Quantcast

Why Has the Republican Party Abandoned Conservation as a Core Value?

Insights + Opinion

Michael Brune

The Siskiyou National Forests is one of the 150 national forests created by Republican overachiever Theodore Roosevelt.

If you've seen Lincoln, then you know that a) Daniel Day-Lewis is an Oscar frontrunner and b) Republicans are capable of doing great things. In the film, of course (spoiler alert), they pass the 13th Amendment and end slavery. And just a few years later, the character played by David Strathairn (Secretary of State William Seward), saved the entire state of Alaska (from Russia) by picking it up for 2 cents an acre. Another famous Republican in the film, Ulysses S. Grant, later signed the act that created our first U.S. national park (Yellowstone).

In the 20th century, of course, Republican overachiever Theodore Roosevelt designated five national parks, eight national monuments and 150 national forests (when he wasn't camping-out with the founder of the Sierra Club). Even just 48 years ago, enough conservation-minded Republicans were left in the House to pass the Wilderness Act almost unanimously (in the Senate, it squeaked by 73-12).

How times have changed. The current Congress has demonstrated unrivaled proficiency at accomplishing nothing—and it has "un-succeeded" most spectacularly when it comes to protecting public lands. If things don't change, this could be the first time since 1966 that Congress has adjourned without protecting a single acre of wilderness.

The problem isn't that none of today's Republicans care about wilderness. Many do. Unfortunately, the radical fringe leadership of their party flat-out refuses to support wilderness legislation—even bills sponsored by fellow Republicans—unless their purpose is to open up wilderness to mining and drilling.

Here are five examples of Republican-sponsored wilderness bills that are getting more love from the Sierra Club than from fellow congressional Republicans:

  • HR 608 Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act. With its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan region, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area is one of the most popular wilderness areas in the country. This legislation would add more than 22,000 acres to the existing area and protect areas beloved by many and vital habitat for trout.
  • HR 977 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act. Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, this is a popular spot for hunters, anglers and boaters. This legislation would protect more than 32,000 acres or nearly half of the entire unit.
  • HR 41 Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia Wilderness Act. Would protect more than 21,000 acres as wilderness north of San Diego County. The area is full of deep canyons, rugged rock formations and popular with hunters, hikers and backpackers.
  • HR 163 Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. Would protect as wilderness part of the largest unprotected roadless areas in the lower 48—330,000 acres.
  • S 1090 Tennessee Wilderness Act. Would protect nearly 20,000 acres of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and would be the first wilderness designated in the state in 25 years.

That's just a sampling of the dozens of bipartisan wilderness bills authored by both Republicans and Democrats that are pending before this Congress. Most of them have strong local support because people know that protecting these lands will help build local economies, protect valuable open space and preserve wonderful recreation opportunities for future generations.

Republican obstructionism isn't good for the planet and, after the last election, it’s clear it isn't even good for the Republican party. Here's a chance to reclaim what once was a popular core value of the Republican Party—conservation—and, at the same time, actually accomplish something.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less