Today marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). NPS currently boasts 58 national parks enjoyed by millions of Americans each year.
Like many of you, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many of these parks. They are not only beautiful, but are exemplary of America’s exceptional heritage and natural beauty.
Conservatives and even some on the Left believe that if entities like NPS relied less on government and more on private contributions, it would run more efficiently and draw in more people.
This begs the question: do conservatives actually hate the environment? Quite the contrary!
Conservatives who hunt and fish are true conservationists
The National Wildlife Foundation says, “Hunters and anglers are a core constituency to preserving our conservation legacy.”
Many folks on the Right grew up fishing and hunting as a means of supporting their livelihoods. (They also enjoy the entertainment value and life lessons.) Both activities promote self-reliance, stewardship, and true conservation. These activities don’t harm the environment; in fact, they positively impact both humanity and wildlife without disrupting the cycle of life.
While there are some Democrats who support true conservation efforts, the Right has traditionally stood for and supported the expansion of fishing and hunting rights across the country. A 2012 National Survey of Hunters & Anglers published by the National Wildlife Foundation found that anglers and hunters are conservative and overwhelmingly vote Republican:
- 42% of those interviewed indicated they were Republican, 32% indicated they were Independent with 18% indicting they considered themselves Democrats. 27% indicate they split their ticket when voting
- 50% consider themselves conservative, including 22% who consider themselves very conservative.
The same study also deemed conservation is weighed equally with gun rights:
47% believe that gun rights are important, but conservation is just as important. 37% believe that gun rights are the most important issue facing sportsmen, while 13% believe that gun rights are not as important as conservation issues.
Conservatives believe free-market environmentalism, not radicalism, is the way forward
Free markets and true environmentalism go hand-in-hand. The current view of environmentalism is rooted in preservation and anti-life, anti-business measures. The goal of radical environmentalism is to undermine business and close off access to public lands and waters to those whose livelihoods depend on it. Here’s more on free-market environmentalism:
- Markets, property rights, and the rule of law are fundamental to economic growth, and economic growth is fundamental to improving environmental quality. There is a strong correlation between treatment of the environment and standards of living.
- Property rights make the environment an asset rather than a liability by giving owners an incentive for stewardship.
- Markets and the process of exchange give people who have different ideas and values regarding the use of natural resources a way of cooperating rather than fighting. When cooperation supplants conflict, gains from trade emerge.
While some of our favorite stores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s have engaged in cronyism by receiving over $2.2 billion in taxpayer subsidies (circa 2012)–which is disappointing–free market environmentalism can appeal to conservationists eager to expand enterprise while simultaneously protecting the environment. It’s imperative to showcase that private enterprise, not the federal government, has upheld quality environmental standards.
Conservatives believe public lands are better managed by states, not the federal government
Although some in conservationist circles admonish the idea of “privatization” or the transfer of public lands to states, conservatives believe that state sovereignty calls for greater stewardship of the environment without reliance on the federal government.
It can be argued that states are best equipped to tackle the fishing and hunting needs of residents. As proponents of limited government, we’d rather see states–not the federal government–manage hunting and fishing resources. Why? They are more attuned to how our taxpayer dollars are actually spent. Some argue that transferring land ownership to the states would be costly, but current regulations and restrictions in place have made it impossible for land management reform to take place. Why should the federal government intervene in affairs related to Yosemite National Park in California or Arches National Park in Utah? (It shouldn’t.)
A one-size-fits-all approach to land management isn’t conducive to expanding hunting and fishing access either. For example, why can’t Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries be tasked with managing lands over the Bureau of Land Management or Department of Interior? It’s far more familiar with the needs and wants of Virginia’s anglers and hunters. Plus, it familiarizes itself with conditions all across the state and places an importance on preserving lands that matter to us. It also does a fairly decent job of promoting conservation without infringing on our rights.
We can’t allow our opponents to paint us as antagonists of the environment any longer. Yes, private enterprise and the environment can co-exist. Yes, hunting and fishing do promote conservation. And yes, land management should be reserved to the states.
Happy trails, friends!