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White House Conservation Program Faces Identity Crisis

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White House Conservation Program Faces Identity Crisis

Private Conservation and Recreation at Odds with History of ‘Locking Up’ Federal Lands

The White House’s recently announced “America’s Great Outdoors” conservation program shows some encouraging signs – such as including landowners, sportsmen and business representatives in initial discussions – but ultimately lacks focus and any clear set of principles. Today’s conference, at which President Obama praised the conservation legacy of his predecessor Theodore Roosevelt, appears to be more an exercise in fuzzy self-congratulation than a serious effort to reform federal environmental and land management policies.

Washington, D.C., April 16, 2010—The White House’s recently announced “America’s Great Outdoors” conservation program shows some encouraging signs – such as including landowners, sportsmen and business representatives in initial discussions – but ultimately lacks focus and any clear set of principles. Today’s conference, at which President Obama praised the conservation legacy of his predecessor Theodore Roosevelt, appears to be more an exercise in fuzzy self-congratulation than a serious effort to reform federal environmental and land management policies.

“If the President and his cabinet representatives want to improve the state of the nation’s great outdoor spaces, they should look to the examples of the free market environmental movement, and make individual stewardship and property rights central to the discussion,” said Competitive Enterprise Institute Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray. “Any proposal that takes for granted the massive federal role in land management will only perpetuate the chronic environmental, health and safety problems that have plagued federal lands for decades.”

According to the White House, today’s conference and the on-going Great Outdoors initiative will attempt to “start a new dialogue about conservation in America.”  Yet the conversation seems so open-ended as to lack any real substance. Conferees are asked to consider everything from climate change to air and water pollution to concepts as vague and dubious as “a lost connection between some Americans and the outdoors.” Whether a project with so diffuse a mandate can accomplish anything that will actually improve the condition and future of the nation’s outdoor spaces remains to be demonstrated.

“The Administration could be tackling any number of real environmental issues – from reform of the Endangered Species Act to a review of the EPA’s standards for chemical risk assessment – with the same taxpayer dollars that are being spent on the Great Outdoors project,” said Murray, author of the best-selling book on environmental policy The Really Inconvenient Truths. “That, however, would require those involved to make difficult choices about where the nation’s existing environmental policy has failed us and how to correct it. For now, it seems they are more comfortable with an open-ended chatfest.”    

For information on how free market principles can help safeguard environmental quality and make the nation greener, healthier and wealthier, see the CEI guide:

The Environmental Source

 

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group that studies the intersection of regulation, risk, and markets.