Rally for national parks!

By KEN WHITON, President of REP’s New Mexico Chapter

AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: Statement at a press conference in Albuquerque, July 24, 2004


New Mexico Chapter President Ken Whiton had visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before and was one of REP's strongest advocates for protecting it.

Ken Whiton

I’m here to “pump you up,” especially if you’re a Republican.

First: “Congratulations!” Being a Republican who cares about conservation is tough these days. Many in the leadership of our party, today, seem to have forgotten our party’s proud history of protecting our environment.

Many Republicans are horrified at the direction party leadership has taken. A Republican pollster found that 55% of ordinary Republicans do not trust their own party to protect our environment.

I’m tired of hearing about “radical environmentalists” as if “radicals” are the only people who care about preserving our natural heritage. In fact, we who care, are not “radicals.”  We are everyday Americans, who know that we do not own our nation’s natural treasures, we are only borrowing them from future generations.

And while we’re at it, why do we never hear about the “radical industrialists” who have yet to discover any place too precious, too important, too beautiful, to drill, mine, log, pave, bulldoze, and destroy, in their mad rush to satisfy an unrelenting greed.

What can we do to make our party leaders change their ways?

We can explain to our Republican friends that we have a great environmental heritage. For example:

  • Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, began our tradition in 1864 by protecting Yosemite Valley.
  • President Grant signed the bill establishing Yellowstone National Park.
  • President Harrison signed the Forest Preserve Act.
  • The greatest conservation president of all was Theodore Roosevelt.  He viewed conservation as a patriotic duty second in importance only to national defense.
  • President Hoover created the second Grand Canyon National Monument.
  • President Eisenhower protected the Arctic wildlife refuge.
  • Richard Nixon was one of America’s strongest environmental presidents, establishing the EPA, signing the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other measures to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the natural heritage we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.

Nixon’s leadership was a response to a growing realization that the pursuit of prosperity need not come at the price of a fouled environment. We now know that a society prospers when it puts a priority on conservation and environmental protection.

How ironic, sad and frightening that those who lead our party have turned their backs on 30 years of environmental progress and want to destroy the national parks, monuments, and refuges that past Republicans fought for so hard.

What else can we do?

  • We must make our voices heard and take our party back.
  • We must attend party meetings and speak up for our cause.
  • We must let candidates know that their stand on conservation and environmental protection factors into our support for them.
  • We must never allow party leadership to take our vote for granted.
  • We can let fellow Republicans know that we are not “radicals.” We are patriotic Americans who love our country and know that protecting our environment brings prosperity, increases national security and brings a better life to us all.
  • We must work long and hard to make sure that ordinary Republicans never have to make the difficult choice of either supporting our President and other candidates, or caring about our environment.

Conservation is Conservative!