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GOP Enviro Activist: “Republicans Are Green, Too”

April 2, 2012

NEW YORK - Support for many environmental causes seems to run strictly along party lines, but a group of Republicans is trying to change that in Congress. Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) is asking House Speaker John Boehner to help push 19 bills through the House, legislation that would designate new wilderness areas, conserve wetlands and fight invasive species in 14 states.

REP spokesman Jim DiPeso says it is not easy being "green" and Republican, too - these days - but that was not always the case.

"Ronald Reagan signed more wilderness bills than any other president, before or since his administration. What we're trying to say is that conservation is conservative. It is part of the conservative ethic to care for the land and to be good stewards."

Of the 19 bills, the one with a New York connection is not exactly groundbreaking. HR 3510, sponsored by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), would reauthorize a program of postage stamps that highlights international species conservation.

DiPeso says he understands that Congress has been swamped, but says there is no good reason to delay bills that lawmakers actually agree on.

"When we wrote the letter to Speaker Boehner, we were pointing out, 'Look, you have all these conservation bills that have Republican sponsors. Let's go ahead and pass 'em.'"

The group's mission is to move the GOP more to the ideological center when it comes to conservation, DiPeso adds.

"For a lot of reasons, the issue has become partisan, and that has held up progress. What we're here to say is, as conservatives, Republicans need to understand that the root of the word 'conservative' is to conserve, to save."

He points out that some of the nation's major environmental decisions were made by Republican presidents, from Teddy Roosevelt to Reagan to Richard Nixon. He quotes former Washington Gov. Dan Evans, who said, "There are no Republican rivers and there are no Democratic mountains. All these lands are for all Americans, for all time."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY