On a Mission from God: Bruce Babbitt and the Environmental Movement

By Diane Alden

The NewsMax Years No. 5

Like the “Blues Brothers” in the classic movie, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt seems to be “on a mission from God.”

In a 1998 article in the outstanding western journal Range Magazine, Tim Findley relates how Babbitt took on his role as intercessor for the environment and other left wing causes…as an assignment from God

Findley recounts that when Babbitt spoke to the annual convention of the Associated Church Press several years ago, he conjured up the environmentalist movement’s intellectual godfather, Aldo Leopold, who described the dying wolf he had just shot, “…with a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.”

Findley reports that, on a trip to Yellowstone in 1995, Babbitt bent down “nose to nose with a slightly drugged wolf penned for later release in the wild. ‘I saw the green fire flare up again,’ Babbitt said, ‘fire brought back by American conservation laws with the power to help restore God’s creation.’”

Findley maintains, “Babbitt frequently places himself somewhere near a deity in his speeches, a distance apart from even his family’s less romanticized relationship with nature.”

Bruce Babbitt of Arizona comes from an old and respected, multigenerational, ranching family, whose history goes back to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony. His personal history reflects a New Age Puritanism—full of 1960s angst and idealism—burning passionately for the various causes which became predominant during that period.

Babbitt grasped everything from civil rights to environmentalism, with the fervor of such true believers as Puritan firebrands Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather. Making each good, honorable, noble ideal a part of his reason for being—even as these ideals ultimately degenerated into lifetime career opportunities for collectivists, demagogues and government bureaucrats.

A graduate of Notre Dame University and Harvard Law School, Babbitt worked with journalist Findley during the ‘60s in Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). That is about as far as the similarities go, however.

Babbitt first went to “war” as a crusader in Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” managing, like many other future politicians and elites, to avoid the war that claimed his generation’s poor and patriotic—Vietnam.

After graduating from law school, Babbitt decided that name recognition in Arizona would carry him further politically than service outside his state. As Bill Clinton had done in Arkansas, Babbitt got elected his state’s attorney general and subsequently governor of Arizona, serving from 1978-87.

During this time, he also worked as a natural resource lawyer, whereby he made a lifelong commitment to the environmental movement, soon becoming president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Findley recounts in his Range article “Bah, Bah, Babbitt” that as president of the conservation league, which was closely associated with such extreme groups as Friends of the Earth, Babbitt melded politics and environmentalism.

By directing campaign funds into the coffers of politicians who followed the green line, he garnered IOUs from various movers and shakers.

Findley maintains, “The League directed its contributions to potential friends like Senators Tim Wirth of Colorado and Harry Reid of Nevada. Along with a close friendship with Al Gore, Babbitt learned how to combine his messianic vision for the environment with money and hardball politics.”

As Interior secretary, Babbitt appointed professional environmentalists, such as the Wilderness Society’s George Frampton, to key posts. Such appointments gave Babbitt strong allies to accomplish environmentalism’s very long wish list that resulted in:

  • Wolves, against the desires of locals, were introduced into Yellowstone and Idaho, even though wolves had coming down from Canada in increasing numbers, making human interference unnecessary. They are so numerous in Canada that there is a hunting season at present;
  • Introduction of Elk into arid regions where they had no previous history and where their increasing numbers caused degradation to riparian areas and overgrazing on others;
  • Arming of green bureaucrats to carry out police activities on public lands in sovereign states;
  • Closing thousands of miles of roads on so-called public lands and placing more acreage, usually in the West, in wilderness status;
  • Disallowing multi-use of “public lands,” including grazing, mining, logging, and—recently—certain recreational uses;
  • Cataloguing endangered species that would include those on private property;
  • The ill-conceived Heritage Rivers Initiative—part of a UN sponsored abomination;
  • Funding for the absolutely collectivist and feudal “Wildlands” project, buying up more private property to turn into the misnomer “public lands” or wilderness;
  • Confiscating millions of acres in Western state under the Antiquities Act.

Babbitt and his cronies in the environmental movement have had the help and services of various government agencies, in addition to the assistance of the educational establishment, teaching America’s dumbed down children environmental science with a nonscientific left wing spin. [In their book, Facts, Not Fear, Michael Sanera of the Center for the New West and Jane Shaw of the Political Economy Research Center (www.perc.org) investigate the web Of deception known as environmental education.]

Predictably, a sympathetic, lazy, leftist and complacent media swallowed almost every bit of pseudo-science and one-sided nature documentary that came along on PBS or Turner Broadcasting or on the glossy pages of expensive “nature” magazines. These media outlets eagerly passed on to the public this gospel according to the greens.

By accepting the greens’ buzz words and junk science as God’s own truth, the media and the Babbitts of the world successfully demonized those who made their living off the land in extractive industries such as ranching, mining and forestry.

In the words of former Senator Malcolm Wallop, the whole lot of them in the green establishment have been waging “war on the West.” He might have said that war extends to the rest of the US, as well.

Them’s Fightin’ Words

Words can’t make war but words can frame the nature of war. Calling the ranching industry “appartchiks of western agriculture,” Babbitt maintains that the local rancher’s use of public lands is somehow unfair to the rest of the nation. Although he never exactly explained how, he says that Western food producers are unfairly subsidized by low grazing fees.

He says nothing of the good ranchers have done for the land in their care—improvements in water resources, rescuing dwindling wildlife, modernized techniques in maintaining the health of the land. Nor does he ever mention the approximately five to ten cents per pound cattlemen get for their product and how it is going to be diminished if fees are increased.

In Babbitt’s world-view it is admirable for government to offer millions of dollars in aid and low interest loans to family farms in Iowa or Nebraska, but no one covets Iowa except those who farm it. However, his charity is not as evenhanded for the western rancher, the miner, or the logger.

This dichotomy is perhaps best exhibited in Babbitt’s own words—reflective of his crusading, self-righteous bent. He said, as head of the Conservation League’s political action committee in 1991, “We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion.”

Puritan Babbitt and the True Believers

Babbitt’s puritan background coincides nicely with the quasi-religious factions in the environmental movement. His old-boy connections dovetail with the elitism and hunger for power that are the heart and soul of most historic movements.

In his pursuit of hegemony over the West, Babbitt has tried and failed to give gun-toting green bureaucrats police powers on public lands. He also failed to criminalize the failure to wear a seat belt or driving with a faulty muffler or dim headlights on BLM land.

However, he and the Clinton administration have successfully closed off thousands of miles of public lands roads, even where these roads have served isolated communities for generations. The result has been to restrict access to “public” lands to all but the most physically able.

What’s more, the Interior Department and the environmental movement have demonized mining and logging to the point of extinction. Both these high-paying, natural resource-based industries are portrayed as selfishly ruining the environment, despite independent studies that refute these accusations.

There is no room in the world of the true believer for the concept that ranchers or extractive industries have learned from past mistakes and cleaned up their acts. There is no forgiveness from the environmental Puritans.

(First published in NewsMax.com on Nov. 19, 1999.)

The Moral Lib­eral Senior Edi­tor, Diane Alden, was one of NewsMax.com’s most pop­u­lar and out­spo­ken pun­dits ( 1999–2008), and before that, a wonk for The Nevada Pol­icy Insti­tute. A former DJ in Geor­gia, Diane of late has been a weekly guest on the East Coast hit program, The Marc Bernier Show. Diane is loved for her quick sense of humor, cre­ative vocab­u­lary, inde­pen­dence of mind, and her pen­e­trat­ing analy­sis of a wide range of polit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and cul­tural issues.