Conservation remains a core conservative principle

Something extraordinary is happening on Capitol Hill. This month, a once-in-a-generation public lands bill passed with overwhelming Republican support and was signed into law by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE.  And this month, Republicans announced the formation of the bicameral Roosevelt Conservation Caucus to promote conservation and conservative solutions to environmental challenges. The caucus is led by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' MORE (R-S.C.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerWe need a '9-1-1' for mental health — we need '9-8-8' Overnight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election MORE (R-Colo.) and Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-N.Y.) and Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastHouse Republicans push back against proxy voting GOP lawmakers consider returning to DC despite coronavirus shutdown GOP congressman gets round of applause for remarks praising American strength MORE (R-Fla.). The GOP is going on offense.

That a lands package — the Natural Resources Management Act — compromising more than 100 bills passed both chambers of Congress at all was unexpected in this time of divided government. Moreover, it won approval by such an overwhelming majority in the Republican-controlled Senate is noteworthy. 

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The legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, protects nearly 1 million acres of public land in Utah, designates 63 miles of the Green River as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System, creates the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps for young adults and veterans, prioritizes access to public lands for hunters, anglers, sportsmen and women, and gives every fourth-grader and their families free access to our public lands and national parks. 

Republican support for the package and the creation of the new caucus should finally put to rest the false narrative — pushed, unfortunately, by groups on the left that purport to support environmental protection — that Republicans don’t care about the environment, conservation or public lands. Poppycock.

A package of this size doesn’t just happen overnight. It took five years of back-and-forth negotiations among Republicans and Democrats, between the Senate and the House, to assemble a collection of bills sufficiently balanced between conservation and economic opportunity, public access and states’ rights to win Senate approval by such a large margin.

Environmental groups rarely credit Republicans for their leadership on conservation and, because of that hostility, seldom find conservatives willing to engage with them. That’s unfortunate because most Americans view conservation through the lens of just a few well-funded organizations that have morphed into progressive political campaigns.

The truth is, the Republican Party has a long history of environmental stewardship and a tradition of supporting innovative solutions to protect the air and water and to conserve public lands. Conservation at its core reflects the fundamental conservative principles of the right to life, liberty and property, and freedom from the restrictions of arbitrary force.

America’s long record of environmental stewardship is a success story often overshadowed by the gloom-and-doom debate around climate change. There are many accomplishments that Republicans can point to as triumphs of market-based approaches to environmental problems, including the recovery of endangered species, cleaner rivers and deep cuts to our carbon emissions despite population growth and a robust economy.

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As conservatives, we must fully engage in the public debate over environmental and conservation concerns with free-market solutions, or the command-and-control policies of the left will remain the de facto “solution,” undermining our energy security, competitiveness and economic prosperity as a nation.

That the historic lands package was signed into law by Trump demonstrates Republicans’ true commitment to conservation done right and the legacy of environmental stewardship of Teddy Roosevelt.  

Andy Sabin is the chairman and president of Sabin Metal Corporation and founder of the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, which funds global research and conservation to protect imperiled species and their habitats, as well as environmental scholarships and cancer research.

Trammell Crow is a Dallas, Texas-based businessman, philanthropist, entrepreneur and director of ConservAmerica, an organization of Republican voters that educates people and public officials on conservative-based solutions to conservation, energy and environmental issues. He is the founder of Earth Day Texas, the world’s largest Earth Day celebration.