Keeping Land Protection Bi-partisan

After multiple efforts in Congress–Republican and Democrat–to protect the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles have been stymied by a few public land opponents  in the House Natural Resources Committee, the President used his authority under the Antiquities Act last month to grant the area extra protection as a national monument.

It was the right move. The San Gabriel Mountains are an essential asset, providing LA County with most of its remaining open space for recreation and supplying a third of its drinking water. Still, there are those who–looking through partisan shaded lenses–were quick to criticize the designation.

In an op-ed appearing in the Riverside/San Bernardino Press Enterprise, Bridgett Luther reminds everyone that protecting the San Gabriels has always been a bi-partisan endeavor and that Antiquities Act authority is a Republican tool. Luther served as Director of the California Department of Conservation in the Schwarzenegger Administration, is president of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and a former staff member of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship.

Click the link below to check it out:

BRIDGETT LUTHER: Protecting San Gabriel Mountains is a bipartisan cause

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New IPCC Climate Report Paints Urgent Picture

The world’s climate scientists have spoken and it would be prudent for our elected leaders to listen–especially those whose standard response to media and voter questions about climate change has been “I am not a scientist.” You don’t have to be a scientist to understand what is happening to our climate and recognize the need for action.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its Fifth Assessment Report. This is its first full IPCC report since 2007 and represents the culmination of five years of work by 2000 scientists combing through 30,000 studies.

The Report concludes with a 95 percent certainty that man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are responsible for most, if not all, global warming since the 1950s and that those emissions have pushed atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to levels “unprecedented” in the past 800,000 years.

It also concludes that the adverse impacts of this climate change are being felt now, and include massive forest die-offs, more frequent and severe heat waves, melting of land ice, changes in precipitation patterns and acidification of the oceans.

The report calls for urgent action to reduce global GHG emissions and says failure to do so will inevitably lead to a drastically altered climate, along with mass extinction of plants and animals, extreme precipitation events, flooding of major cities, island nations lost to sea level rise, extreme heat, and drought–all leading to food shortages, displaced populations and tremendous economic loss.

Decision makers have a moral responsibility to take these dire warnings seriously and work constructively towards solutions.

In 1988 President Reagan, when faced with warnings from climate scientists about a dangerous erosion of earth’s protective ozone layer from the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), he responded by pushing through an international treaty to phase-out of CFCs.

We deserve that same kind prudent leadership from our leaders today.

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Wilderness Act Turns 50

Fifty years ago–September 3rd, 1964–the Wilderness Act was signed into law. This might not have happened if it was not for a staunchly conservative Congressman from Pennsylvania named John Saylor. Saylor, whose nickname was “Mr. Conservation,” was perhaps the most pivotal champion of the legislation in the House and deserves much credit for its bi-partisan appeal and almost unanimous passage.

In the decades since, the Wilderness Act has been used to protect over  100 million acres of our nation’s remaining wild lands.  This great accomplishment should be celebrated by all Americans, especially those who care about the future of conservatism.

It was the vast American wilderness that greeted our forefathers which helped to forge our American identity and promote the traditional conservative values  that we hold dear, such as personal responsibility, hard work, humility and faith. Today wilderness still reinforces those values for anyone who wants to explore them.

For that we owe a debt of gratitude to all who helped make the Wilderness Act a reality, and to those who have since used it to protect these spectacular landscapes–which includes John Saylor and the president responsible for signing more wilderness bills into law than any other…Ronald Reagan.

To read more about why conservatives should care about protecting wilderness, check out our Huffington Post piece Why Conservatism Needs Wilderness.

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CRS Launches Senior Fellows Program

Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship is pleased to announce the launch of its Senior Fellows Program. This program offers stewardship-minded conservatives with a strong track record of success, expertise in their field and a  thoughtful perspective on public policy, an opportunity to apply their knowledge and wisdom to priority issues of concern to the organization. The program provides CRS Fellows a platform to contribute prudent and genuinely conservative ideas in the effort to solve today’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

Our inaugural selection into the CRS Senior Fellows program is Andrew Fales. Andrew brings extensive experience in energy, finance, tax policy, and accounting. He currently serves as Senior Adviser to the co-head of investments for one of the oldest and most successful energy investment firms in the nation. Andrew, who has served as treasurer for the Idaho Republican Party holds a Master of Accountancy degree from BYU and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

 For more information visit our Senior Fellows Program page.

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Fourth Hottest July Ever. Really?

Those living in much of the Eastern and Central U.S. would likely be surprised to hear NOAA’s recent announcement that July 2014 was one of the hottest Julys on record. For many Americans, this has been one of the most comfortable summers in recent memory—no sweltering heat waves and triple digit heat indexes that are often the summer norm. In fact, twenty-five states saw a cooler than average July and a few experienced record low temperatures.

Does this mean NOAA is wrong? No it doesn’t. While a few areas of the globe were cooler than average, most were warmer. July brought record heat to the U.S. West Coast, Norway and parts of Africa.

The contradiction between the temperature in one place and the global average is an example of how weather systems and climate intersect. Weather systems will always influence what we experience at any given time and place. Sometimes that will align with global averages and trends, sometimes it won’t.

This underscores why it is unwise to make assumptions about climate change based on localized and short-term weather conditions. Prudence dictates that we look at the big picture, which includes average global temperatures and long-term trends.

The map below provides a good visual overview of how July temperatures, worldwide, compared to long-term averages.

NOAA Graphic - July 2014 Global Temperatures / Departure from Average

NOAA Graphic – July 2014 Global Temperatures

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Nothing Conservative About Candidate’s Climate Denial Video

Louisiana state Representative Lenar Whitney, who is running for Congress, has posted a video online where she calls global warming “the greatest deception in the history of mankind.” She goes on to claim that any 10-year old child can disprove global warming with “one of the simplest scientific devices known to man” while holding up what appears to be a Geratherm brand rectal thermometer.

Representative Whitney is trying to argue–as she does throughout the ad–that global warming is not real and the earth has gotten colder since 2006. Her version of reality is based on bad information, cherry-picked data, political bias, and fundamental ignorance about both weather and climate.

The truth is that the earth as a whole continues to get hotter over time, not colder–roughly 1.5 degrees hotter since 1880. To date, the hottest year on record is 2010, while 2013 ranks 4th. Furthermore, each of the top ten warmest years on record have occurred on or after 1998. All one has to do is look at a temperature graph since 1880 and it is clear that, despite short-term fluctuations due to weather patterns, global temperatures have climbed higher and higher over time.

Denying this simple reality–which has been verified by temperature data from land-based weather stations, weather balloons, satellite measurements, sea and ocean temperature records, tree rings and various other sources–is certainly not conservative. Genuine conservatism is not dishonest and fact-averse, it is firmly grounded in reality and prudent decision-making.

Our reality should include conservative solutions to problems like climate change, but that is unlikely as long as a vocal faction on the political right is more interested in denial and demagoguery than solving problems.

PolitiFact.com took a look at Representative Whitney’s video and gave it a “Truth-O-Meter” rating of “Pants on Fire,” a rating reserved for the most blatant level of untruth. You can read the analysis here.

 

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EPA’s Proposed Wetlands Rule Makes Fiscal Sense

EPA’s recently proposed wetlands rule has taken a lot heat from special interests such as American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of Home Builders. They claim that the rule represents “federal overreach” and is a “land grab.” Some members of Congress are piling on too.

The truth is that this rule simply restores the original interpretation of the Clean Water Act that stood for over 30 years, before a muddled 3-way Supreme Court ruling in 2006 created massive confusion and has contributed to an accelerated rate of wetland loss.

The important thing for conservatives to understand is that wetland loss in this country has become a fiscal nightmare that imposes huge costs on the American taxpayer.  CRS and Taxpayers for Common Sense wrote a joint op-ed on this topic that explains why fiscal conservatives must work hard to protect wetlands. It earlier this week in The Hill and is linked below. Please check it out.

Fiscal Conservatives Should Love Wetlands

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House Moves Against Theodore Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act

Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is planning a vote this week on H.R. 1459, a bill sponsored by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and six other Western anti-public land zealots that chips away at the Antiquities Act signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.

The Antiquities Act–which was introduced by a Republican, passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a Republican President–gives the President authority to protect iconic historical, cultural, and natural sites as National Monuments. The law has served our nation well for over 100 years and been used by 16 Presidents (8 Republican and 8 Democrat).

The sponsors of H.R. 1459 are promoting their bill as a way to undermine the authority of the current President. By making this about President Obama, they are banking on partisanship to deliver the needed number of Republican votes for passage.

This is short-sighted in the extreme. A National Monument proclaimed by the President under the Antiquities Act can already be abolished by an act of Congress if it is unpopular. By limiting presidential authority on the front end, H.R. 1489 would equally hamper a future Republican President.

The Antiquities Act was enacted at a time of mounting concern over loss of priceless natural and historic treasures in the West to uncontrolled looting and vandalism. By authorizing the President to protect nationally important resources, the Antiquities Act facilitates a swift response to threats. In its absence, these assets were often irreparably damaged before Congress could act.

The Antiquities Act is a prudent and conservative law that ensures protection for those special places that are irreplaceable features of the American experience. It provides a vital safeguard against short-term pressures to exploit such sites.

With a myriad of threats facing our remaining natural landscapes and historic sites, and a dysfunctional Congress, our nation needs the Antiquities Act just as much today as it did when Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law.

As the great conservative author and theorist Russell Kirk wrote:

Nothing is more conservative than conservation.”

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CRS Welcomes Move to Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced (02/28/14) its initiation of a process to decide whether to use its veto authority under the Clean Water Act to block construction of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mining project in southeastern Alaska.

Although only the firsBristol Bay watershed-map-750pxt step in the veto process, it shows EPA’s concern about the potential impacts of such a large-scale mine on our nation’s most productive fishery. That concern stems in part from EPA’s recently released Bristol Bay Assessment, which examined the potential impacts of the Pebble Mine on the area’s salmon fishery and determined that the massive mine would have devastating impacts.

EPA estimates that constructing the mine and its surrounding infrastructure would destroy 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. EPA also projects that under routine operations, polluted water from the mine site would adversely impact fish in an additional 13 to 51 miles of streams. The agency also concludes that a major spill would have catastrophic  impacts on the fishery.

Back in 2010, CRS and its sister organization (known at the time as Republicans for Environmental Protection) requested that EPA use its authority under section 404 of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine. We noted that Bristol Bay, both as an economic engine and a vital natural resource, is a national treasure deserving of our most diligent stewardship.

We believe that building the largest open-pit mine in North America (two miles wide and one-third mile deep), along with giant earthen dams that would hold an estimated 2.5 billion tons of sulfide waste rock and contaminated water, at the headwaters of one of the planet’s most productive fisheries would be reckless and irresponsible–especially give6990838504_1593b88815_bn that the area is seismically active.

CRS welcomes this first step by EPA and believes that the facts support a veto.

Advocates of the Pebble Mine will complain that an EPA veto would represent federal government overreach and an encroachment of Alaska’s sovereignty. It would not.

Bristol Bay is a vital national asset. It supplies 40 percent of the fresh seafood caught annually in the United States. It is also home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, which produces more than $1.5 billion annually in economic value. Every American has a vested interest in safeguarding that fishery, including the streams rivers and wetlands that sustain it.

Permanently blocking the Pebble Mine from going forward is the conservative choice.

It is worth noting that EPA’s veto authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act was used most under the Reagan Administration, where the Administration blocked development of a golf course, a shopping mall and a waste recycling facility.  Those projects, while problematic, posed nowhere near the large-scale impact and potential devastation that the Pebble Mine does.

 images courtesy of USEPA
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Are Our Rivers and Streams Going to Pot?

The big push by liberals and libertarians to legalize marijuana is troubling to many conservatives. Their concerns center on the anticipated social impacts of making a mind-altering drug more accessible–and its use more socially acceptable. Now there is another reason for concern.

The burgeoning marijuana growing business in Northern California is becoming a serious threat to rivers and streams in the area—and a struggling salmon population that depends on them.

Marijuana plantations are drawing enormous amounts of water from nearby waterways—up to 6 gallons per plant per growing day. With as many as 40,000 plants already being grown in some watersheds, it can really add up. These plantations, which are not well-regulated, have also been accused of polluting streams with pesticides, fertilizers and sediment.

Marijuana growing is also very energy intensive, according to a 2012 report in the journal Energy Policy, each dining-table-size hydroponic growing unit consumes as much electricity as the average US home.

With the Obama Administration, pot-friendly states, and liberal (or libertarian) lawmakers unlikely to target pot growers with new regulations or adequate enforcement of existing laws, protecting the waters and fisheries of states that have legalized marijuana will likely depend on how willing conservatives are to press the issue.

Here is a recent article from NPR on this growing problem:

California’s Pot Farms Could Leave Salmon Runs Truly Smoked

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