Conservation: Not Just for Treehuggers Any More
The Rocky Mountain West has always had the reputation of resenting environmentalists and any other “outsiders” who tell them what to do with their land. In the 2000 election, Republicans did a brilliant job of harnessing Western populist anger at Big Government and outside agitators. It didn’t matter that most of these “populists” were wealthy ranchers and the owners of timber and mining companies.
But as usual, Conservatives overplayed their hand. For six years, exploiters have been trying to rip open every last canyon and forest in their quest for more oil, gas and minerals. And last month there was a backlash.
There were six state ballot measures that would have required the government to compensate landowners whose “property rights” were diminished by land-use regulations. Five of the six measures were defeated (it passed in Arizona). And all over the West, hunters and environmentalists are uniting in their efforts to prevent drilling in wildlife areas.
When Clinton was president, some of his environmental goals (i.e. prohibiting road-building in national forests) went over like a lead balloon. Now, after six years of Bush, most Western governors are in favor of keeping roads out of national forests. The Republican governor of Idaho said “Idahoans care about how these roadless areas are managed. These are places where they hunt, fish and hike.”
The executive director of the Idaho Conservation League said “It used to be that the West was big enough that you could pretty much do anything you wanted. The natural surroundings are now being lost, and we sit in traffic like everyone else. We want to protect what’s left. We just don’t like Washington, D.C., telling us how to do it.”
Jon Tester, the Democratic senator-elect from Montana, said “Folks don’t want a whole lot of government, but they want things like clean water, and they want us to be careful.”
And in the happiest omen of last month’s election, Richard Pombo — the worst anti-environmental nutcase of all time — got voted out. He never met an endangered species he didn’t want to slaughter, spindle and mutilate, and now he won’t be darkening Congress’ doorway any more. Buh bye.