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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Staff Thoughts: Conservatives Should Conserve

Posted by Tom Uniack

Washington Wilderness Coalition often works with Republicans for Environmental Protection on wild land preservation. On Monday evening, Jim DiPeso, Policy Director of REP, wrote 10 Environmental Issues Republicans Should Champion on The Daily Green blog Monday. Wilderness is right in there:

Republicans were the original conservationists. The conservation movement that Theodore Roosevelt and other GOP worthies started in the 19th century reached fruition in 1964 with one of the most visionary stewardship laws in history – the Wilderness Act.
Co-author John Saylor, a conservative Republican congressman from western Pennsylvania, fought for wilderness protection because he said it showed reverence for creation and love of country.

In recent years, however, too many Republicans have lost touch with Saylor’s values and denigrated wilderness as an elitist conspiracy.
Republicans should throw away all their angry anti-wilderness rhetoric, rediscover John Saylor’s wisdom, and become wilderness champions again.

Often we forget that wilderness preservation is not a partisan issue. Many, diverse people support the protection of our remaining wild areas. The Washington Wilderness Act, passed 25 years ago, was a bi-partisan effort. The Wild Sky Wilderness, designated last year, received both Democrat and Republican votes to pass both houses of Congress, and was signed by Republican George W. Bush. Republican Representative Dave Reichert (WA-08) has introduced legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness twice now, and got five Democratic co-sponsors. This Congressional session, he worked with Democratic Senator Patty Murray (WA) to draft the legislation together.

Since 1994, a vocal minority of Republicans—arguably a “fringe element”—have led an obstructionist agenda to wilderness (typically only delaying designations, not completely blocking them). There are many Republicans who recognize the value of wilderness preservation. As Jim DiPeso writes: Conservatives ought to conserve.

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