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Sierra magazine
Act | On Your Convictions

Greening the GOP


David Jenkins, Oakton, Virginia; vice president for government and political affairs, Republicans for Environmental Protection

"My family always preached responsible stewardship. It was a very biblical idea — only hunt what you'll eat, don't waste, those kinds of things. The more you're in nature, the more it reinforces basic conservative values.

"This is a critical time for Republicans for Environmental Protection. We're a national grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to resurrecting the GOP's conservation tradition. Our motto is 'Conservation Is Conservative.' When the party was winning, it was hard for us to be a voice for change. But now they've run up against a wall, and they're sort of soul-searching.

"Last year was the first time we had a booth at the Republican National Convention. And you know, delegates there are the dedicated core. I was expecting to have to defend my position, but I was absolutely stunned. Constantly I heard, 'Oh, I'm so glad you're here. The party needs to do better on the environment.'

"So REP is doing a whole gamut of things: opinion writing, interviews, staying in close contact with legislators. I try to identify environmental issues where Republicans would have success. For instance, we think a climate bill with constructive, thoughtful input from Republicans will be stronger than one Democrats would draft on their own--and when we speak about this with Republicans, we get a fair amount of agreement.

"A related issue that's perfect for Republicans to champion is mountaintop removal, which makes no sense whatsoever. It's blowing the tops off mountains, sending the debris into streams, and burying them. It offends everybody's environmental sensibilities, all because a couple of coal companies don't want to go through the expense of traditional mining. They don't care what mess they leave behind. There's nothing conservative about that. We can contrast with high-profile Democrats from coal states who support the polluters. We could score political points and start reclaiming that stewardship heritage the party's lost in recent years." --interview by Jamie Hansen

GREEN DENIAL Although only 8 of 178 House Republicans (4 percent) voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June, an August Zogby poll found that 45 percent of Republican voters viewed the legislation favorably.

ON THE WEB Learn more about Republicans for Environmental Protection at rep.org.

Photo courtesy Scott Suchman; used with permission

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