Hot Sheet

‘Western Way’ wants conservatives to own up to climate change — and take the lead

Author: Dan Njegomir - June 12, 2017 - Updated: June 13, 2017

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thewesternway.org

How’s that again? Republicans were the original environmentalists? Conservatives — particularly in the West — should find it easy being green? That’s what John Andrews seems to be telling us.

And when Andrews talks, Colorado’s Republicans and conservatives tend to listen. The former state Senate president, onetime presidential speechwriter, serial think-tank founder and all-around political and moral compass for the Centennial State’s right commands broad respect. All the way across the philosophical spectrum, in fact.

Which is probably why he is the point-man helping spread the word about a new group — dare we call it an environmental group? — that hails from, yes, the right side of the political fence. A mass-email from Andrews today introduces us to The Western Way, which bills itself as a movement of “Conservative stewards of the western environment.”

Writes Andrews in his e-missive:

As Westerners who love liberty, limited government, and the land, it’s high time we stop letting the bicoastal progressives claim heartland conservatives and the GOP want to despoil the environment. What lot of bovine scatology.

Conservatives don’t care about the earth? Please. No one cares more about conserving America’s natural and spiritual heritage than we do.

…throughout our country’s history conservatives have been leaders in preserving natural lands and creating policies that benefit the economy and the environment in equal measure.

Hence, Western Way. Its leadership, membership and even headquarters aren’t yet clear from the group’s slick-but-seemingly-startup-phase website. No contact info; just a page where you can sign up for email newsletters.

However, its core message is straightforward — and represents what many might regard as a breathtaking departure from prevailing conservative orthodoxy on environmental issues.

Consider:

An honest read of the facts and data demonstrates that there are serious problems with our climate and environment.  That is not a political or philosophical statement, it is the only conclusion one can reach based on facts and science.  It is not the role of conservatives to understate the problem in order to balance out extreme interests exaggerating the problem.   Conservatives must fly above the fray and be honest in defining the problems and solutions.

And:

…The evidence for human-caused climate change has converged from multiple lines of evidence, been vetted by skeptical reviews, and presents a consistent and cohesive view. No critical theory or invocation of “natural variability” can claim the same….

Another challenge to conventional wisdom is the group’s premise that conservatives must take back an environmental movement that was originally theirs:

Conservatives have led the most significant conservation efforts in the western United States and yet extreme interests have recently created the false narrative that conservatives do not value the environment.

Conservatives must reclaim leadership on this critical issue by identifying the real environmental and conservation challenges facing our country and driving the most efficient solutions to those challenges.

The website recaps landmark environmental policies by Republican presidents including that champion of public lands, Teddy Roosevelt, as well as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Is the proposed new face of conservatism at least in part a reaction to the Trump administration’s more blunt approach to rolling back environmental regulations of the Obama administration — and the fierce push-back it’s getting from Democrats and environmentalists? That does seem to figure in, to hear Andrews:

…if we tense up, retreat behind polarized arguments, and let others define the debate, we’re left without a seat at the table. Classic self-sabotage. Enough of that!

The dramatically changed political landscape of 2017 offers a perfect opportunity for Republicans and the center-right to start being environmentally proactive again and advance constructive, conservative solutions.

We’ll have to stay tuned as Western Way’s agenda for action develops, and we figure out exactly what kind of role the new movement will play.

Pending that, we reached out to the more conventional (re: left-of-center) environmental movement for its assessment of what Western Way seems to represent. There wasn’t a trace of snark or even skepticism in a reply from Jessica Goad, communications director for Conservation Colorado. She actually welcomed the development.

“We’ve long made the case that Westerners from across the political spectrum care about issues like creating clean-energy jobs, cleaning up our air and protecting our parks and public lands. From our perspective, more groups coming to the table to work together to protect what makes Colorado great is important and beneficial.”

 

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.