Last fall, Congressman Charles
Taylor (R-N.C.), angered by the Sierra Club’s opposition to a proposed
highway that would slice through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (see "Dollars,
Not Dozers," sierraclub.org/planet/200308), accused the Club of being
little more than a thinly-disguised arm of the Democratic Party.
Try telling that to Hank Graddy, a Kentuckian and the Club’s national
chair for water quality protection; Steve Baru, a Kansan who is a regional
committee chair; or Sam Booher, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and former
Georgia Chapter chair. All are Republicans who are working to get their
party back to its conservation roots.
The Sierra Club’s allegiance is to the environment, not to any political
party. The Club opposes the current Republican leadership, but not because they
are Republicans; it’s because they have strayed so far from a time-honored
tradition of bipartisan support for the environment.
It was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, who first promoted conservation from
the oval office. Richard Nixon was a strong defender of the environment, and
the administrations of Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush did not significantly
undermine the environmental progress of the last several decades. The current
Bush administration, by contrast, is pursuing a reckless course that would likely
make T.R. roll over in his grave.
Lifelong Republican Russell Train, EPA head under Nixon and Ford, says, "Bush’s
approach isn’t conservatism; it’s radicalism." Theodore Roosevelt
IV, great-grandson of the 26th president and a member of the Wilderness Society’s
Governing Council, states bluntly that "my party will have to become
more environmentally sensitive. Over the long term, the party will not
be able to
continue in a direction that results in bad public policy and stupid politics."
Professor John Bleise, a Republican and a Sierra Club member, argues in
his book, The Greening of Conservative America, that there is a huge discrepancy
the anti-environmental agenda of many Republican politicians and the opinions
of Republican voters. Bleise accuses the current Republican leadership
unprecedented attack on virtually every environmental law on the books," adding, "this
was clearly not what they were elected to do."
Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP America), a national grassroots
organization, is fighting to reverse this disconnect. The group’s recently
compiled "environmental report card" gave the Bush administration D’s
and F’s in every category but farm policy. "The Republican Party," REP
America says on its Web site, "has lost its conservation voice, to the party’s
and the nation’s detriment."
Greg Petrich, a hunter, a Republican, and an avid outdoorsman, recently
organized a petition drive to the U.S. Forest Service, protesting the Bush
exemption of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from the roadless area protection
rule. The petition was signed by 470 gun clubs from across the country. "I
can’t believe Bush is doing this," Petrich told USA Today in January. "The
right thing is so obvious it’s a no-brainer....President Bush and members
of Congress stand to lose something if they don’t reverse their misguided
On its Web site, REP America says "the Bush administration has no apparent
vision for public lands beyond resource extraction. The administration’s
failures are an affront to all patriotic Americans who take pride in our country’s
wild heritage. They do a disservice to future generations."
No Democrat could put it better.
— Tom Valtin
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