Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate have officially launched a new conservation-focused group called the ‘Roosevelt Conservation Caucus’ (RCC). The RCC will focus on Republican-led reforms around National Parks funding, wildlife conservation, ocean preservation and private property rights. Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) and Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) will lead the effort as the House co-chairs of the caucus. Mast has been the main pilot tackling the issues of algal blooms in Florida and also co-sponsored dozens of bills around public lands, wildlife, and ocean health.
In 2017, during her first term in Congress, Stefanik introduced a resolution. She sought reforms around climate change and was joined by 22 others from her party. Additionally, she introduced comprehensive bills to fight invasive species and forest fires. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the two vice-chairs on the House side, have been working on substantial initiatives around climate change and Great Lakes restoration, respectively.
Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are aiding in fronting the charge on the Senate side. Both have been outspoken supporters of our national parks, climate change reforms and bipartisan efforts on environmental issues. Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who will serve as the Senate vice-chairs, are known for their dedication to an all-of-the-above energy strategy, emissions reductions, and overwhelming support for public lands and nature.
Republicans, alongside Democrats, have introduced a number of bills this year that aim to fund research and development for battery storage, carbon capture technology and other energy needs. However, caucus members emphasized that traditional energy sources like coal, oil and gas would continue to be a part of the mix.
Legislation such as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which puts existing funding sources into specific state wildlife agencies, will be one of the first focuses of the new caucus. Improving the Endangered Species Act — along with legislation that supports other at-risk wildlife — is also a core focus for the caucus. Regarding the complex issues of public lands, the caucus will be staunchly supportive of proper funding of our federal lands, along with the improved management of forests and parks. The caucus is also considering engaging in an increase of public-private partnerships.
GOP leaders are also recognizing the political importance of acting on climate issues. Leadership from caucus members has already assisted in charting a new policy course for the GOP which allows others to follow their lead. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), for example, could find himself to be in a substantially difficult reelection race in 2020 in a green, environmentally-conscience and focused state. He announced, “Tell the people of Colorado that we’re going to assure them that the next generation is going to receive an environment that is in better condition, better shape, better health than the one they inherited when they were born.”
The Senior Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, made a rare, public split from President Trump and disagreed with the President’s comments on climate change, saying the vast majority of scientists are concerned with climate change and say action must be taken. “I would encourage the president to look long and hard at the science and find the solution. I’m tired of playing defense on the environment.”
This new effort to preserve, conserve and protect our environment should not be partisan. Bipartisanship and increased involvement from conservatives on the environment is a welcome development. “Do no harm” has always been a core conservative principal.