A Sensible Center For The Environment

To a hunter sighting mallards in the gray Virginia morning or to an angler fly-fishing in the pristine streams of Montana or Oregon, the congressional sneak attack on the environment is nothing short of a catastrophe. By attaching riders to agency appropriation bills that choke laws governing clean air, clean water, and the protection of public lands, extremists hope to use the budget process to ram through new rules that could never survive public debate. A Republican Party tradition, begun under Teddy Roosevelt, of protecting the land is being trashed. It is shameful.

For those in Congress who see the environmentalists as a liberal cabal, we refer them to Ducks Unlimited and other conservative hunting and fishing organizations. It is Field & Stream, not The Nation, leading the opposition. And it is GOP moderates, along with Democrats, who blocked anti-environmental legislation, leading GOP extremists to attach their riders. These would ban implementing water-quality standards for the Great Lakes, curb wetlands protection, and increase logging in the West. One provision opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling (with 90% of the revenues going to Alaskans who pay no sales or income taxes). Another provides for the sale of national forest land for ski resorts.

There is still time for Republicans to reclaim their environmental heritage. Polls show overwhelming support for a clean environment. Mainstream private organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, work with local governments in protecting the land for everyone's use. Others, such as Ecotrust, combine grassroots capitalism with watershed protection. There is a sensible center for environmental protection. Congress must find it again.

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