Conservation is a deeply held value of mine. My responses to Montana Conservation Voters' 2019 candidate questionnaire presenting my conservation credentials and policies are presented below.
Why would you like the endorsement of Montana Conservation Voters and how would you plan to use it?
It’s important for Bozeman’s conservation-minded voters to know that my values are aligned with their own. If elected, I’ll be a champion for conservation through the Bozeman City Commission.
What conservation work and/or projects have you been involved in and what was the nature of your involvement?
My conservation values are substantiated by more than a decade of conservation work and service, beginning in 2008 when I served as a member of the Montana Conservation Corps, working across Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, and Wyoming, building trails and controlling invasive weeds. I have personally built or maintained dozens of miles of trail within a 300 mile radius of Bozeman.
In the years since, I’ve continued to volunteer my time with conservation organizations in every community where I’ve lived, whether through doing trail maintenance with local trails organizations, cleaning up Hyalite Canyon between winter and summer use, or volunteering my skills as a photographer with GVLT.
In addition to my conservation “sweat equity,” I’ve also leveraged my professional skills for conservation causes. I am the author of the National Oil and Gas Drilling dataset on www.earthtime.org that chronicles the 150-year boom-and-bust history of oil and gas extraction in the United States and the associated environmental impact. At the end of Ryan Zinke’s review of America’s national monuments, I collaborated with Western Priorities to obtain the 2.8m public comments submitted to regulations.gov showing overwhelming support for maintaining all of America’s national monuments intact. With GVLT, I am currently helping develop a trail counting program.
In addition to volunteering my time, I also financially support conservation organizations, including (in the last two years) the Montana Conservation Corps, GVLT, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, American Rivers, and Outdoor Alliance.
All of these actions demonstrate a deep and abiding commitment to conservation. In March 2018, I was named GVLT’s Volunteer of the Month. I now serve as a member of GVLT’s NextGen Advisory Board, where I am helping plan and organize events advance the local conservation conversation among Bozeman’s younger professionals.
What are the top three most pressing conservation challenges facing your community? Specifically, how do you plan to address these challenges?
The three biggest conservation challenges in the Bozeman area are loss of open space to development pressure, loss of wetlands, and water quality.
Loss of Open Space. Extensive low-density development outside of Bozeman city limits is rapidly converting working agricultural lands to low-density subdivisions, disrupting wildlife migration corridors, undermining regional water conservation and management efforts (through the county’s “exempt well” policy), and generating significant regional transportation demand. While this development is occurring outside of the jurisdiction of the city, there are several actions I propose to draw more would-be county dwellers into city limits. The more that regional demand for housing can be met within city limits at city densities (8+ units per acre) rather than in the county (1 unit per acre, on average), the better.
First, I plan to ensure that Bozeman is a preferred place of doing business for homebuilders. Second, I propose to expand Bozeman’s planning area and enhance coordination with Gallatin County to define a regional land use plan. County rules of procedure require subdivision requests to be compatible with municipal growth plans; expanding Bozeman’s planning area (without expanding city limits) expands our sphere of influence in the areas with greatest development pressure. Gallatin County Commissioner MacFarlane had identified enhanced planning efforts as his top priority for the county; as a City Commissioner, I would support this aim.
Loss of wetlands. Bozeman is situated on an alluvial plain that was once rich in wetlands. Historic development has channelized existing streams and drained wetlands, to the detriment of local water quality and wildlife. The Clean Water Act now requires “compensatory mitigation” when new wetlands are impacted by development. In Bozeman this often means wetlands are paved over here and “mitigation” projects are done someplace far away. This amounts to “shipping wetlands out” of Bozeman and Gallatin County. If elected, I would support Commissioner Terry Cunningham in introducing changes that would require wetlands impacted within city limits to be mitigated within the East Gallatin Watershed.
Water Quality. Bozeman’s gutters discharge directly into our streams and rivers. Low-Impact Development design practices that keep stormwater on-site (such as permeable pavers or small, distributed retention areas) prevent sediment and pollutant laden water from entering our streams and waterways. Bozeman can—and should—use its statutory rule-making authority and stormwater fees to incentivize developers to build in a way that that reduces stormwater runoff into our streams and rivers.
Communities across Montana have adopted climate action plans to evaluate their contribution to climate change, and to find local solutions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Some plans set goals to become “carbon neutral.” Do you support developing a climate action plan? a. What other mitigation and adaptation measures can your community take to combat climate change? b. Are you familiar with the Montana Climate Assessment? How does it relate to your community?
The City of Bozeman is guided by its Community Climate Action Plan (adopted in 2011) and the Bozeman Climate Partners Working Group (established in 2012). In 2017, Bozeman officially declared support of the Paris Climate Accord. I support Bozeman’s Climate Action Plan.
Bozeman has recently hired a consultant to help update our Climate Action Plan and is forming a working group. I intend to be involved in that process. As a City Commissioner, I would push for substantial and measurable goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2012, Bozeman’s major sources of emissions (buildings, aviation, landfilled waste) have declined on a per-capita basis with one exception: transportation. Transportation related emissions in Bozeman have increased 26% since 2012 (a 7% increase in transportation energy per capita). Reversing this trend is going to require shifting our regional transportation systems in favor of more walking, biking, and transit use.
Improving Bozeman’s transportation system is the most direct and immediate way to make progress toward our climate goals. Fortunately, Bozeman is well positioned to do so. Transportation use follows transportation investment. Bozeman spends an average of $18m per year on transportation and transportation infrastructure. Of this, the city’s contribution to transit is only $150,000 per year, and its dedicated pool of funding for bicycle infrastructure is only $50,000. Adopting a 2¢ county gas tax would generate an estimated $1m in additional transportation funding for Bozeman each year, which would afford a dramatic increase in funding for transit service and biking infrastructure. Currently, about 15% of trips in Bozeman are made by modes other than driving along. I believe we can increase this to 25% by 2030.
Transportation aside, most of Bozeman’s gains in per-capital emissions reductions are attributable to NorthWestern Energy shifting its energy portfolio to sources that are less carbon intensive. Ultimately, to make broader progress on greenhouse gas emissions, more of Bozeman’s energy needs to come from renewable sources.
Missoula has recently adopted a goal of moving 100% of the city’s energy to renewable sources by 2030. I believe that Bozeman, in coalition with Missoula and other cities committed to similar goals can and should pressure NorthWestern Eergy on a collective basis to rapidly shift its generation portfolio in favor of renewable energy sources.
More immediately, The Bozeman Solar Project is a proof-of-concept 385 KW solar installation created as a collaborative venture between the City of Bozeman and NorthWestern Energy. I’d like to see this project expanded into a “Community Solar” project (like a community garden) allowing individuals to buy panels or shares in a solar array located on otherwise undevelopable city property (e.g. the former city dump). This provides the advantages of individual solar at a lower cost and without requiring a house with a roof having significant southern sun exposure.
The importance of taking action now is demonstrated and clear and dire terms by the Montana Climate Assessment, which forecasts a 6 – 10°F increase in annual average daily maximum temperatures in Gallatin County by the end of the century, as well as more severe flooding, more frequent and intense drought, declining snowpacks, and more extensive, frequent and intense wildfires.
As a City Commissioner I would work to reduce transportation emissions and energy generation emissions in support of Bozeman achieving our Communicate Climate Action Plan goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 2008 levels by 2025.
What is your approach to maintaining and improving conservation-forward city infrastructure, i.e. green spaces, parks, urban forestland, and bike and pedestrian trails?
Bozeman is blessed with an abundance of great parks, green space, and trails. As a City Commissioner, I would support the establishment in Bozeman of a Parks Maintenance District to address the city’s $6m parks maintenance backlog. By virtue of being actively involved with GVLT (the region’s top trail-builder), I can help facilitate active collaboration between the City, GVLT, and the County for defining a region-wide visionary trail network plan, especially by participant in the city’s next iteration of its Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails plan.
Finally, I have put forward specific proposals for improving Bozeman’s bicycle route connectivity. My strategy for the west side of Bozeman is to improve the connectivity of existing trail segments, and for the east side of town to create a core network of bicycle routes that are safe and comfortable for cyclists of all ages and abilities, such as the Black Avenue Bicycle Boulevard that I’ve described here: http://www.bzn.bike/basic-bike-network/
Our communities are growing rapidly, and Montana annually draws over 12 million visitors to our wildlands. This is putting increased pressure on our public lands and natural resources. Our state parks alone are facing a $22 million maintenance backlog. What would you propose to help secure additional funding for Montana’s outdoor heritage?
At a municipal level, I supported Bozeman’s recent successful Open Space mill levy campaign. I also would support the establishment in Bozeman of a Parks Maintenance District to address the city’s $6m parks maintenance backlog.
Most of the funding mechanisms available to provide statewide funding Montana’s outdoor heritage are outside of a city commissioner’s purview. For example, this spring the Montana Legislature passed a bill (SB 24) passed increasing the vehicle registration opt-out funding for state parks from $6 to $9. To the extent that I could use my position as commissioner to advocate for these types of funding sources, I would do so.
7. How do you feel about local restrictions on resources, consumer items and actions that take a toll on the environment (such as lawn-watering limitations or fees on single-use plastic items)?
I believe in using incentives, where possible, to promote conservation behaviors and reduce waste. For example, rather than establishing city rules limiting when or how much a lawn can be watered, I believe it is better to have a strong progressive water use fee structure, such that homeowners will see the impact of lawn watering show up on their utility bill. The City of Bozeman has recently updated its rates in this manner. In a similar vein, I believe that parking in Bozeman’s downtown core should be priced at market rates (rather than given away for free during peak demand), to the extent that free parking creates implicit subsides for car-based trips over other modes of transportation.
That said, I do support regulation when market incentives are unavailable to yield the desired change in behaviors. For example, I like the ban on disposable plastic foodware recently enacted in Berkeley, California. Under Berkeley’s new ordinance, dine-in restaurants are required to use reusable dishes and silverware, and take-out food containers are required to be compostable. The ordinance aims both to reduce the quantity of single-use plastics ending up in the trash, and to reduce trash and litter overall. I’d like to see Bozeman take similar steps.
8. Do you support collaborative approaches to land management, like the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement?
Progress is most often achieved through compromise. Many of the “wins” for conservation in southwestern Montana (e.g. the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, Bozeman’s Open Space Mill Levy, etc.) have been achieved only through a collaborative process with diverse stakeholders. For example, Bozeman’s recent successful Open Space mill levy campaign succeeded in coalition with both conservation advocates and the region’s farmers and ranchers.
I believe in and support the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement. I am the only City Commission candidate to have endorsed the agreement. This sort of collaboration and compromise represents believe the best chance we have to continue advancing conservation at a regional level, through collaboration between recreational users, hunters and anglers, outdoor industry businesses, and conservation groups. While I may individually desire stronger wilderness protection than the Forest Partnership agreement puts forward, I have ultimately chosen to put my support behind the Forest Partnership (you’ll find my name on the list of supporters) because I believe in the process that produced the agreement.
I believe in finding common-ground solutions. This is the essence of the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement, and the sort of policy making I would champion if elected.
The importance of conservation and the natural work is reflected by my presence out in the natural world every day. A quick glance at my social media presence (e.g. http://instagram.com/markegge) attests to the extent to which I love and appreciate wild places.
It’s easy to talk a good game about conservation (especially in Bozeman, where conservation is such a widely held value). When evaluating my credentials as a potential conservation candidate I’d encourage you to look where I’ve invested my time and energy over the last decade—and let that speak for itself.