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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