Republican Environmentalism

Read and share the new CRES op-ed!

Gary Lambert, June 16, 2015

As appeared in the Nashua Telegraph:

I’ve been a Republican since college, a conservative, a former state senator, a thirty-five year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a committed naturalist. In other words, I’m dedicated to conservative values that include promoting a robust business climate while also being a responsible steward of our natural resources.

That shouldn’t be a controversial position for a Republican to hold. After all, the father of modern conservationism was a Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt. “Here is your country,” Roosevelt bid his fellow Americans, “Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children.”

Many Republicans still share Roosevelt’s conviction that conservation is compatible with conservative philosophy and governance. Republican conservationists bring a more practical, free market approach to environmental policies, relying on technology and innovation – rather than heavy-handed regulation – to develop the clean energy sources that will grow our economy and create high-paying jobs. We Republicans are no less committed than Democrats to the goals of clean air and water, less reliance on fossil fuels, and preservation of our nation’s natural beauty.

Unfortunately, Democrats have co-opted this issue from Republicans and have created a false narrative that environmental gains must come at the expense of economic success. Perhaps even worse, some Republicans have willfully allowed Democrats to do this, and have thus ceded the high ground on the environment, damaged our party’s brand as problem solvers, and directed the national debate away from free market solutions. Anti-environmentalism isn’t an accurate or fair depiction of the majority Republican view. But it is conventional wisdom, and damaging to our party’s electoral prospects in the future. For that to change, the majority supporting sensible environmental policies have to raise their voices and assert their position over those intent on breaking with our party’s legacy as faithful stewards of our natural inheritance.

When I was a candidate for Congress, I heard from many Republican primary voters about their support for sound conservative, conservationist policies. They, like me, did not want to cede this issue to others who are only too happy to let voters think that Democrats are the only candidates interested in conservation and the environment.
There’s no better time to start taking the initiative and reasserting the Republican brand as sensible conservationists than in the upcoming first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a national leader in these efforts, recently sponsored a poll of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. The findings might surprise the media. The results clearly demonstrate an opportunity for Republican presidential candidates to lead on this issue – and attract voters. 80 percent of New Hampshire primary voters believe developing more traditional and renewable energy sources is a very or somewhat high priority. 57 percent strongly or somewhat favor federal action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

Unsurprisingly, pro-conservation is strongest among younger Republicans. 59 percent of 18-34 year old primary voters want more emphasis on diversifying energy sources. 56 percent are more likely to vote for a candidate that believes climate change is real and that human activity contributes to it.

The future of our party will be shaped significantly by the focus of young Republican voters on America’s environmental challenges and on developing free market solutions that promote prosperity as well as a sustainable environment. These young Republicans are seeing firsthand the opportunities that the cleantech sector is bringing to New Hampshire in an otherwise lackluster economy.

A recent New Hampshire Cleantech Market Report stated that between 13,000- 20,000 New Hampshire workers are employed in the cleantech business sector. Not only is this business sector growing at a higher rate than the rest of the state, but these jobs, on average, pay 50% higher than the state’s average annual wage.

Together with longer-in-the-tooth Republicans like me who believe conservatives have an obligation to conserve, we can begin to restore our party’s historical reputation as defenders of the resources and beauty of the bountiful land we call New Hampshire.

Gary Lambert spent 35 years in the active and reserve components of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a former State Senator and former candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a patent attorney with Lambert & Associates in Nashua.

Scroll to Top