“This is our patrimony. This is what we leave our children. And our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it.”
At CRS we believe that conservation is conservative. As such, we support safeguarding our nation’s remaining wilderness lands, scenic wonders, wildlife habitat, and recreational open space for the benefit of all Americans—present and future.These natural resources sustain life, provide important ecological services and offer recreational opportunities that enhance and enrich our lives.
Conservatives throughout our nation’s history have been at the forefront of preserving these precious resources. Since the mid-1800s conservative leaders have championed public protection and ownership of these special places.
Theodore Roosevelt was one of America’s best known public land champions. During his presidency Roosevelt established 150 National Forests, 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 18 National Monuments and five National Parks–approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land. He also created the U.S. Forest Service and gave us important conservation tools such as the Antiquities Act. President Dwight Eisenhower first protected the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Conservative Pennsylvania Congressman John Saylor was instrumental in enacting both Wilderness Act and the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. And President Reagan signed 43 wilderness bills into law, more than any other president.
We have learned from history–and human nature–that preserving America’s natural heritage and protecting it from exploitation often necessitates protective federal laws and national level management. Even so, it is important for such safeguards to recognize that these resources belong to all Americans, and as such, responsible public access should be preserved.
While CRS strongly supports recreational access to our public lands, and believe it is critical to their long-term protection, we recognize that all activities are not suitable for every area. This is specifically true with respect to motorized recreation.
We also support the preservation of our nation’s wilderness quality lands. These remaining vestiges of the original American wilderness should be treasured. Throughout history wilderness and its challenges have been a source of instruction, inspiration and strength for mankind. Wilderness keeps this nation connected to its heritage, and to the conservative values that have made it great. When such places are lost to development, they are typically lost forever.
Truly wild places inspire self-reliance, personal responsibility, faith, spiritual renewal, and humility in a world where those conservative values are constantly under assault. It is in wilderness that freedom is found in its most fundamental form – and from wilderness springs the headwaters that sustain mankind’s thirst for freedom.
If we are to preserve conservatism, we need to preserve what remains of the American wilderness, from small segments of urban wilderness, to iconic landscapes like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thankfully, great conservatives from our past not only showed us the way, but they also had the wisdom and foresight to provide us with tools needed to follow their example.
Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship opposes shortsighted efforts to undermine laws that are helping safeguard America’s natural heritage. We also oppose efforts to diminish or block protection of natural treasures, as well as radical proposals to sell off or give away our public lands, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) plan to accelerate resource extraction by giving away federally protected lands to states.
Our public lands are assets that belong to all Americans and we must, as President Reagan advised “preserve them with wisdom and care.”