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The conservation conversation after Bears Ears

Initiatives designed to attract investment to conservation got a boost at the end of the year.

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December 2017 was a month of ups and downs for environmental issues in finance. The up was ExxonMobil agreeing to regularly disclose analyses of the impacts of its business on climate change and the policies meant to fight them. That was thanks to pressure from shareholders. 

But conservation took a blow when US president Donald Trump announced the reduction in the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah by two million acres, potentially opening the land up to oil and gas extraction, logging and other commercial activities. It is the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history and it may not be the last under this administration.

As US comic Mark Maron joked recently, we seem to have entered a new era – conversations like the following no longer seem absurd or fanciful: “‘Did you hear they’ve turned the Grand Canyon into a landfill site?’ ‘Really?’ ‘Well…yeah, I guess that seems pretty normal.’ ‘And, apparently we can hunt at zoos now.’ ‘Well, I guess that makes sense.’”

Conservation has not been particularly high on the radar of responsible investing, chiefly because it has tended to be left to local governments, non-profits and philanthropists. 

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