Friday, November 09, 2018

Americans Voted Overwhelmingly to Protect Wild Places

On Tuesday, voters affirmed their commitment to public land and conservation in an era of multifaceted attacks on wilderness, wildlife, national monuments, critical habitat, and clean air and water. From Montana to Minnesota, to states as far from the West as Connecticut and Georgia, voters turned out in decisive numbers to support pro-public-land candidates and to oppose the pro-industry favoritism of President Trump and interior secretary Ryan Zinke. Equally noteworthy, several races wound up with Republicans and Democrats toeing the same line of public-lands support—lending credibility to the idea that conservation issues offer a rare space for politicians and voters from both parties to meet in the middle. “You look at the big picture and candidates in swing states realized that pro-public-lands stances are a beneficial place to go,” says Aaron Weiss of the Denver-based nonprofit Center for Western Priorities. “It’s one of the last big issues that really speaks to folks in both parties.”

 The same old saw about conservation being a bipartisan issue. Who wouldn't want their issue to be bipartisan? Just ask for what you want and get it, because both parties parties support it. This claim may have had some validity in the 60s and 70s, but the overreach and harm caused by the bipartisan environmental legislation of that era has generated the current day opposition. In addition, many academics have now come to the conclusion that the current model for environmental protection is ill founded and in many cases does more harm than good. The literature on this is vast with the most prominent being the work of scholars at the Property and Environmental Research Center. Similar scholarship and analysis can be found at the Independent Institute, Reason Foundation, Mises Institute, CEI, CATO, Heritage and many others.

All told, the Center for American Progress reports that public lands and environmental issues played decisive roles in at least 14 races. “My hope was that public lands would become a top-tier issue and not something we only care about after we have a roof on our head and pay for health care,” says Land Tawney, president of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, based in Missoula, Montana. 
I don't understand their claim that public lands issues were so decisive in the Republicans defeat. As it stands right now the R's have lost 31 seats, but the historical average from 1862 on is a loss of 38 seats. They did better than the historical average.

The article does give some guidance of the enviro's legislative priorities:

With an empowered public-lands caucus in the House and an imminent changeover of chairmanships on vital committees like the House Natural Resources Committee, conservationists and environmentalists are hopeful that popular bipartisan legislation, like a bill to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will finally become law...Ranking member Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, will likely chair the committee starting next year. Beyond the LWCF, public-lands advocates are hoping Congress will move forward with pending legislation to fund wildlife protection and habitat enhancement, parks maintenance, and conservation components of the farm bill. Grijalva is pledging to use the committee’s investigate powers to investigate Zinke and other appointees who he calls “ethically challenged.” “They're going to be held accountable, and if they don’t want to participate in that accountability, then we have other legal recourses to make them do that,” Grijalva says. “

What is not mentioned is more parks, national monuments and wilderness areas, but you better believe there will be plenty of them. Will the Trump administration oppose these bills? Will the President use his veto power for those that do pass Congress? We will be watching.

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