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Conservatives & Environmentalists: Allies, Not Enemies

Conservatives and environmentalists generally have as much in common as the Hatfields and McCoys. Environmentalists like to point to the career of conservative James Watt and the comment of Ronald Reagan that once you've seen one redwood you've seen them all. Most conservatives, on the other hand, view environmentalists as sentimental anti-modernists who want to take us back to living in teepees.

Despite the apparent polarity, there are good reasons for conservatives to be concerned about the environment—reasons that go beyond GOP election strategies. Through the ages, a prominent strand of conservative thought has been love of the land and attachment to the soil. In Europe and the United States, the small farmer and the landed country gentleman are archtypical conservative figures who sense the changeless cycles of the seasons and regard man as the partner, not the master, of nature. From my own observation, it is the desire for these same intangibles that prompts the average environmentalist toward the wilderness, away from the arrogant sophistries and passing sensations of modern urban living.

Another common interest of both groups is an abiding concern for future generations. If most environmentalists were only interested in their own enjoyment of the wilderness, they could relax and forget political action. Not even 100 James Watts could destroy all the wilderness in one lifetime. Thus when they take...

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