What can you do without? Clean air? Clean water? The local dairy farm? A forest forever wild?
In times of economic uncertainty, public funding for these things generally ends up on the cutting room floor. The environment cannot compete with bailing out toxic mortgages, and to compound the matter further, private philanthropic dollars contract when the market crashes.
When the federal budget has insufficient funds to combat western wildfires - a situation which has become chronic but which is likely to be even more acute in this economy - all Forest Service funds that have not been officially obligated are liable to rapid reallocation. Conservation Projects funded under the Forest Legacy Program and Highlands Conservation Act are particularly vulnerable to losing funding in this way.
If a core function of politics is the allocation of scarce resources, the squeakiest wheels get the grease. Rural voters need the support of their urban counterparts to ensure that the conservation of the air we all breathe, the water we drink, the natural areas where we recreate, the local farms that provide us with food and the ecology of our wildlands are not left as unfunded mandates. We also have to do our part to put our personal resources and those of our municipalities on the table. There is nothing like a leveraged dollar to bring a smile to a bureaucrat's heart.
There are bargains to be had as land values fall. But without the money to act on them, these properties may end up in a speculator's portfolio.