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Conservation Groups Find Ways to Work with Trump Administration

Resource Institute is one nonprofit managing to push forward with conservation work under the Trump administration. The organization emphasizes job creation as a means to garner support. (Resource Institute)
Resource Institute is one nonprofit managing to push forward with conservation work under the Trump administration. The organization emphasizes job creation as a means to garner support. (Resource Institute)
December 21, 2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – With funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and auctions of public lands, the situation seems dire for some of those invested in protecting the country's natural resources.

But some organizations are finding ways to work in the current political climate.

Resource Institute is a nonprofit organization that pairs available federal funds with water conservation projects around the country, with several projects here in North Carolina.

Board chair Squeak Smith says the institute’s work is continuing with current projects in western North Carolina.

"I don't think it's the end of the world,” he states. “We still have avenues to be able to work with existing programs.
Funding that we have received goes on for the next several years, so it's not like, 'Boom, we're stopping everything.'"

Past projects by Resource Institute include parts of Dotson Branch, Stone Mountain State Park, Fisher River and Ring Creek.

The organization also helps public and private entities with the design of projects and permit applications. Resource Institute recently completed the Granite Greenway project in Mount Airy, the fifth phase of this project.

Richard Mode, a Resource Institute board member, says not all funding streams have dried up.

"There are still funding streams out there, at both the federal and state level,” he points out. “Resource Institute uses those to leverage projects with other partners' funding."

Smith says sometimes finding success is about speaking the language of what's important to the administration and agencies.

"Here's what I found with the existing administration: If you can show that you're creating jobs, you're doing good for the environment, those are issues that – I don't care what party you belong to – you can support," he states.

Even with the progress made by some groups, changes to how the country approaches conservation continue.

The U.S. Department of Interior has proposed the largest ever oil and gas lease auction of federal waters.

The EPA is considering a proposal to scrap the Clean Power Plan and the Trump administration scrapped a study of health risks to residents who live near mountaintop removal coal sites in the Appalachian Mountains.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC