By The Western Way, Special for USDR
For the past 18 months, certain political conservatives have bent over backwards trying to draw hopeful links between Donald Trump and President Theodore Roosevelt. While the two New Yorkers share common character traits, the relevant question is whether a President Donald Trump would make any attempt to model his own initiatives after President Roosevelt’s legacy movement. The political and policy opportunities are ripe for a President Trump to create a resurgence of the conservative conservationist movement.
Conservatives have completely yielded the conservation mantle to the progressive liberals since President Theodore Roosevelt‘s term ended over a hundred years ago. Fast forward to 2016 and this has become a major problem for the GOP to remain relevant. Today’s millennial voters place conservation and environmental policy as their top priority issues and the reason they cannot align with conservatives.
This is primarily a messaging problem created over the past 100 years. The fact remains that conservatives do not care less about the environment than liberals; they just insist on using facts rather than rhetoric to define the scope of government solutions needed to address our country’s most significant environment and conservation challenges. Regardless, progressives have become extraordinarily effective at proposing drastic and ineffective regulations and then painting conservatives as “anti-environment” for their rational opposition.
Conservatives need to put an end to this destructive cycle. Energy, conservation, wildlife, and water issues are all areas in which Mr. Trump, if elected President, could pro-actively engage conservative leaders to find commonsense, pro-market solutions while respecting and enhancing our country’s cherished national treasures and resources. Before adopting pro forma GOP policies in this space, a President Donald Trump should take a deep breath, channel Teddy Roosevelt, and recognize the generational opportunity to reclaim the mantle of conservative conservationists.
Here are three initiatives a President Trump could initiate in the first 100 days to accomplish this political and policy coup:
1) A Proactive Conservation Initiative. The most direct path to support and strengthen President Theodore Roosevelt’s historic legacy actually plays to Mr. Trump’s greatest strengths. President Trump can think big, act boldly, and make historic investments in the finest real estate in the United States. In the first month, President Trump should outline a bold initiative to create new national monuments through the U.S. Antiquities Act. Across the country, you will find national land treasures befitting this designation. Even within the U.S.’s ownership portfolio, you will find over 2 million acres of public land in designation limbo (and largely off limits to public uses). This would be a Trump move: bold, popular, outside the partisan box. Politically, it would be brilliant- erasing millennials’ biggest concern that the GOP is “anti-conservation” and “anti-environment” and instead creating a positive movement for millennials to become proud conservatives.
2) A Pro-Market Energy Policy: The U.S. is blessed with an abundance of fossil fuel and new energy resources. A President Trump should make clear that a true pro-market energy policy maximizes each resource. Look at Colorado as a state that tapped into its full resource potential and has become an international energy innovation leader. Fracking innovations have catapulted the state into its place as leader of domestic oil production- creating 213,000 jobs dedicated to just one energy-drilling process. At the same time, 438 solar companies now operate in Colorado, making solar the second fastest-growing industry in Colorado and the wind energy industry is adding thousands of jobs throughout the state with wind turbine plants and new wind farms. Across the country, the U.S. has enormous traditional and alternative energy resources and an aggressive push by President Trump to maximize utilization in each sector will deliver a sustainable U.S. energy policy that serves as a model for the rest of the world.
3) A Permanent Conservation Funding Solution: Since 1965, the Land & Water Conservation Fund (“LWCF”) has provided the financial support to create and maintain the United States public lands program. Using no public funds, LWCF is funded by a portion of royalties energy companies pay the government for extracting publicly-owned offshore oil and gas. It is a common-sense program that reinvests public revenues generated from resource development into resource redevelopment. The bi-partisan program has been a complete success- protecting more than 5 million acres of land and supporting more than 41,000 public lands projects in all 50 states. However, political gridlock and a lack of fiscal discipline threatens the program virtually every year. Congress has failed to make the funding authorization permanent and each year more LWCF funds are wastefully diverted to unrelated government programs. There is now significant bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate to permanently authorize the LWCF. A President Trump should recognize this as low-hanging fruit to deliver a common-sense solution to one of the most popular federal programs in the U.S.
Conservatives may require Donald Trump’s bold leadership to shed this false “anti-environment” label that progressive liberals have so effectively branded on conservatives. Conservatives are not anti-conservation or anti-environment. Conservatives are proud stewards of the land who demand efficient solutions to honest problems. A President Trump should see the enormous political and policy value in reclaiming ownership of President Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy by leading common-sense solutions that improve U.S. conservation efforts AND enhance the U.S. economy.
Jon Anderson is Director of The Western Way (www.WesternWay.org), a nonprofit organization promoting pro-market solutions to actual conservation and environmental challenges facing the United States.
SOURCE The Western Way