‘New environmentalism’ needed, U.S. interior secretary tells cattlemen

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NASHVILLE - A “new environmentalism” is needed to help empower people “to take conservation into their own hands,” U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton told cattlemen at a meeting of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association earlier this month.

The meeting was held as part of the 2003 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.

What it’s about. This new environmentalism would feature consensus and partnership rather than conflict, Norton said, and would capture a vision of a nation of citizen-conservationists. 

“Successful conservation is a partnership between the government and the people,” she said.

Norton acknowledged that too often the government works against ranchers, instead of with them.

“Our administration is changing that perception,” she said, “and developing policies and partnerships that make cooperation a reality.”

From the top. Part of the reason for the government’s willingness to work with ranchers comes from the top – President George W. Bush.

“He knows that people who live on the land love their land, and know more about how to manage the land than anyone living in Washington, D.C.,” Norton told the more than 1,000 session attendees.

Norton also said ranchers have become partners with the government in managing public lands, and for that reason the administration supports public land grazing.

“It is good for the land, good for the economy and good for wildlife,” she said. “Public land grazing is good for America.”

Government needs ranchers. According to Norton, the government needs involvement from public land ranchers to be successful in various environmental efforts.

She encouraged ranchers to provide the Bureau of Land Management with ideas to help develop reform in promoting conservation and revising requirements that protect endangered species.

Demands for water also were addressed by Norton. She said the administration has proposed a 2004 budget that includes $11 million to fund forward-thinking water initiatives.

“Water is potentially the most serious resource problem for the 21st century,” she said, “and this is a start in finding the solutions we need for the long term.”

Awards. Norton saluted the seven regional winners of the NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award Program, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, saying it “recognizes that good management demands that you care for the environment. You know that good environmental stewardship and good business go hand-in-hand.”

Noting that environmental discussions in the past have sometimes caused “passionate antagonism and outright hostility,” Norton said the administration is out to change the debate.

“With new environmentalism, we will continue to find consensus and common ground so ranchers can earn a good living, and can turn their business over to sons and daughters who want to continue the family legacy.”

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