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Why the greens won't vote for Bush

By Henry Lamb
web posted October 4, 2004

During his term in office, Bill Clinton listed 527 "endangered species," 40.9 percent of all listed species. George Bush, by contrast, has listed only 26 species - .02 percent - during his first term in office. This is only one of the measures cited by environmental organizations who claim that George Bush is the worst environmental president in history.

More than 50 of Bill Clinton's top appointees came directly from the staffs of environmental organizations, who, for eight years, used the government to advance their green agenda. President Bush sent most of these people packing, and replaced them with people the greens call anti-environmentalists, or corporate special-interests.

Greens decry Bush's appointment of Mark Rey, Undersecretary of Agriculture, as a former "industry lobbyist." But they praised Clinton's appointment to the EPA of David Gardiner, the Sierra Club's lobbyist, and Brooks Yeager, lobbyist for the National Audubon Society, to the Department of Interior. Aside from the first years of the Reagan administration, greens have dominated agencies of the federal government since the Carter years.

Greens have been enormously successful in advancing their agenda. They think that it is horrible that in the last half-century, development has "chewed up" 60 million acres. But the 105.6 million acres designated as wilderness during the same period, is grossly inadequate. The 111 million acres of non-federal wetlands" is nowhere near enough, and the Bush administration has designated less than half of the additional 80 million acres the greens want set aside as "critical habitat" for endangered species.

Only six percent of the land area in the lower 48 states is developed. That's far too much for the greens. Their agenda calls for the removal of ranchers from the rangeland, and replacing private farms with public/private partnership farms operated in the buffer zones surrounding sustainable communities. Their agenda calls for stopping "urban sprawl" and forcing people to live in "high-density, low-rise" structures within walking distance of their work and shopping centers.

Greens will not be happy until government controls every inch of land and every aspect of human behavior. The Clinton/Gore administration championed this agenda; greens see the Bush administration is an obstacle to it.

The Bush administration is far from anti-environmental. Property rights groups, ranchers, and many private landowners are extremely disappointed that the Bush administration has not been more forceful in reversing the green agenda of the Clinton years. The Forest Service, in particular, is still reducing grazing allotments on federal land, and managing the land for the benefit of bugs and weeds, rather than letting the risk-taking resource producers manage their own allotments.

Agencies of the federal government are still using tax dollars to buy up private property at an alarming rate, and to provide grants to the very environmental organizations that are working overtime to elect John Kerry. The NRDC, for example, one of the Bush administration's most ferocious critics, received $1.3 million in grants in 2001 and 2002 alone.

The Bush administration is trying to implement an environmental strategy that has infuriated the greens and disappointed a broad segment of conservatives. The strategy, called "cooperative conservation," seeks to recruit individuals into voluntary conservation practices, rather than to use regulatory power to force conservation measures.

Greens cringe at "voluntary" anything; they want government to exercise total control. Conservatives tend to believe that much, if not most, of the conservation agenda is ill-founded, preferring instead, to leave land management up to land owners. Consequently, President Bush has lost the green vote, and much of the conservative vote which thinks he should have done more.

One thing is certain: John Kerry will not disappoint the greens. His past voting record, and his wife's devotion to green causes, ensure that a Kerry administration would return the agencies of government to the environmental organizations, and undo what little progress Bush has made toward reversing the excesses of the Clinton/Gore years.

Greens are aware that during his first term, the President had to avoid the mistakes the first Reagan administration made by moving too fast, causing a popular uprising among environmentalists. Greens fear that in a second term, with no election looming in the future, the Bush administration will have no constraints on reversing Clinton-era policies. This is why the greens will not be voting for George Bush.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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