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Support for Kentucky Environmental Groups Grows

Greg Stotelmyer, Public News Service

Kentucky's signature conservation groups are reporting an uptick in membership, fund-raising and volunteerism.

The increased engagement comes as President Donald Trump charts an aggressive path toward environmental deregulation, including pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

The Sierra Club's Cumberland Chapter, which covers Kentucky, has gained around 1,000 members since Trump was elected, pushing its total to more than 6,000.

New member Miranda Clements of Bowling Green says she joined because of the current political climate.

"I'm concerned that maybe some of the regulations would be rolled back and if they were, it might take years and years to get them back into place," Clements states.

Clements says she was looking for an organization active on issues that matter to her, such as protection of public lands and national parks.

People concerned about logging and mining on the Daniel Boone National Forest formed the environmental advocacy Kentucky Heartwood 25 years ago. Director Jim Scheff says the group's latest fund-raising total was double normal and a big reason is what he calls the Trump bump.

"Folks have seen how so many environmental policy laws and regulations are being torn apart, both in the White House and in Congress,” Scheff states. “And, I think that that's turned into people being rightfully alarmed and trying to figure out ways of supporting those issues that they care about."

David Phemister, director of The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky, says the environmental group also had a strong fund-raising year and has seen some membership growth.

However, Phemister doesn't correlate those successes directly to politics. Instead, he says it's a result of the excitement the group's 5,000 supporters in Kentucky have about its conservation projects.

"The Nature Conservancy is a nonpartisan, centrist, pragmatic, solution-oriented organization,” Phemister explains. “We always have been. We work with both sides of the aisle, and that sort of centrist approach is needed now more than ever."

And at the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, executive director Ward Wilson says his organization has seen an increase in volunteerism – for example, helping clean up creeks.

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