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5 Urgent Environmental Issues To Watch For On Your Ballot

Before you cast your vote, check your ballot to ensure you're voting to prioritize planet-friendly policies. Here are a few that might appear on November 3.

Written by
Laura Wittig

With the U.S. election rapidly approaching, everyone's focused on issues that matter the most to them. We're partial to problems that relate to our planet, and judging by the state of things, the Earth needs your help now more than ever – your vote on environmental issues matters.

When we talk about the environment, there's a lot to cover, from green energy to conservation and everything in between. Here are 5 urgent environmental issues that might appear on a ballot near you – it's easy to get acquainted with what's at stake, so let's get into it.

1) Wildlife Conservation

In Colorado, the fate of the threatened grey wolf will appear on ballots on November 3rd. Proposition 114 would require Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create and carry out a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves by the end of 2023. Wolves would be reintroduced on Colorado lands west of the continental divide and their arrival would kickstart ecological repair, according to the non-profit Rocky Mountain Wolf Project.

Why care about animals thriving in your backyard?

In the case of Colorado and Proposition 114, a healthy Canis lupus population has huge impacts on the state's ecosystem. "Gray wolves are the ecological engines of the northern hemisphere." Edward said, "Since the 1940s, when Colorado's last wolf was killed, our ecosystem has suffered, knocked out of balance. Without wolves keeping them alert and moving around, elk and deer strip away vital streamside vegetation, leading to erosion and the disruption of habitat, threatening beavers, songbirds, and even native trout.

Even if you're not in Colorado, be on the lookout for animal and wildlife conservation issues as they come up in the next few elections.

2) Ensuring Funds are Used For Environmental Issues

In Georgia, Amendment 1 is a proposed amendment to the state constitution that focuses on a simple sounding premise: money that is collected for specific purposes should be used for that specific purpose. In the past, Georgia government officials have diverted funds meant for hazardous waste cleanup into other measures, making watchdog groups like the Sierra Club take notice. Likewise, if taxpayers in Colorado approve an increase in sales tax to fund programs aimed at reducing their state's carbon footprint, funds collected should go towards exactly that – reducing Colorado's carbon footprint.

When scanning your ballot for measures ahead of time (yep, you heard us right, you can get a sneak peek!), don't write off tax collection-related issues as boring – where the money goes, shows.

3) Green Energy Initiatives

Residents of Columbus, Ohio will decide in November whether to approve Issue 1, a plan that promises to supply 100% of the city's power needs with renewable energy by 2023. The presidential candidates appearing on every state's ballots have various records surrounding their support or blockage of various green energy initiatives, like the current administration's efforts to slow down development of offshore wind farms.

If your ballot isn't explicitly calling out ways your government is pushing to prioritize more environmentally friendly energy sources, read between the lines. In Pennsylvania, voters are facing a battle against fracking as they decide between candidates who are either pro or against the controversial and environmentally damaging practice of harvesting natural resources from shale.

4) Preserving Public Lands and Habitat Conservation

The 2020 election will have a substantial impact on the preservation of nature across the United States. Popular outdoor brand Patagonia has been making headlines for its' campaign to preserve public lands across the country – the documentary, Public Trust, details the fight to stop corporations and industries from gobbling up nature preserves.

At the local level, initiatives are in the works to set aside lands for parks and public spaces and continue programs that have done so in the past. In Florida, voters in Manatee County will decide if a property tax increase should be approved to purchase lands for public use. In Michigan,

The effects of initiatives that have been successful in the past have already been felt by millions of Americans. Citizens of Santa Clara County, California, are weighing a similar initiative (Measure T), which preserves an existing tax for public land purchase. The existing tax has allowed the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority to nearly double protected space in the county to more than 26,000 acres, with downstream benefits for wildlife, water quality and flood prevention.

Environmentalists, business leaders, and even hunters and fishers (they can be a surprisingly active group when it comes to environmental conservation) are also fighting for approval of a ballot measure in Michigan which will expand the ways the Michigan National Resources Trust Fund can be used.

Patagonia's website details specific regional fights happening around the country and specific action items – go take a look!

5) Ensuring Clean Water Access for All

Every American deserves access to the basics, including clean water, to survive and to thrive. Unfortunately, communities across the country are suffering from water poverty due to governmental policies that prevent critical repairs and infrastructure work from being completed in areas that have been marginalized and overlooked. Initiatives across the country that prioritize “nature-based infrastructure” — green roofs, tree trenches, permeable sidewalks and roads, plus land set aside for water retention are crucial to ensuring clean water is accessible for all.

Chicago voters will elect new board members to its' Metropolitan Water Reclamation District – the Chicago Sun Times has endorsed 3 candidates based on their willingness to ensure Chicago's water supply systems get upgraded to fight off climate-change fueled environmental problems that threaten the clean water supply of the city.

Vote like the Planet Depends On It

Even if you're not in an area previously mentioned, the way you choose to vote on November 3 has a crucial impact on the planet. Specific initiatives and issues will have ramifications on your local environment for years to come, and different candidates for offices have the power to champion or destroy policies that ensure a greener, fairer, and more equitable world for everyone. Do your research and get out and vote!