“The center holds” is a popular axiom of American politics, and one that certainly applies to the recent midterm elections. While the media made much of the social conservatism (i.e., the “three G’s”: God, guns, and gays) espoused by many new members of Congress, a strong current of economic populism ran through their campaigns, as well. Regardless of their ideological bent, what’s striking is how mainstream conservation was embraced by so many candidates—from Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s moderate Republican governor, to Heath Shuler, a conservative Democratic representative from North Carolina. They ran, and won, promoting alternative forms of energy and the protection of our public lands.
At Audubon we look forward to a Congress that provides the checks and balances against the type of extremism documented in this issue. “Since 2000 the Bureau of Land Management has approved more than 17,000 drilling permits in Wyoming,” reports Senior Editor Keith Kloor in “Sagebrush Showdown.” “Many of the Interior Department officials charged with carrying out this policy happen to be former lobbyists for the oil and gas industry, and they crafted a policy early in the Bush administration that eased environmental restrictions and fast-tracked drilling permits.” They’re also fast-tracking extinction of the sage grouse, and hammering pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and songbirds, to boot.
Meanwhile, writes Ted Williams in “Beach Bums,” off-road vehicles (ORVs) are “monopolizing barrier beaches on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, aborting nesting attempts by colonial waterbirds, oystercatchers, and threatened piping plovers; crushing eggs and young of all these species; and imperiling and/or intimidating the roughly 90 percent of visitors who travel by foot.” The least tern chick that was run over by some benighted yahoo should symbolize all that’s wrong with an administration that, in a pinch, can be counted on to put recreation and industry ahead of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage. We urge you to write the public officials listed in the What You Can Do box to let them know you won’t tolerate ORVs squashing birds on lands that belong to all Americans. And while you’re at it, write your members of Congress to remind them to heed the election’s lessons.