. As we seek to address climate change, provide clean energy to power our economy, protect the beauty of the West, and ensure that our great rivers sustain our communities, the next four years are critical. Yet we have heard so little from the candidates about the issues that are important, and unique, to the West.
Here’s what the candidates should address if they seek to win in the upcoming general election:
Westerners overwhelmingly support protections for our public lands so all Americans can enjoy them. The candidates should act boldly to stop “land seizure” efforts that would undermine access to public lands. Last year, cuts in water supplies to Arizona were nearly triggered by historic low water levels at Lake Mead. We take more water from our rivers than the rivers can provide. The candidates should have plans to ensure that our rivers can support agriculture, cities, recreation and habitat that rely on our rivers. More than ¾ of westerners want more clean energy from the sun and wind. Our region has the potential to become the nation’s center of clean renewable energy, strengthening our economies well into the future. How will the candidates take advantage of the West’s abundant sun and wind to create an electricity system that creates jobs and powers the economy of the future? We have begun to address climate change, but it will take continued leadership to expand these efforts. Each candidate should present their plan to reduce carbon pollution.
Recently, 21 Florida mayors, from both major political parties called on the media and the presidential candidates to address the issues of climate change and sea level rise. Perhaps the West, which has been a leader on clean energy, should follow suit. Leadership from candidates on these crucial issues is necessary. Each of us, as Westerners, should demand that the remaining candidates for our highest office provide it.