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There's a lot happening in D.C., that's why the ACC has committed to curating the most important content from Capitol Hill. Read the ACC policy newsletter series here to see what bills we're watching, Representatives we're applauding, and news from state houses across the country.
Our Principles of Conservative Environmentalism
Environmental conservatism is based in the concept of wise stewardship – rooted in virtues of prudence, personal responsibility, mutuality, and obligation – which transcends political ideology.
Just as political conservatism is deeply rooted in the philosophy of providing stability and continuity in our political and social institutions, conservative environmentalism is rooted in the notion of promoting and conserving those earthly tendrils – water, land, and air – that give rise to and sustain life.
Conservatives believe that society’s ills, including environmental problems, are best solved through the organizing principle of subsidiarity, or decision-making at the lowest effective level of governance.
The long-term security and wellbeing of any human society is dependent on healthy and sustainable ecosystems and the agricultural processes operating within them.
Protecting the environment is not and cannot be an end unto itself, but rather is an inherent part of ordered liberty, which seeks to balance individual rights with the public interest.
Absent well-defined property rights, regulation, or some communal or tribal management arrangement, “each person with access to the resource has an incentive to exploit it and neglect the effects of his or her actions on the resource’s productivity.” Conversely, without a property interest a person has no incentive to improve the economic productivity or yield of his or her land.
Humans have the power and capacity to destroy life on earth, whether through using weapons of mass destruction, careless or indifferent use of harmful chemicals, or persistent and unabated abuse of the land. Respect for all life, human ingenuity and innovation can help to mitigate such destructive forces.
Free markets and market-based solutions are preferred over regulation, although the latter are essential for effective and functioning markets.
Make the polluter pay.
A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
Our View: Energy
Energy plays a vital role in the American economy. Affordable, renewable energy is pivotal for the United States as it moves forward into the 21st century. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe increasing the use of renewable energy sources is a priority for America’s energy policies. Nearly half of Americans also believe keeping energy prices low should be a top priority for energy policy.
The United States can strike an appropriate balance between minimizing energy costs and maximizing investment in renewable energy by adopting sensible policies that encourage energy innovation. While government should not engage in picking winners and losers in energy, it should take steps toward energy independence by promoting a diverse set of renewable energy options, paving a responsible future for traditional energy sources.
Protecting Public Lands
Our View: America's Protected Lands
In the 101 years since its inception, the National Parks Service (NPS) has provided excitement for Americans nationwide. NPS consists of 410 parks, covering eighty-five million acres in the United States. Each park contains beautiful, natural lands that America should cherish. However, the national park experience that Americans have enjoyed for a century is at risk without the necessary funds to ensure a safe, up-to-date experience for all visitors. Importantly, National Parks provide both jobs and economic stimulus. Nevertheless, many of America’s National Parks are in need of maintenance. It is important for Congress to respond to their requests.
In order to protect America’s natural resources and wildlife, the federal government ought to retain ownership of the majority of its federal lands. Preventing the sale of federal lands to interests contrary to their preservation requires citizens to hold officials accountable at every level of government.
At the same time, the ACC considers educating and updating individuals on possible sales of federal land as one of its primary responsibilities. As we've seen over the past few decades, there are many lands that have been better taken care of under private ownership.
State and Private Land Rights
State parks and forests are some of the most revenue-generating areas in each state. Most of all, state land protects the vital ecosystems and wildlife of our nation. Since America's birth, states have protected land as well as anyone. The ACC will continue to encourage state ownership of land and seek to encourage growth within it.
Our country must embrace incentive-based reforms in regards to private land as well. Over 80% of endangered species rely on private land for their survival and in many cases, private land has been the most effective in protecting our nation's ecosystems.
Two of America’s most important pastimes are conservation and hunting. Indeed, America is home to 40 million hunters and anglers, the vast majority of whom are dedicated to preserving public lands that they might be passed along to future generations. America’s body of sportsmen prove that conservation and hunting are not mutually exclusive practices: eighty-seven percent of hunters and anglers do not want to see cuts to conservation programs.
Hunting in America offers important economic benefits, generating over $67 billion in output and sustaining over one million jobs. Hunting also generates tens of billions in retail sales as well as salaries and wages, sales and income taxes, and revenue for federal and state agencies. As a means to promote community and spur the economy, hunting and fishing rights must be protected.
Rural and Urban Agriculture
Our View: Agriculture
Farming in America has become increasingly modern. A 2015 study by the Department of Agriculture and Purdue University found that an “average of nearly 60,000 high-skilled [agricultural] and related job openings are expected annually in the United States over the next five years,” including water and plant scientists and engineers. The new-look agricultural sector requires similarly innovative policies and practices to spur growth.
These practices include preventing the removal or erosion of valuable topsoil. ACC encourages research and private investment in farming techniques and technologies that control soil erosion, such as contour planting and field windbreaks.
President Ronald Reagan understood the unique position that agriculture enjoys in the fabric of America. In 1982 he referred to America’s agriculturists as, “… the real miracle workers of the modern world—keepers of an incredible system based on faith, freedom, hard work, productivity, and profit—a system that feeds us and sustains millions of the world’s hungry.”
As rural agriculture evolves, innovative farming practices emerge; among the most important is urban agriculture. Across the United States, in cities from Brooklyn to Seattle, urban farming has grown into an economically and environmentally sustainable practice. It reaps a number of benefits, increasing the supply and the variety of food options in urban areas that often lack jobs and reliable sources of food. Urban agriculture is an important new practice that governments on the local, state, and federal level should encourage.
Clean water is Earth’s most essential resource, and the vast majority of American consumers and experts believe water problems are a major issue in the United States. Most Americans feel vulnerable to water crises affecting their communities. Indeed, in the coming century America faces the threat of a clean water crisis, which poses risks to virtually all segments of the country, from farms to cities and communities in between. It is vital for both federal and state governments to craft coherent strategies to handle and prevent future crises by utilizing market-based solutions in technology and innovation.