The "Roosevelt Conservation Caucus" has formed in Congress for GOP officials seeking to protect the environment but believe that the overreaching federal government regulations offered by the left are not the proper venues for such solutions. The caucus, organized and supported by the American Conservation Coalition and ConservAmerica, is led by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado as well as Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Brian Mast of Florida. This new caucus argues that the free market and capitalism, not socialism, are the best way to be stewards of the environment.
ACC founder and president Benji Backer recently spoke with Townhall to discuss the new group and why his organization supports the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus. The ACC is a "nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering conservatives to re-engage on environmental conversations." Backer told TH that for too long conservatives have allowed liberals to dominate the conversation and conservation policy. This has caused the debate to become increasingly politicized and why some leftist groups who do not actually care about the environment use this issue as a vehicle for other leftist causes.
"Unfortunately, a lot of the environmental left has focused on feel-good policies but because they’ve dominated the conservation they get so many more voters their way.” Backer said. These feel-good policies may sound nice on the surface, but are actually pretty bad for the American way of life, Backer noted. Adding that to be fair there "some amazing environmental groups on the left who genuinely care for clear air and clean water," Backer continued, saying, "There are environmental organizations who have politicized the issue to their benefit and have acted as an arm of the Democratic Party. They’ve further divided the country and they’re not doing it for the environment."
Thus, the only way conservatives can win back voters and stop the left from giving America bad policies that limit freedom is by getting involved in this issue. Backer feels confident that the caucus can engage GOP politicians to produce legislation that both limits the power of the government and helps the planet. “Conservation is something that is an inherently conservative value, almost every conservative believes in common sense conservation," Backer told TH. “So we’re going to try and put [elected GOP members] together and get them to tackle some really important legislation around national parks backlog, wildlife, clean air, clean water, and really try to reengage the Republican Party" in the discussion.
While the ACC and the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus so far have not released any specific legislation or comments on issues, Backer says he hopes the group will gain 40 to 50 officials concerned with getting "things done such as fixing problems with public lands and protecting private property" through policies that give more authority to "local decision makers" as well as "simplifying rules, and simplifying processes" such as streamlining bureaucratic behemoths.
Progressive climate solutions have stripped away many protections against big government, but this can be reversed while still making sure nature is valued. "This issue affects us all. It affects farmers and private property, businesses, hunting and fishing which all conservatives love and enjoy." According to Backer, America's vast natural resources are "something that God gave to us to protect and if we have really beautiful lands for a reason, it's something we need to enjoy but also protect."
As for specific regions where the federal government has truly failed, Backer says that overall it's a “national problem, but the west coast is definitely affected" slightly more due to the amount public lands in those states. "A lot of land is mismanaged, managed poorly, or not managed at all," Backer argued.
This mismanagement has led to major problems such as massive forest fires. "Forest management is another thing that we might look at, because a lot of those issues come down to a lack of government funding, lack of local funding, and lack of conservative solutions," Backer said.
Backer and the ACC have been discussing the environment for some time, and he feels that other right wing groups need to get involved in order to stop the onslaught of leftist regulations. "The left has dominated [this topic], and as a result, we get really negative policies. The Green New Deal heightened this, but this has been going on for a long time...As a result we get bad environmental policies which in turn gets bad economic policy….It has an effect on everything."
For the ACC, the Green New Deal introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just the start for progressives trying to expand the federal government and end capitalism. “If we don’t engage, if we don’t propose solutions, then we are going to get stuck with policies we don’t like," Backer warned fellow conservatives sluggish to embrace his ideas.
Backer says that a more detailed plan for Roosevelt Conservation Caucus will be announced at this year's EarthX in April.