A Common Sense Approach To Environmental Regulatory ReformBy C. David Kelly
Perhaps common sense is winning out after all.
During the past 30 years or so, it has become fashionable for many Americans to call themselves environmentalists, regardless of whether they understood the meaning of the word. Being an environmentalist, in many minds, is synonymous with being an expert on determining what is good for the environment - and what isn't.
It would be easy to generalize that environmentalists have but one mission in life - to protect the environment. A recent poll published in the Wall Street Journal reveals that a majority of those claiming to be environmentalists have much more on their minds, and possess a little more common sense than what we in the agricultural community originally thought.
Finding one American citizen claiming to be "anti-environment" would be difficult. And, contrary to conventional thought, 80 percent of those claiming to be environmentalists are not activists. These people support environmental protection, but they don't subscribe to the "sky-is-falling" approach many extremists engage when seeking to save the Earth from itself.
Like most in the farming community, this silent majority of environmentalists favors easing the current regulatory grip Washington has on certain segments of the population. "Americans' support for environmental reform is almost as strong as their concern for the environment itself," Jonathan H. Adler and Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, facilitators of the Journal poll, discovered.
Much of the poll's findings should provide comfort for the agricultural community. A strong majority of Americans believe private property owners should not have to waive certain constitutional guarantees because of environmental protection regulations. Environmental protection and private property guarantees are harmonious, according to the Journal. Landowners deserve fair compensation when environmental regulations restrict land use or reduce property values. Perhaps America's farmers aren't as alone in their environmental beliefs as we thought.
The majority of Americans also believe wetlands regulations and the Endangered Species Act should be less cumbersome for property owners. Nearly half of Americans favor government incentives – not land use restrictions and penalties – as an impetus for landowners to keep endangered species on their property. Farm Bureau has championed this notion for years.
And finally, most Americans believe state and local governments - not the federal government - should be calling the shots on environmental policy. This revelation is unique, according to the Journal, because "pollsters often ask what people think 'the government' should do (about the environment) without asking what level of government they think should do it."
Most people, in rejecting the alarmist rhetoric many radical environmentalists employ to advance their extreme agendas, prefer a restrained, common-sense approach to protecting the environment. This is welcome news for the agricultural community. Let's hope that same common sense catches on in Congress.
C. David Kelly is assistant director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation.