Hook and Bullet Conservation
Americans throughout our history, overwhelmingly and without party distinction, support conservation. We like state parks and national parks, even if we don’t visit them and nature is mostly abstract. We are not a nation of environmentalists, because environmentalist is dirty, dirty word these days. But we are nation that understands that conservation, of land and wildlife, is an overall benefit, especially as urban and suburban America grows. For some though, preserving wild lands and wildlife is not abstract. The ZF family, for example, loves getting into wilderness.
So do outdoor sportsmen. Those men and women who get up at 3am to hit the lake or the forest, to hunt and fish and spend long days outside, have done as much to protect our wetlands, wildlife, and landscape as anyone (except for, you know, the Nature Conservancy, I suppose). The hook and bullet bloc are a strong voice, politically, and they are generally, historically conservative. But they are not pushovers. And if standing on one principle (spending cuts) gets in the way of a stronger principle (conservation), watch out.
This morning, Politico wonders if the GOP has “poisoned the well” with their interior and environment spending bill for 2012.
“Under the legislation, the Interior Department’s overall budget would fall $720 million from fiscal 2011. A popular land and water conservation fund would see a more than 80 percent cut to $62 million, while funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act would get a 47 percent reduction to $20 million. State Wildlife Grants would also be cut 64 percent to $22 million.
Wildlife-themed riders are also sprinkled throughout the bill, including language that allows chemical companies and large agriculture operators to skirt pesticide permit requirements and enforcement of certain mountaintop mining rules. Conservation groups are complaining the language will dirty rivers and streams they use for recreation.
Other riders include a prohibition on judicial review of Interior’s decision to delist wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species Act, as well as a zeroing out of funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service to list new species and designate critical habitat under the law…
While they may understand the budget crunch, hunters and anglers are not done making their case to get their funding restored and the riders removed.”
This may not have a chance of being in the final budget. But it’s hard to say these days what will and will not receive funding. It seems as though everything is up in the air.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Id), chairman of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee wants people to face reality: “There’s an awful lot of Republicans who are concerned about conservation and that I’d call Roosevelt Republicans, myself included, to some degree… But when you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money,” Simpson added. “I’d like to drive a Porsche. Guess what? My wife says I can’t afford it.”
So of course, like all political discussions today, it comes back to money and what are our priorities. It’s a bit insulting to compare the entirety of American Nature and the interest of millions of Americans to wanting Porsche, but Rep. Simpson demonstrates the difficulty. Tough choices are tough, and cutting spending on what publicly could be seen as overreaching environmentalists may seem a good party move to some Republicans. But the cut-spending-at-any-cost folks in the government should be careful of stretching their mandate too far. Or they will find strong traditional support looking around for someone who will protect the lakes and rivers and woods that provide so much to so many Americans.
*NOTE* I must make mention of the common conflicts between wilderness preservation and recreational conservation efforts by sportsmen. I have been involved in these debates, usually not in the pro-outdoor sports side (you should not be able to drive your ATV anywhere anytime, sorry) but I think the important overlap of the interests far outweighs these disagreements.