Being Naturally Resourceful: Righting a Wrong

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree

MARCH COMES TO AN END and our thoughts turn to spring, the time of renewal, re-creation and a renaissance of nature. We are reminded each springtime of the resilience of natural resources. Harsh winter temperatures, violent weather patterns, high winds and ice storms each wreak havoc on the flora and fauna…yet each and every spring we witness the miracle of renewal and rebirth. Spring should inspire awe, appreciation and a recommitment to our own sense of stewardship of the nature in which we live, raise our families and enjoy our leisure.

For many of us, this is exactly what happens although without conscious focus or special action. Now, however, we as conservatives must recognize and inspire an entire population to take a much more conscious approach to mankind’s long held special awe and appreciation for the natural resources that we have enjoyed, cared for, and indeed improved through application of human ingenuity.

This spring throughout our land conservative, free market, traditional values, family and other public policy institutes and activists can work by example, proclaim in writings and media appearances, and lead in a myriad of ways to demonstrate to our fellow Americans that ours is the true and proven environmentalism. We can seize back from the Clinton-Gore-Browner collectivists the mantle that is historically and evidenciarily ours: the mantle of conservation.

Conservatives know that people are our most valuable natural resources. As Julian Simon so eloquently documented in his writings, whenever challenges to environmental quality arise, it is people who devise the solutions. History proves that mankind is willing, able, and effective in improving the quality and condition of our environment using the arts and sciences that we have learned and acquired – so long as the core concepts involved include a commitment to rigorous standards of scientific truth, and firm reliance upon human freedom and the protection of private property rights.

Conservatives should not allow this spring to pass without an emphatic demonstration to the American people that it has been wrong for the essentially conservative issue of resource conservation to be hijacked by the one-size-fits-all environmental activists whose interest in the environment is as a political means to expand Washington’s control.

For instance, Joe Bast and the Illinois-based Heartland Institute have provided leadership in promoting Resourceful Earth Day…giving examples of the many ways in which human technologies have provided a cleaner world. Former Virginia Governor George Allen during his term in office instituted a month-long Operation Spruce-up in the spring to celebrate the coming of springtime and encourage Virginians to volunteer to care for the natural resources that we enjoy and for which we have a stewardship responsibility. Thousands of Virginians, of all ages, in community groups, scout troops and Sunday Schools took part in this celebration and challenge. Operation Spruce-up continues under Allen’s successor, Jim Gilmore and has become institutionalized in the Old Dominion.

Opportunities for similar activities as these abound across the land. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Private Conservation recently showed us all the wonderful attributes of one private conservation effort, the Natural Bridge in Virginia. Such examples serve to teach that Americans have invested in extraordinary natural sites so that they can be cared for in a way that maximizes the generations that can enjoy them. They also serve to inspire those who do care about wonderful natural sites and wilderness expanses to seek release from government barriers and intervention so that individuals and private organizations can do more in this area. Other examples of private conservation that deserve greater recognition are Mt. Vernon, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Grandfather Mountain and the Corkscrew Sanctuary. States have demonstrated their willingness to protect important and valuable sites such as the Alamo in Texas and Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Heritage has provided policy guidance in its recently released Issues 2000 and the Pacific Research Institute conducts important research soon to be released with 1999 data that bears witness to the fact that Americans have continued their stewardship in ways that result in demonstrated improvement in environmental indicators.

Peter Huber has issued a challenge to all Americans in his recent writings, including his new book, Hard Green, Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists: A Conservative Manifesto. Not all conservatives will share Mr. Huber’s every sentiment. But all can agree that those who place a high premium on human liberty, who confidently champion free markets and extol the virtues and possibilities of technology are the very same people who understand that it is conservative values that have resulted in the creation of the wealth to the nation that is providing a greener, more beautiful country for everyone.

It falls to us, therefore, to take back from the collectivist Left the environmental issue. In this way even greater benefits will inure to the natural resources Americans care about and enjoy. Let America know from the eloquence of our deeds and our words that it is our conservative ideas, principles and values that will bring the greatest benefit to the natural resources that make up our environment.

Ms. Dunlop is Vice President of External Relations for The Heritage Foundation, former Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia and former Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in the Department of the Interior during President Reagan’s administration.