Gale Norton: American Voters
oppose her approach and so should the Senate
Deb Callahan, President
League of Conservation
Voters Education Fund
January 18, 2001
the Senate Energy and Resources Committee is faced with an important
opportunity. During the confirmation
hearing of Interior nominee Gale Norton, they can seek answers to the tough
questions that expose the ideological anti-environmental leadership she will
bring to the Interior department. They
have the opportunity to learn whether she will continue the practice of putting
developers’ interests ahead of citizens’ interests, continue the policies of
exploitation over conservation.
of how Gale Norton attempts to spin her anti-environmental record, one thing
remains very clear: Gale Norton’s
extreme anti-environmental agenda is out of step with mainstream American
values. And we are clearly laying out
these facts this week in ads in the Washington Post, Roll Call and The Hill newspapers.
Republicans throughout history, throughout the nation and throughout Congress
have been champions of conservation and public lands protections. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt
initiated the federal conservation ethic in this country, an ethic that Gale
Norton has strenuously fought against.
In fact, her staunch opposition to the values promoted by Roosevelt led
his great-grandson and chairman of the LCV board to admonish the appointment of
Norton. In fact, in an article in this
week’s New Yorker, Teddy Roosevelt IV equated Bush’s nominations to throwing
dirty dishwater in the face of environmentalists – an action that will
necessitate fierce environmental battles.
Norton is clearly outside the tradition of the best Republican
conservationists. In fact, she clearly
derives her guidance from the misguided attitudes of James Watt, not Theodore
Roosevelt. This should give moderate
Republicans in both the House and Senate, and throughout the nation,
significant reason for concern. Norton
clearly comes from the extreme anti-environmental James Watt end of the
spectrum, a fact that is troubling for those of us who are working for
bipartisan progress on these issues.
consistently show that the majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents
alike want stronger, better enforced, environmental and public health
protections. Last Friday, we released a bipartisan poll that shows unmistakably
that Americans care deeply about clean air, safe water and protected public
lands. Voters expect their elected
officials – and even Cabinet appointees – to uphold these basic and precious
anti-environment opponents, including Gale Norton, have tried to use economic
or business-related concerns to justify weakening environmental safeguards, an
overwhelming 83 percent of voters reject the notion of a tradeoff between
protecting the environment and having a strong economy. A whopping 81 percent of Republicans, 80
percent of Independents and 86 percent of Democrats believe that a healthy
environment and a strong economy can coexist and we do not have to choose one
over the other. Short term,
short-sighted profit motives should never outweigh the public’s long term
interest in environmental protection.
Republicans, Democrats and Independents know this – but unfortunately,
Gale Norton doesn’t.
Norton thinks that current federal laws protecting the environment are
burdensome and unfair to individuals and businesses, and need to be
does the public believe?
of voters believe that tougher enforcement of environmental laws or stronger
environmental laws are needed. By
contrast, only 3% of Americans think the current laws protecting the
environment and enforcement of those laws are too strict and need to be
nominee to head the Department of Interior agrees with only 3% of the public,
or basically the margin of error for our poll.
81% disagree with her views. You
can’t get much farther out of step with mainstream thinking.
Norton has made advocating for “local control” of lands a central theme
throughout her career, beginning in her days at James Watt’s Mountain States
Legal Foundation, and continuing today. Environmentalists advocate that federal
public lands are resources that should be managed not just for the local
citizens, but for all Americans.
is the public’s view?
found that by a margin of 72 % to 21 %, the voters want the government to
continue its control of parks when contrasted with the alternative of giving up
a bit of irony, she makes the local control argument when it’s a convenient way
to argue against federal protections.
But, as the Coloradoans who are here with us today specifically show,
Norton is willing to subvert even the notion of local control to benefit the
profit interests of developers. Gale
Norton is staunch advocate of developers, polluters and extractive interests,
too often at the costs of our quality of life. We need an interior secretary who refuses to allow private
interests to dictate the policies protecting all our interests.
this in mind, it is not at all surprising that 82 percent of voters believe
that Cabinet appointees nominated by the President should be committed to
protecting the environment. When asked
if Cabinet appointees should primarily be concerned about protecting the
environment or reducing government regulation, voters chose protecting the
environment by a two-to-one margin.
things are unmistakably clear:
Americans want stronger environmental, public health and public lands
protections and Gale Norton is not the person to give it to them.
made a politically risky decision in choosing Gale Norton. Not only did he turn a blind eye to
environmental priorities of the people, but he also set a course for public
backlash come the 2002 mid-term elections.
If Bush, Norton and their allies in Congress work to rollback public
lands protections and weaken public health safeguards, the anti-environment
wing of the party will amplify public outcry against the entire party in the
next election. That’s clearly as
dangerous for moderate Republicans as it is for the future of our public lands.
no wonder that Republican Teddy Roosevelt IV and the organization REP America,
Republicans for Environmental Protection, are staunchly opposed to the Norton
we urge United States Senators to listen to the will of the people, choose the
public interest over politics, and take a stand against the nomination of Gale
Norton. The future of our public lands is in their hands.