By Kevin Mooney — Thanks to the ingenuity and vision of key activists who are going local rather than fixating on Washington, D.C., the Tea Party is in position to challenge the power and influence of state level green groups. For decades, well-funded environmental activists have operated at expense of industrial development and private landowners without any meaningful response.
But in the time that has elapsed since the 2010 elections, average citizens and elected officials who are connected with the Tea Party have oriented themselves against green pressure groups. This approach is very much in keeping with the advice of Ned Ryun, executive director of American majority, a grassroots organization headquartered in Va., has the right idea. He recommends that the Tea Party take full advantage of its decentralized structure and burrow in locally.
Each state has its own particular set of challenges, but the environmental movement has bedeviled almost every region of the country in some manner. Conservatives especially should appreciate the advantages of a free market strategy built around federalism.
A key test will come in Maine where Paul R. LePage, the new Tea Party-backed Republican governor, campaigned aggressively against environmental regulations. He benefits from new Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, but will up against a “green iron triangle” that is deeply entrenched, Ron Arnold, the executive director of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise observes.
“The Big Green disaster that’s destroying Maine has been gnawing away at every state for years,” he said. “The influence and reach of green pressure groups has gone unchecked and unchallenged far too long, crushing private citizens and business owners nationwide. The Iron Triangle, as I describe it in Maine, shows rank collusion between the Maine Audubon Society and the DEP, jointly concocting false ‘science’ to justify catastrophic regulations. Gov.-elect Page and incoming lawmakers need to show some guts and throttle these cabals so they can never hurt anyone again. There is no reason to let fictitious ‘ecological concerns’ continue to overwhelm the state’s economy. It’s time to strip Maine of its anti-business regulations and regulators, restructuring the bureaucracy to promote economic development and force environmental protection to help growth, not demolish it.”
Maine’s state government has been aptly described as an “environmental dictatorship.” A Tea Party lead charge against regulatory schemes in that state detached from sound science could spur similar activism in other parts of the country.
Another green group that deserves careful scrutiny is the Montana Wilderness Association, which is well-connected with top government officials. The wife of the organization’s past president has been elected to the state’s Supreme Court.
“We are going to be in for a real fight,” said Tim Ravndal, a Montana resident who serves as the executive director for the Lewis and Clark Conservative Tea Party. “The other side has the market cornered in judicial eco-extremism and we need to be wary. We are going to introduce and stimulate discussion in the upcoming legislative session so we can have results by the 2013 legislative session.”
Beth Baker, who takes office in the Montana Supreme Court January 2011 is married to Tim Baker, the former executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association. She also raised money for her successful judicial campaign from environmental groups, according to Citizens for Balanced Use.
Washington State has its own special set of problems with green groups that intrude upon private industry. The Community Alliance to Reach Out and Engage (CARE) recently reached out to prevent a Renton businessman from opening a car sales business. The city council had already determined that it would not impact a nearby wetland, but CARE marshaled opposition and government officials capitulated. CARE President Gwendolyn High is also the administrative director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC), which has secured and distributed over a billion dollars in state and federal grants in just the last 20 years.
WWRC “invests” over $35 million a year in land acquisition using taxpayer funds for parks and conservation easements. It also partners with the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) in Washington. CLC advances the use of conservation easements through its Transfer of Development Rights program. “As a regional land trust, CLC owns and manages over 5500 acres of preserve properties and monitors over 5400 acres of conservation easements throughout 10 counties,” it says on its web site.
Other Washington state based groups aiming their arrow against private property include People for Puget Sound, Jefferson Land Trust, North Olympic Land Trust, Washington Wilderness Coalition, the Washington Environmental Council, Earthshare of Washington and Conservation Northwest.
As it turns out, environmental land grab schemes are not limited to the west coast. They are pursued with alacrity in other parts of the country by well-funded local level green groups that have joined with government officials to roll back private property.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which is closely associated with The Nature Conservancy, has a large hand in completing the Clearfield County Nature Inventory (CNHI), which should be a major point of concern warns Dale Anderson, a private property proponent.
“This has the potential to shut down any natural resource production in the state, county by county,” he said. “The WPC is actively gathering up large tracts of private lands and flipping those lands to either the Allegheny National Forest, the PA Dept of Conservation & Natural Resources, the PA Fish Commission, or the PA Game Commission. They also actively pursue Conservation Easements and “inholdings” to existing PA government lands.”
The on-going collusion between government officials and green groups has put the private sector at a great disadvantage on the local and state level. But the battle has finally been joined.
Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.