My Turn: GOP Must Once Again Embrace Conservation by David Jenkins, President of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship

(Source: Arizona Republic, July 16, 2016).  The Republican Party’s newly adopted 2016 platform contains narrowly approved language calling for our national endowment of federal public lands, which currently belong to all Americans, to be surrendered to states in order to benefit special interests. Given the Republican Party’s strong conservation legacy, it is worth noting just how radical that position is.

The proposed platform language is way out of line with the public-land and conservation ethic that the country has embraced since the early 1900s when Republican president Theodore Roosevelt — responding to the rampant abuse of America’s natural resources — made conservation a priority.

The 1912 Republican Party platform was very clear about the party’s approach to our nation’s natural resources, proclaiming, “We rejoice in the success of the distinctive Republican policy of the conservation of our National resources, for their use by the people without waste and without monopoly. We pledge ourselves to a continuance of such a policy.”  Even though Roosevelt was not the GOP nominee that year, the party continued to embrace his conservation principles. This has also been the case in subsequent platforms.

Even more on point, the 1924 Republican platform declared, “The natural resources of the country belong to all the people and are a part of an estate belonging to generations yet unborn.”

What conservatism really means

That is the kind of prudent, reverent, unselfish and forward-thinking perspective one would expect from a genuinely conservative political party. And we have also seen it reflected in more recent platforms.

The 1988 GOP platform quoted Roosevelt and cited the party’s “long and honored tradition of preserving our nation’s natural resources and environment.” It called safeguarding “our God-given resources” a shared responsibility and stated, “We believe public lands should not be transferred to any special group” and that “we should keep public lands open and accessible.”

As recently as 2008 the platform Scenic view from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon Nationalpledged to manage our lands in a balanced way that protects our “irreplaceable environment” and noted that the “Republican perspective” is in agreement with Theodore Roosevelt’s view that the conservation of the nation’s natural resources is our most fundamental challenge.

Contrast the respect for our natural heritage, ethic of stewardship and commitment to balance reflected in those platforms — which according to polls is consistent with the views and values of most Republicans — with the radical anti-conservation agenda being pushed now by some within the party.

Who’s peddling this agenda?

That agenda includes, as now indicated in the 2016 platform, the wholesale transfer of our national forests, wildlife refuges and conservation lands, many of which were first protected by Theodore Roosevelt, to state and private interests.

It includes efforts in Congress to eliminate or undermine the Antiquities Act, the 110-year-old Republican-passed law that Roosevelt used to protect natural and cultural treasures like the Grand Canyon and Montezuma Castle.

It even includes an assault on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a universally popular — and conservative — program that dedicates a small portion of oil- and gas-lease revenue to land conservation.

Who is peddling this agenda within the GOP? Primarily a handful of Western lawmakers, along with Koch-funded special-interest groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

They are trying to reverse more than 100 years of conservative stewardship, seize land that is the birthright of every American, and act against the long-term interest of our nation, in order to facilitate their own short-term gain. There is nothing remotely conservative about it.

Be alarmed, very alarmed

That this small faction can hijack and radicalize the Republican Party platform in such a way should alarm all Republicans who love to hunt, fish, hike or otherwise enjoy America’s great outdoors — and especially those whose livelihood depends on outdoor recreation or tourism.

The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan recognized the value of the nation’s public lands — its parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other conservation areas — to both present and future generations of Americans. It recognized that protecting them is, as President Reagan reminded us, “our great moral responsibility.”

Republicans who still share those values, and who want their political party to do the same, can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.

Getting more vocal and more involved is the only way to prevent the anti-conservation agenda of a radical fringe from permanently supplanting the Republican Party’s long and storied conservation tradition.

David Jenkins is president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national non-profit organization. Email him at djenkins@conservativestewards.org; follow on Twitter, @ConservStewards.

Game and Fish invites public to help in black-footed ferret recovery, a Heritage Funded Project – Volunteers sought for fall spotlighting effort

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is in need of volunteers interested in assisting in the recovery of an animal once considered the most endangered mammal on the planet. An opportunity exists for people to lend a hand in the recovery of the elusive, nocturnal, and endangered black-footed ferret.

From Sept. 27-Oct. 1 Game and Fish will be conducting its annual fall spotlighting effort and needs volunteers to help document black-footed ferret numbers throughout the Aubrey Valley, just west of Seligman in northwestern Arizona.

“Volunteers play a vital role in this recovery effort,” said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager at the Game and Fish Kingman office. “We don’t have the personnel available to fully staff these events and the program’s continued success depends on people remaining involved.”

Twice thought to be extinct, a small population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in 1981. A mere 18 were left when captive breeding efforts began in 1985. In 1996, Arizona’s Aubrey Valley was selected as a reintroduction site.

In just the last 10 years, black-footed ferrets in Aubrey Valley have reached a population high enough to be considered self-sustaining, meaning no captive-bred ferrets are needed to maintain a population. The ferret reintroduction crew documented a record of 116 individual ferrets in 2011 and 52 during the 2012 spring effort.

The reintroduction of these specialist carnivores in Arizona was possible because of the state’s Heritage Fund which, when matched with federal dollars, accounts for the project’s funding. This, along with the dedication of volunteers, has made Arizona’s reintroduction effort a model for other sites to emulate.

Pebworth admitted that without the voter-approved initiative, which provides money through the Arizona Lottery, this effort would not have been possible. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in Arizona,” Pebworth said. “We’re restoring an animal that was absent from the state for about 65 years. It’s gratifying to know we’ve reached a point with this reintroduction where the population has continued to improve.”

Volunteers earn the right to brag about their participation, aiding in the recovery of an animal few have ever seen. They can also witness the processing of the animals, which allow researchers to understand population, longevity, and movement throughout the range.

Volunteers must be able to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise and they must be willing to learn how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS). Individuals can volunteer for one or more dates. A parent or guardian must accompany any youth under 18. “This is a unique experience and provides volunteers an opportunity to see the amount of effort involved with this reintroduction,” Pebworth said.

Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail azferret@azgfd.gov by Sept. 21 with “September Spotlighting” in the subject line. Individuals should indicate which night(s) they are available to help; include a first and last name, a contact number, and if anyone else will be attending with them.

Additional information will be sent following contact, including meeting location and times.

Volunteers should also note any of the following equipment they can bring: GPS, clipboard, headlamp, pen, compass, binoculars, walkie-talkies, 4×4 vehicle (please list passenger capacity), compass, spotlight (that can plug into a cigarette lighter), or a cordless rechargeable spotlight.

It can be cool during the fall event, so individuals need to dress appropriately.

“We’ve made progress,” Pebworth said. “However, it is critical we continue to document ferret numbers and understand how this population is holding up in the wild.”

Federal Forest Funds go to NM and Arizona Forestry Divisions

[Source: Arizona Capitol Times]

Forests in New Mexico and Arizona will benefit from nearly $7 million in recently awarded federal funds.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Southwestern Region is distributing more than $3.4 million to the New Mexico State Forestry Division and more than $3.5 million to Arizona’s Forestry Division.

The money can be used for a variety of projects aimed at sustaining urban and rural forests and protecting communities from wildfires, insects, diseases and invasive plants.

Regional Forester Corbin Newman says many of the funds for the Southwestern Region are targeted to fire suppression training and updated firefighting equipment.

He says the funding is critical, especially when so many states are having budget problems.

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