On a mission from God: Bruce Babbitt and the environmental movement: Part I

By Diane Alden
web posted November 22, 1999

Like the famous "Blues Brothers," in the classic 70s movies, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt seems to have been on a life mission - "from God."

In a 1998 article in the outstanding western journal, Range Magazine, investigative journalist, Rolling Stone contributor, and former AP bureau chief Tim Findley, relates how Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt took 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 environmental movement's intellectual god-father, Aldo Leopold. As Leopold described the dying wolf which 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 America's 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 own 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 60s angst and idealism -- burning passionately for the various causes which became predominant during that period. Everything from civil rights to environmentalism, Babbitt grasped with the fervor of true believers such as Puritan firebrands Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather. Making each good, honorable, and noble ideal 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 Nortre Dame University and Harvard Law School, Babbitt worked with journalist Findley during the 60s in the VISTA program, (Volunteers in Service to America). That is about as far as the similarities go.

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 a war that claimed the poor and patriotic of a generation - to wit Vietnam.

After graduating from Harvard, 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 Attorney General of Arizona. Subsequently becoming governor of Arizona where he served 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 extreme groups such 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 Sens. Tim Wirth of Colorado and Harry Reid of Nevada. Along with a close friendship with Al Gore, Bruce Babbitt learned how to combine his messianic vision for the environment with money and hard ball politics.

When Babbitt became Secretary of the Interior he appointed professional environmentalists such as the Wilderness Society's George Frampton as assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. This appointment was viewed as a payback for the support that the environmental movement had given Babbitt in the past. It also gave Babbitt a strong ally to accomplish environmentalism's wish list. A very long wish list:

  • Against the desires of locals, wolves were introduced into Yellowstone and Idaho. ( in spite of the fact that the wolf had been coming down from Canada in increasing numbers, making human interference unnecessary.) They are so numerous in Canada that there is a hunting season on them at present.
  • Introduction of Elk into arid regions where they had no previous history, and whose increasing numbers caused degradation to riparian areas and overgrazing on others.
  • Arming green bureaucrats with weapons to carry out police activities on public lands in sovereign states
  • Closing thousands of miles of roads on so called public lands; 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 as well.
  • Cataloguing endangered species that would include those on private property.
  • The ill-conceived Heritage Rivers initiative - part of a UN sponsored
  • Funding for the absolutely collectivist and feudal "Wildlands" project.
    Currently, the budget fight contained a fund for buying up more private
    property to turn into the misnomer - "public lands" or wilderness.
  • Confiscating millions of acres in Western states under the Antiquities Act.

The Secretary and his cronies in the environmental movement have had the help and services of various government agencies, plus the dumbed down "assistance" of the educational establishment teaching "environmental science" to America's children --with a non-scientific left wing spin of course. In their book Facts, Not Fear Dr. Michael Sanera formerly of University of Arizona and presently with the Center for the New West and Jane Shaw of PERC illuminate the web of deception known as environmental education.

Predictably, a sympathetic, lazy, leftist and complicit media swallowed almost every bit of pseudo-science and one-sided nature documentary that came along on PBS or Turner Broadcasting or in the pages of expensive glossy "nature" magazines. Passing it on to the public as the gospel according to the greens. By accepting the 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 added that war extends to the rest of the United States as well.

Them's Fighting Words

Words can't make war but words can frame the nature of the 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 United States. Even though it is never exactly explained how, except to say that America's Western food producers are unfairly subsidized by low grazing fees. He says nothing of the good things 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 5 to 10 cents per pound cattlemen get for their product and how it is going to be eaten up if fees are increased.

Nevertheless, in Babbitt's world-view it is admirable for government to offer millions in aid and low interest loans to family farms in Iowa or Nebraska, No one covets Iowa except those who farm it.

But his charity is not evenhanded for the western rancher, the miner, or the logger.

Perhaps this dichotomy is exhibited in Babbitt's own words that reflect his crusading and self-righteous bent. As head of the Conservation League's political action committee Babbitt said 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; puritanism in the sense of dogmatic, fanatical, and sanctimonious beliefs and behavior. His old boy connections dove tail very well indeed with the elitism and hunger for power, legitimacy and supremacy that is 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 roads on and through public lands. Even in the case where these roads have served isolated communities for generations, the result has been to restrict all but the most physically able, access to "public lands."

What's more, the Interior Department and the environmental movement have successfully demonized mining and logging to the point of extinction. Both these high paying natural resource based jobs and industry are portrayed as selfishly ruining the environment even while independent studies indicate that this is no longer the case as it was in the 19th or early 20th centuries.There is no room in the world of the true believer for the concept that ranchers or extractive industries have learned from their mistakes and have managed to clean up their acts. There is no forgiveness from the new Puritans of the environment.

Part II - Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Rep. Jim Hansen and Mike McInnis - a few good men fight back; and Babbitt's scarlet letter - S is for scandal.

Diane Alden is a widely published research analyst and writer both in print and on the web. Currently she is a news analyst and commentator for Georgia Radio, Inc., she is also working on a book about the death of the rural West titled, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone." Reach her at Wulfric8@aol.com.

Current Issue

Archive Main | 1999

E-mail ESR



1996-2020, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.