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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Endangered Species Act: Conserving Life for 40 Years

Photo of President Nixon signing the ESA into law

President Nixon signing the Endangered Species Act into law on December 28th, 1973 AP Image

Forty years ago the Endangered Species Act passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and was signed into law by President Nixon. Both its enactment and longevity stand as a shining examples of good stewardship and as a testament to our ability to come together to act in the best interest of what President Reagan called “this magical planet of ours.”

What many people—on both the political right and left—may not recognize is that the Act is a very conservative law.

The fathers of traditional conservative thought—including British statesman Edmund Burke, American political theorist Russell Kirk, and conservative philosopher Richard Weaver—emphasized that prudent forethought, humility, a spirit of piety, and responsible stewardship are core conservative principles.

Just a few years before the Endangered Species Act was signed into law, Kirk pointed out that “nothing is more conservative than conservation.” Years earlier, Weaver lamented humankind’s tendency to disregard nature in the name of progress. He warned that “Triumphs against the natural order of living exact unforeseen payments,” and astutely pointed out:

“…man is not the lord of creation, with an omnipotent will, but a part of creation, with limitations, who ought to observe a decent humility in the face of the inscrutable.”

Conservative poet T.S. Eliot put it more succinctly when he observed that “A wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude towards God.”

From the deliberate and cruel efforts to eradicate wolves and grizzly bears, to the more inadvertent actions that drove the bald eagle—our national symbol—to the brink of extinction, history is full of examples of humankind’s intolerance of wildlife and ignorance of its needs. Too often, selfishness causes people to view wild animals merely as an inconvenience to be displaced or destroyed, not as God’s creatures placed on earth for a purpose.

By contrast, good stewardship that respects the design of nature and that recognizes all wildlife species serve a necessary function is both moral and prudent.

Conservatism, at its heart, is about humankind rising above its lesser instincts and leaving the world a better place for future generations. The Endangered Species Act is one of the best examples of this that we have.

As we say goodbye to 2013 and ring in the New Year, let’s consider our own stewardship obligation and meet today’s environmental challenges with the same resolve as those pictured above did back in 1973.

Happy New Year!

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WELCOME

Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship (CRS) is the new name for ConservAmerica EF (the charitable arm of ConservAmerica). Welcome to our new home on the web! As you will soon discover, we have changed more than just our name and website.

We also updated and broadened the organization’s mission, positioning it better to tackle today’s biggest environmental challenges and respond to a widespread misunderstanding about what is, and is not, genuinely conservative. Our new mission statement is:

To safeguard the air, water, land, wildlife and natural systems that sustain and enhance life on earth by promoting responsible stewardship and conservation, empowering fellow conservatives, and advancing the original conservative philosophy that compels us to be good stewards of our natural heritage

Whether it is through fiscal stewardship or environmental stewardship, real conservatism is about taking the long view, prudently solving problems, and looking out for the interests of future generations. The fact that some have lost sight of this does not make it any less true.

That genuine conservatism instructs us to safeguard the air we breathe, the water we drink and the special places that refresh and inspire us. It strengthens our society by encouraging balance between freedom and responsibility. It strengthens our nation by promoting sustainable economic growth and helping ensure that we do not squander our natural wealth.

Please join with us as we work to put the “conserve” back in conservative.

David Jenkins
President

P.S. For those of you considering year-end giving, please note that Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship (CRS) is a charitable organization under Section 501(c)3 of the U.S. tax code, and as such, donations to it are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law—and greatly appreciated!

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Powerful Op-Ed on Reagan’s Climate Leadership

President Reagan’s EPA Chief Lee Terry has written a very powerful op-ed recalling how Reagan responded when climate scientists discovered that compounds used in aerosol sprays and refrigeration equipment (chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs) were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer.

He recalls that then, like now with climate change, skeptics and special interests opposed action. They wanted Reagan to ignore the problem, but he didn’t. He did what a true conservative is supposed to do, he listened carefully to the experts, weighed all the facts, and took prudent action to safeguard our atmosphere.

It is a great lesson in conservative leadership as told by someone who was there. Read it here: Lee Thomas: Climate change, a present danger .

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Great Conservative Op-Eds On Climate Change

Congratulations to two of our longtime members for recently having  really terrific op-eds published that urge conservatives to take the lead in addressing climate change. South Carolina member Chester Sansbury’s piece, titled Conservatives must counter climate change, appeared in the Charleston Post & Courier, and Wyoming member Paul Vogelheim’s piece, titled Conservatives need to lead on climate change, appeared in the Casper Star Tribune.

Both of these op-eds reference an opinion piece co-authored by four past Republican EPA Administrators that appeared in the New York Times back in August. In their op-ed (A Republican Case for Climate Action) these officials, who served in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush administrations, recalled past Republican leadership on environment issues, lamented the lack of such leadership today, and noted that we cannot wait any longer to address climate change.

Each of these make compelling cases for conservative leadership on climate and are well worth a read.

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