Teddy would be proud of these 'conservatives'
Extremists, whether self-anointed "environmentalists" or self-righteous property-rights advocates, distort arguments and gloss over facts. They trot out snazzily worded but superficial solutions, simple and portable enough to recount at the office water cooler or in public-policy discussions at the highest levels.
The truth and the most plausible solutions to the battles - not to mention the purest intentions in many cases - often lie somewhere in the middle.
Which is why I should not have been surprised recently to find several dozen of my favorite kind of people - moderates regardless of stripe or ideology - spending the better part of a day learning about conservation efforts that seek to avoid regulatory skirmishes and courtroom battles. Meet the Mainstream Republicans, a group itself born of a desire for moderation when the extreme right had seized control of the state party a few years back.
I was at the Chelan convention participating on a panel of journalists talking politics, but I hung around afterward for something far more interesting - a celebration of on-the-ground solutions rather than benign acceptance of political game-playing and lawsuits as the means to conservation.
"We're calling it Green GOP," said organizer Louise Miller, former King County Council member and legislator.
I guess. Two presenters invoked the name of Teddy Roosevelt. Ninety-five years ago last month, the famous Republican president and noted conservationist urged assembled members of Congress, the nation's governors and Supreme Court justices to consider careful stewardship of the nation's resources.
In the White House speech, Roosevelt warned, "The natural resources of our country are in danger of exhaustion if we permit the old wasteful methods of exploiting them."
That is a concern that weighs heavily on Christopher T. Bayley, chair of Stewardship Partners, with respectable and respective pedigrees in Republicanism, public service and environmentalism.
But he and other noted Republicans are trying to find ways to replace the old wasteful methods of saving natural resources - oppressive regulation and costly litigation.
"It's time to take back the bully pulpit of conservation that Teddy Roosevelt used so well," Bayley told the crowd.
Noted King County Councilman Rob McKenna: "The base of the word conservative is 'conserve.' " He's a "Big Tent" Republican invited to speak about the Evergreen Forest Trust.
Richard Nixon's name came up, too. Remember, he formed the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Endangered Species Act into law. And don't forget former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Dan Evans, the Republican statesman who championed state environmental laws.
Stewardship Partners might as well advertise as a bridge-builder, considering the success it has had finding ways to encourage conservation through incentives rather than regulation or litigation.
The group's latest project is its largest: The Nisqually Glacier to Sound Stewardship Corridor brings together the Nisqually Tribe, foundations, the federal government and landowners, among others, to connect a national park to a national wildlife refuge.
The Stewardship Corridor, says the Web site, "will serve as a model for how landowners and communities can link 'islands of protected habitat' and can conserve watersheds through community developed, voluntary initiatives, rather than through regulation and 'locking up' the land." (Check it out: www.stewardshippartners.org/)
A board member of the Evergreen Forest Trust, McKenna is proud of the organization's innovative efforts to use the productive value of forestland to help the forest essentially conserve itself. Federal legislation is pending to help the group gain authority to enter private capital markets by issuing tax-exempt bonds to raise money for conservation. The trust buys the forestland, conserves part of it and manages the rest to pay off the bonds, using best industry practices that exceed state and federal environmental regulations.
"We have a phenomenal partnership of diverse interests that at one time were really divergent interests," McKenna said. According to the trust's mission statement, it "was created to meet the public's desire to permanently protect forests from development and sprawl while maintaining the economic benefits of forestry."(www.evergreenforesttrust.org)
How refreshing. Find solutions without increasing the need for punitive regulations or costly litigation. And these efforts are hinged, in part, on loyal members of a party that, often unfairly, takes hits for not being on the side of the environment.
Roosevelt would be proud.
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