The Chickahominy Report

News about Earth, Atmosphere, Water, and Life

The GOP War on the Environment: An Update

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Over the last few years I hear more and more people claim that the Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same. To them, I have a reply:


Elections have consequences. While neither political party will do EVERYTHING one might want it to do, the fact remains that one party is pushing policies that are much more destructive to our society as a whole than the other, particularly with respect to the environment.


In a shift that began with Ronald Reagan’s administration, the current generation of the GOP—the party that, through leaders Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt bequeathed a magisterial environmental legacy by giving us our National Park and National Forest system and through Richard Nixon gave us the Environmental Protection Agency and landmark environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act—seems hell-bent on destroying that storied legacy as well much of the remaining wild lands that we have left to bequeath to, as our founders called it, “our posterity.”

Last week, Republican senators voted en masse (with only three holdouts) for a budget amendment allowing the sale of public lands—national forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas—to state and local governments. Here is the text of the resolution:

Amendment No. 838

(Purpose: To establish a spending-neutral reserve fund relating to the disposal of certain Federal land)

At the appropriate place, insert the following:


The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to initiatives to sell or transfer to, or exchange with, a State or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument, by the amounts provided in such legislation for those purposes, provided that such legislation would not raise new revenue and would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), carried by a vote of 51-49. (See the roll call below.) While the resolution has no legal weight, it could, with GOP control of Congress and with a sympathetic president in the White House, could become actual policy before this decade is finished.

National Key Deer Refuge A4279

The home of this Key deer fawn, National Key Deer Refuge on Florida’s Big Pine Key, is one of of the places that could be threatened if the proposal in Amendment 838 allowing the sale of federal lands to state and local governments eventually becomes law.

It would be a disaster if we left these lands to the states and local governments to administer. For one, most don’t have the resources to properly manage those lands for the long term. When the supposed boosts to state and local coffers fail to materialize, they would be under great pressure to sell those lands to private interests—and you should be able to imagine what would happen to those natural landscapes we treasure as a result. (To get an idea of how disastrous state and local management could be, try reading Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s classic book, The Everglades: River of Grass, and see her account of how short-term economic greed nearly destroyed one of America’s most spectacular and the world’s most unique landscapes—and how such greed might yet finish the job.)

If you care about the environment, you should think long and hard about what you do in the 2016 and subsequent elections.

Do you want REALLY want to see mountaintop removal mining—even mountain removal mining—all over the west? DO you REALLY want to see prized rivers for fishing or boating or tubing polluted with runoff from mining or logging? Do you REALLY want to see important areas for migratory waterfowl converted to industrial parks? Do you REALLY want to find prized hiking spots barred to public access because they are now part of an expensive resort?  Do you REALLY want to see large swaths of landscapes such as that of the Everglades currently outside of the National Park system become one vast (and in the Everglades’ case, poorly drained) strip mall?

Then keep doing what many of you have been doing: sitting out elections or throwing away votes to folks who will never get elected. Your principles aren’t worth a damn if what you claim to care about is destroyed as a result.

Future generations aren’t going to be able to enjoy the landscapes our nation sells off because of your so-called integrity.

If you selfishly insist on keeping to those principles rather than acknowledging reality, then please be damned sure to admit your responsibility for giving those who would destroy this nation the power to do so.

Look here to learn more about the budget amendment:

If you want to take a stand against his madness, consider signing this Wilderness Society petition against the resolution and similar efforts to sell our national heritage to the highest bidder.

Even better, consider writing to your representatives signaling your opposition to the measure. The Wilderness Society page has some suggested text. But here’s a tip, hand-write, don’t type your letters. Congress knows that handwriting takes more effort than merely copying and pasting text into a word processor or forwarding an e-mail (or signing an online petition). Just make sure that, however you write it (block text, which is my preference, or cursive) that the staffers that open the mail can read it.


Barrasso (R-WY), Blunt (R-MO), Boozman (R-AR), Burr (R-NC), Capito (R-WV), Cassidy (R-LA), Coats (R-IN), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Corker (R-TN), Cornyn (R-TX), Cotton (R-AR), Crapo (R-ID), Cruz (R-TX), Daines (R-MT), Enzi (R-WY), Ernst (R-IA), Fischer (R-NE), Flake (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Heller (R-NV), Hoeven (R-ND), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Johnson (R-WI), Kirk (R-IL), Lankford (R-OK), Lee (R-UT), McCain (R-AZ), McConnell (R-KY), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Paul (R-KY), Perdue (R-GA), Portman (R-OH), Risch (R-ID), Roberts (R-KS), Rounds (R-SD), Rubio (R-FL), Sasse (R-NE), Scott (R-SC), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Sullivan (R-AK), Thune (R-SD), Tillis (R-NC), Toomey (R-PA), Vitter (R-LA)


Alexander (R-TN), Ayotte (R-NH), Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Boxer (D-CA), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Donnelly (D-IN), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Gardner (R-CO), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Heitkamp (D-ND), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR)

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