Flying Fish

Will Good Intentions Balance An Uncertain Economy?
by Nicole Carlozo -- April 1st, 2013

I had planned on blogging from the NOAA Coastal GeoTools conference this week. The conference promised to be informative, timely, and a fantastic networking opportunity. But alas, the financial crisis has finally caught up with me. Less than a week before my departure date, the following message appeared in my inbox, followed shortly thereafter by a notice on the conference website:

“I regret to inform you that the recent sequestration of U.S. Government funds and other near-term budget uncertainties have made it necessary for NOAA to cancel the Coastal GeoTools 2013 Conference to be held inMyrtle Beach,SC, March 25-28…”

Needless to say, we were all shocked. I had just been asked to moderate a session and was in the process of planning meetings with other attendees. This would have been my first conference as a NOAA Fellow.

As I tried to set aside my disappointment, I couldn’t help thinking about how these types of decisions might impact conservation, restoration, and environmental health – especially with recent questioning of the environmental movement’s success. With an “environmentally friendly” president (and in MD, an environmentally conscious governor), it’s clear that many politicians have good intentions. But will intentions be enough in the current economic climate?

Financial arguments reign and tough budgetary decisions must be made. This week a group of scientists and environmental managers missed out on a professional development and collaboration opportunity. It seems like a very small impact in the long run, but even so, it’s important to take note. What if this is a start to a long lasting pattern?

But perhaps all hope isn’t lost. Even as well-attended conferences like GeoTools are cancelled and sequestration impacts countless federal employees, President Obama established 5 new national monuments this week. It seems strange it me that we’re taking on more responsibilities even as we’re eliminating opportunities to improve management. Will federally-driven protection and conservation be enough if management lags behind? If these trends continue, it may fall to organizations at the state and local level to pick up the slack.

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