Happy Earth Day! This day for talking about all things environmental has now been on our calendars for 50 years. And it presents a prime opportunity to discuss an important point: that conservation and conservative values go hand-in-hand.
Ronald Reagan framed this idea well: “You are worried about what man has done and is doing to this magical planet that God gave us. And I share your concern. What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live…”
Or, as Russell Kirk more succinctly stated, “Nothing is more conservative than conservation.”
For too long, the policy proposals from the left that would increase the size and scope of government have deterred conservatives, Republicans, and lovers of liberty in general from claiming this issue as our own. The paths of great conservationists before us like Theodore Roosevelt have been abandoned. We have let our left-leaning friends become de facto representatives of the environment.
But alarmist or poorly planned policy does not ruin an issue – it just calls for a better way forward. And a better way forward on conservation issues can adhere to principles that conservatives hold dear: limited government, free markets, and individual responsibility.
Conservatives can acknowledge the role sportsmen, farmers, and landowners play in stewarding the environment and empower them to do it well.
We can promote competition in energy markets and increase demand for innovative clean energy solutions.
We can encourage local and state control of public lands and better land management strategies while advocating for these lands to be funded through well-defined and responsible measures.
We can advocate for good wildlife management practices, which includes everything from disbursement of hunting and fishing licenses to the government’s handling of wild horses.
And we can do so much more.
Limited government and market-based solutions to solve conservation issues and care for our environment abound. The environment does not belong to the left – it belongs to all of us. And conservation is something that does not conflict with conservative values – it is in lockstep with those values.