Rob Sisson, Executive Director of ConservAmerica, draws parallels between Teddy Roosevelt and Jeb Bush on conservation in today’s The Colorado Statesman. I include the article in its entirety, as Sisson sums it up best.
In 1905, Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry, opened his seminal book The Use of the National Forest Reserves with, “The timber, water, pasture, mineral, and other resources of the forest reserves are for the use of the people. They may be obtained under reasonable conditions, without delay. Legitimate improvements and business enterprises will be encouraged. Forest reserves are open to all persons for all lawful purposes.”
That’s not the case today. A bloated and distant bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., manages our public lands as if they were Crown holdings in medieval England.
With the announcement of his Western Land and Resource Management platform, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush proves he is an excellent fit for the Roosevelt conservation mantle.
Bush’s call for greater stakeholder and local-level engagement in managing public lands is based on his success while governor of Florida. For decades, the iconic Everglades faced constant threat and peril. Under Bush’s leadership, with strong emphasis on ensuring a full partnership with the federal government, the balancing of water supplies for south Florida and farmers and conservation of the Everglades was accomplished — something many thought impossible.
Bush’s call for renewing, permanently, the Land and Water Conservation Fund should be music to the ears of every hunter, angler, hiker, bird watcher, kayaker, outdoor enthusiast and local parks and recreation authority in the land. Gridlock in Congress caused the LWCF to expire last month, on its 50th anniversary. The LWCF is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leases. A portion of the fund is sent to the states for matching grants for local parks and recreation program infrastructure. Nearly every town in America has benefited from the program.
In a terrific demonstration of pragmatism and common sense, Bush calls for a portion of LWCF funds to be used to attack the $11.5 billion backlog of maintenance in our national parks. With visitation climbing (Yellowstone National Park recently announced it had set an all-time visitor mark this year), our national parks are key drivers of the public’s perception of our natural resources. Polishing the crown jewels makes great economic and conservation sense. How’s that for a 100th birthday present, national parks!
With his call to relocate the Department of the Interior to the West, Bush shows he isn’t just a capable manager but a visionary, too. Anyone who has flown into Washington, D.C., in recent years can attest to the expanse and expense of the federal government. The one recession-proof region in the country is the Beltway, fed by the insatiable growth of our government. Relocation of Interior to the West is genius. In one fell swoop, it would put the people responsible for public lands closer to 90 percent of the land they manage, dramatically decrease the cost of operation of the department, lower the cost of living for its employees and improve the morale of thousands of Interior employees.
Roosevelt would have one word for Jeb Bush’s western stewardship policy: “Delighted!”
Rob Sisson is executive director of ConservAmerica, a national organization dedicated to the Republican Party’s great conservation legacy and conservative solutions to environmental issues. Sisson has served on the city commission of Sturgis, Mich., for 14 years, including two terms as mayor.