"But you don’t sound like a republican..."

  • GREEN ELEPHANT: Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, thinks conservation shouldn't be a partisan issue

    Singeli Agnew
 

Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, has gotten used to funny looks and puzzled questions. Yes, she’s a green elephant — but she objects to being put in the same category as "jumbo shrimp" and "deafening silence." She is not an oxymoron. What she is, she says, is "the environmental conscience of the GOP," a reminder that Republican President Teddy Roosevelt created our first national park, and Republican Richard Nixon signed our landmark environmental laws. These days, Marks says, her party leaders have veered from their conservation roots. But, from her home base in Santa Fe, N.M., Marks has been trying to revive the green ethic in the GOP. Her grassroots group now has about 2,000 members nationwide. Martha Marks recently appeared on Radio High Country News to talk about her project:

On the roots of conservation

There’s nothing more fundamentally conservative than conservation. I like to say, "If conservatives won’t conserve, who will?"

On current leadership in the GOP

My party in recent years has not been friendly toward environmental protection. That doesn’t mean there are no people in the Republican Party who care about those things, but the leadership certainly doesn’t give any indication that it has a strong conservation ethic. And so, while we believe that it’s good that Republicans are in control of the House and the Senate and the White House, we would like to see them do a better job of protecting our environment and natural resources. We certainly will not support them if they do otherwise.

The Big Question

Reporters for years have asked me, "Why don’t you just become a Democrat?" I’ve never been a Democrat. I’ve always been a Republican. I grew up in a military family, singing "God Bless America" as we drove around Western Europe in the years right after World War II. And I’ve always been a conservationist. I never used to think it was funny. It’s only been in recent years that that’s been troubling.

The "R" word

Regulations sound like a dirty word. But in fact, we have regulations for everything. The Republican Party has not been trying to throw out regulations to control traffic. We don’t throw out regulations for schoolchildren getting their inoculations. There are many places where we accept regulations. It’s curious to me that regulations have become a bugaboo in the Republican Party, primarily as it regards environmental issues. And I think it’s a red herring. It’s a bogus issue.

On making a difference

We now have grassroots activists in 48 states who are flexing their muscles in different ways. We write letters to the editor and op-eds. We have a political committee that works to try to make sure that green Republicans stay in office. We are definitely a force in the party. The party leaders know about us. I often laugh and say that they wish we’d sit down and shut up.

Red, white and blue ... and green

We tend to talk in terms of conservative values, like individual responsibility, how it’s not necessarily a responsible thing to go out and buy the very largest SUV so you can to toodle around to the grocery store. We talk in terms of patriotism: It’s a patriotic thing to conserve, because it would free us from our dependencies on the states in the Mideast that are supporting terrorism, and using our money to do it. You can talk about self-restraint: Just because we can build snowmobiles, we don’t have to go out into Yellowstone Park and chase the buffalo out of the park, where they get shot. Just because we can drill in a national monument, doesn’t mean we should.

A mammoth task

It’s like trying to turn an enormous ship around. I see the Republican Party as a very large ship, steaming ahead, and in many ways it’s working well. It’s got the right positions on a lot of issues. It’s got charismatic leadership and plenty of funding. We are trying to shift it off its course on environmental issues. My belief is the Republican Party’s going to have to hit an iceberg that’s identified as environmental before it starts to make a major shift.

An issue for everyone

Environmental protection or conservation of natural resources that we all depend on and we all treasure shouldn’t be partisan issues. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the beautiful places that Republicans and Democrats love to recreate and restore our souls in — those are not partisan issues.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Job purpose The Executive Director is a proven leader with demonstrated and sustained experience managing people, budgets, fundraising, and contract compliance who guides a well-established...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition seeks a Communications Associate to support the advancement of GYC's mission by working closely with the Communications Coordinator and program staff...
  • MONTANA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure significant...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...