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Cory Gardner Makes 'Conservative Conservation' Mainstream

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Should political observers write off Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-CO)’s re-election prospects yet? Not so fast. New polling suggests he’s gaining on challenger John Hickenlooper.


The junior senator, first elected to office in 2014, is confident he can beat the scandal-prone former presidential candidate and Colorado governor. 

On a recent episode of my podcast, District of Conservation, Senator Gardner discussed how the campaign is going and how the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will preserve our nation’s outdoor heritage.

He said, “We have been able to take our message of accomplishment for the people of Colorado from corner to corner across our state, and I’m going to continue getting that message out to every nook and cranny of our state as we reach on toward November and ultimate victory.” 

The Coloradoan, a chief architect of the new conservation law, wants to make “conservative conservation” mainstream. Here’s how. 

Republicans Don’t Get Proper Due Engaging These Issues

For too long, the Left and radical environmentalists have maligned conservatives and Republicans as anti-nature and anti-environment.  

Cory Gardner believes the opposite is true. 

“You think about this country’s national parks, you think about this country’s environmental laws. Most of them put together are put forward by Republicans,” Senator Gardner noted.

He first pointed to the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, a devoted hunter and godfather of American conservation. Then he mentioned Ronald Reagan, a president who isn’t awarded much credit for his environmental record. 


He said, “You think about the work that Teddy Roosevelt did to protect our environment. You think about the work that Ronald Reagan did as he was trying to say, “Hey, we should permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)” and here we are today: to celebrate that fact.” 

A Genuine, Not Politically Expedient, Conservation Push

President Donald Trump signed the GAOA into law on Tuesday and praised a handful of Republicans, Gardner included, for pushing it across the finish line.

I asked Senator Gardner, a co-sponsor of 95 conservation bills across both Congressional chambers, how he responds to critics who question his intentions.  

Gardner told me Republicans were eager to permanently fund the LWCF and address the deferred maintenance backlog issue plaguing federal public lands. Why? Past Democrat and Republican administrations failed in this area. And meaningful reform was desperately needed.

“People are going to say what they will because they’re partisan,” Gardner said. “Sour grapes that their favorite political party didn’t get it [passing GAOA] done. It took a Republican to get it done.” 

Why did Republicans insist on passing the bill? Gardner said the prospect of 100,000 new jobs, primarily in construction, and no additional taxpayer burdens appealed to many of his GOP colleagues in the House and the Senate.

“People shouldn’t begrudge an accomplishment because it’s not the right person who did it. We got it together as a country. This bill stands on the shoulders of a lot of people who made it happen, and we should celebrate that victory for [the] country, for Colorado, America—this nation— and not look at it through a partisan lens.”


Progress Made Out West Could Be Derailed by a Biden Presidency 

During the Obama administration, trust between the federal government and Westerners was at historic lows.

Then this administration came in and the push, namely by Senator Gardner, to move the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) out West was put in motion.

 Even Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) welcomed the agency’s relocation to Colorado. Where to, exactly? The town of Grand Junction in Mesa County—a 3,300 square mile spread that’s 70 percent public land. 

Gardner said the move was long overdue since 99 percent of federal public lands managed by the agency falls West of the Mississippi River. 

I asked him how relocation efforts are going, despite opposition. 

“We will have better representation, we’ll have more accessible leadership at BLM, [and] more responsible decisions being made when the BLM is headquartered in the lands that it’s actually overseeing and regulating instead of being thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.,” he added.

With respect to the 2020 presidential race, Gardner said a Biden administration would undo the progress being made to restore and improve stakeholder relations. 

He also fears the former vice president would reimpose the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Planning 2.0” rule—a rule President Trump removed shortly after he entered office. 


"I worry that Joe Biden, if he were to be elected president, would try to move it [the Bureau of Land Management] back to Washington because I think Biden is somebody who believes D.C., knows best and that's just the wrong approach,” Gardner said.

“It’s always the locals that get it right and Washington that gets it wrong.”


With the most consequential public lands bill in 50 years now law—and by a Republican president, no less—Senator Cory Gardner is optimistic true conservation efforts will prevail and Republicans can lead the charge. 

Townhall.com readers interested in following Senator Gardner’s race can visit his website and connect with his campaign on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

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