Updated: Nov 21
Participating as a coalition for the first time, members of Kansans for Conservation conducted a panel during the annual Governor's Water Conference in Manhattan this Wednesday to reflect on the coalition's work and discuss its plans for the future.
In front of a packed auditorium, coalition chair Laura Downey (KACEE), led panel participants Erika Devore (KRPA), Kent Askren (KFB), Ben Postlethwait (TNC), and Jordan Martincich (PF/QF) in a discussion about the state's conservation community. Devore and Postlethwait noted how conservation is impossible as a solo effort and requires partnerships and collaboration between both public and private entities. The unifying nature of conservation was agreed on by all the panelists with Downey commenting that conservation "creates common ground that we can all stand upon." Devore added that Kansans for Conservation provided an unique opportunity for disparate organizations to work together on that shared value. Askren credited the ability of the coalition to organize around conservation as a large part of the success of Senate Substitute for HB 2302 which provided a historic increase to the state water plan fund.
Looking forward, Martincich emphasized that the coalition still has much work to do as Kansas remains one of only fifteen states without dedicated state funding for conservation. He remarked that the federal funding pool is as large as its ever been for conservation, and that every day Kansas delays in establishing sustainable conservation funding is millions lost in potential federal matching funds. Martincich continued that this landmark opportunity to catch Kansas up with neighboring states was a driver behind the launch of the coalition's State Conservation Fund Initiative.
The panelists outlined the initiative for the audience, explaining that it would be a bill introduced in 2024 that would:
Provide funding to working lands, wildlife, parks and recreation, and education at a level identified to maximize federal and private match in critical conservation areas
Utilize existing state revenues and not require any new taxes or fees
Streamline funds from the state directly to on-the-ground conservation
The panel commented that the coalition's draft was based upon polling of Kansans and had demonstrated strong public support they hoped to transfer into success in Topeka.
One of the questions asked by attendees was how to help increase public awareness of this effort and the panel recommended engaging with the coalition's social media (Instagram, Facebook, X/Twitter) and offered template materials for supporters to share with their legislators and encourage them to support conservation as an issue that impacts all Kansans.
Directly following the panel, the coalition held a business meeting that discussed coalition building, upcoming events, and advocacy tips. Along with current and potential coalition members, Senator Carolyn McGinn and Representative Doug Blex were also in attendance and offered words of encouragement and advice.
Attendees interested in becoming more involved were encouraged to use the coalition's website or contact Justin Cobb (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Picture courtesy of Kansas Water Office: from left to right, Laura Downey (Kansas Association of Conservation and Environmental Education), Erika Devore (Kansas Recreation and Parks Association), Kent Askren (Kansas Farm Bureau), Ben Postlethwait (The Nature Conservancy), and Jordan Martincich (Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever)