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From the Editor

Green Elephants

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 conservation 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 between the anti-environmental agenda of many Republican politicians and the opinions of Republican voters. Bleise accuses the current Republican leadership of launching "an 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 administration’s 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 actions."

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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