"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
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -