If the recent election is any indication, Americans have not given up on conservation. They have just discovered an alternative to the federal government.
Conservation and environmental policy is immobilized in Washington. Congress has not reauthorized any environmental laws in a decade, which may not be all bad. At any given moment, two or three of President Bush’s nominees for EPA positions are held up in the Senate confirmation process for…whatever.
To the extent that environmental issues and natural resources are federalized, they become terminally polarized, immersed in litigation or Byzantine regulatory processes. Legislative or regulatory proposals emanating from the right and left are either blocked or punted to the courts. Issues relating to wetlands, endangered species, forest management, drilling in the Arctic, or air quality are piled on by environmental advocates and business lobbyists alike.
The recent American Environmental Values Survey (October 3rd) revealed that Americans, while valuing the outdoors, have concerns that are “divergent and polarized.” The Survey noted a fading interest in environmental issues.
Moreover, only 44 percent of respondents were willing to label themselves “environmentalists,” and just 48 percent found environmentalists to be “practical.” Forty-four percent thought environmental advocates to be “self-righteous.” And these were results of a poll sponsored by the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations!
Blessedly, we live in a federal system with vibrant state and local governments, close to the citizenry. While not free of the inevitable political friction, which is inherent in any human institution, the proximity of neighbor to neighbor, the local sense of place, as well as the American can-do spirit allow for freedom of action grounded in community consensus, something that seems to elude Washington, D.C.
THE LAST ELECTION IS a case in point. While Red and Blue states continue to sort out voters by party, there seems to be little difference among them when it comes to land conservation.
According to the Trust for Public Lands, a national conservation organization, of 130 conservation funding measures on the ballot, nationwide, 104 passed authorizing $6.4 billion in new funds for conservation. This was a success rate of 80 percent.
“The election broke two conservation funding records,” claims the Trust for Public Lands. “The new funding was the most ever raised for conservation in a November election, and it made 2006 the nation’s most lucrative year ever for state and local conservation finance.”
Citizens of Red and Blue states and localities all voted for conservation with their ballots and their pocket books. Salt Lake County, Utah, saw voters endorse a $48 million bond issue by 71 percent. In Quincy, Massachusetts, a Community Preservation Act, which included a property tax hike, won 57 percent voter approval.
In the state of Texas, six city and county spending measures, totaling $685 million for parks and conservation, won passing with more than 61 percent of the vote. Ravalli County, Montana, approved a $10 million bond, 58-42 percent.
Nassau County, New York, approved a $100 million bond with 77 percent support; and Beaufort County, South Carolina, renewed its funding for land conservation with a $50 million measure that received 75 percent of the vote.
The voters of Cobb County, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, carried to victory a $40 million bond for land conservation with 72 percent support. In Florida voters approved three out of four county-level financing propositions providing $260 million for open space.
With this election every county in Hawaii now has a dedicated fund for land protection. Seven more cities and towns in Massachusetts voted in funding for parks and land conservation, which now means that one-third of local governments in that Commonwealth have supported funding for open space since 2001.
THERE IS A LONG HISTORY of locally based land and watershed protection often for very practical reasons. In 1896 Seattle developed a long-term plan to gain ownership of the entire Cedar River Watershed and thereby permanently protect that city’s major drinking water sources. Today, Seattle owns 100,000 acres in the watershed and is working to restore old logging roads to reduce sediment running off into the water supply.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?