Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 17, 2013

Forum: Conservatives, conservation can mix


---- — Rush Limbaugh calls me an “environmental wacko.”

I’m one of those people who believe in saving energy, preserving wild areas and treating the Earth as a finite resource that should be handled with care.

Rush seems to hate this. He likens me to a Nazi extremist. He says I don’t understand the world’s bounty, or the principles of supply and demand. Worse yet, he’s convinced I’m one of those “whining liberals” who use environmental scare tactics to push big government.

The funny thing is — in most areas of my life — I’m a fairly conservative guy.

I have particular difficulty relating to modern “liberal” or so-called “progressive” thought. Yet I have often found myself walking hand-in-hand with left-leaning Democrats in battles to protect our natural heritage.

I wonder why that is.

Shouldn’t more conservatives be conservationists and more conservationists be conservatives? After all, there are few things more “conservative” than protecting resources for future generations.

I know there are some on the so-called “political right” — whatever that is — who feel as I do.

ConservAmerica is a national grassroots organization that claims to be “the environmental conscience of the Grand Old Party.” Members believe we can preserve our environment and boost our economy at the same time. They want to resurrect the GOP’s once-strong conservation tradition.

It seems this would be something we could all support, but many Republican leaders - not to be confused with conservatives - don’t seem to be listening. They want to scrap laws that have cleaned up air and water, preserved natural areas, and prevented the extinction of native species.

What’s that all about?

Anybody with the smarts to get elected ought to be able to see that more — not less — needs to be done to defend the natural world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

While significant environmental progress has been made in recent decades, we can still benefit from cleaner air, water, soil and food supplies. And reducing wasteful consumption today will likely bring greater benefits tomorrow, including better economic performance.

You’d think more conservatives would be leading the way to safeguard our natural resources, rather than fighting those liberals who are. If ever there was a bipartisan issue, this is it.

Few modern social concerns are as vital to our health, recreation and prosperity. Human progress should not be measured solely by dollars and development, but also on what we have preserved and protected.

Republican Theodore Roosevelt called conservation “a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of ensuring safety and continuance of the nation.”

Roosevelt, of course, may have been the first “environmental wacko” to be elected President of the United States. Maybe it’s time to put another one in the Oval Office - along with several others at all levels of government and industry.

And there’s no good reason they couldn’t be conservative in thought and deed.

Conservatives and conservation: Why not?

About the author: Mike VanBuren is editor and publisher of The North Woods Call, a 60-year-old conservation newspaper primarily focused on northern Michigan. A graduate of Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University, Mike is a recipient of the Ben East Prize for excellence in conservation journalism and several other awards.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing Please include biographical information and a photo.