Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Congressman Tom McClintock
428 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman McClintock:

I viewed with distaste, and no little contempt, an outburst during the recent Forest Access Field Hearing held in Sacramento. The rude and imbecilic catcalls at Karen Schambach, a PEER spokesperson, (while she spoke movingly of her father’s and grandfather’s military service), of which I suspect you disapproved, prompted me to write this letter.

More than anything, as a longtime supporter (including during the 2003 recall election), I seek clarification from you regarding your stand on an issue which, as candidly as I can put it, separates true, historic traditionalist conservatives from mere traditional Republican politicians (not that we couldn’t use a lot more of those in California). That issue regards conservation of our environment and wilderness heritage on behalf of future generations.

More specifically, my concern grows over ongoing damage and degradation throughout our state caused by illegal off-road vehicles. In my other incarnation I serve as executive director of ORV Watch Kern County, a volunteer organization dedicated to curbing off-road abuse on private properties and public lands; however, in this letter I write as an individual taxpayer, sick to death of big corporate money, highly paid lobbyists, loudmouth ORV activists (clamoring for yet more wilderness riding space), and spineless local, state, and national politicians who are more than happy to shove the industry’s 30 pieces of silver into their well-tailored suit pockets.

Now, I write this as a Jeffersonian conservative, with strong libertarian views regarding the economy (which is why I often find myself performing cartwheels when you address issues like taxation, budget-cutting, and reducing the scope of government). This always amazes off-road advocacy groups; they just can’t believe that someone who holds my views on ORV abuse can be politically conservative. They assume that those opposing illegal off-roading are “tree-huggers,” lesbians, Marxists, vegetarians, progressives, and, I suppose, wood nymphs. However, when you indicated your apparent support for “increased motorized access to our forests,” honestly, Cong. McClintock, my heart sank.

Here is what I don’t understand about Republicans and Conservatives (I make a distinction between the two): how can any conservative not advocate, forcibly and passionately, for preserving our forests, rivers, lakes, mountains and wilderness areas? Conservation is actually one legacy of Western conservative thought. It is not the legacy of leftists, big government liberals, litigation happy “environmentalists,” or gnostic Gaia worshippers. As Russell Kirk (The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot) put it, “Nothing is more conservative than conservation.”

Republicans and conservatives have been at the forefront of agrarian ideas and policies throughout American history. A passion for Nature’s bounty and the need for conservation are seen in the Founders’ views toward the natural world. We see it in the rich beauty and diversity of Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier, and Adam’s smaller but beautiful Peacefield. We hear it in the words of Benjamin Franklin (“Positions to be examined concerning National Wealth,” 1769) when he explained the ways in which a nation can acquire wealth. “The first is by War,” he wrote. “This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally cheating. The third by Agriculture the only honest Way.”

We see it in President Lincoln’s legislative protection of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove. In Teddy Roosevelt’s advocacy for conservation and establishment of a national parks system (“There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”). Wrote “Mr. Conservative” himself, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, in The Conscience of the Majority, “While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment.” The last true conservative to hold the office of the presidency was Ronald Reagan. He too supported these ideas. In a 1986 message to Congress regarding the Council on Environmental Quality’s annual report, Reagan wrote, “A strong nation is one that is loved by its people and, as Edmund Burke put it, for a country to be loved it ought to be lovely.”

The bedrock beneath such policies has been a nexus of values rooted in traditionalist ideas. Some call Edmund Burke the father of modern conservatism. It was Burke who taught that a transcendent order links men with their ancestors and their descendants, and that violation of that sacred trust makes men little more than “the flies of summer.” Such recognition, according to Kirk, should engender “piety.” Conservatives have always embraced such spiritual values over a dark and empty materialism.

Warns the late conservative theorist Richard Weaver, “Triumphs against the natural order of living exact unforeseen payments. At the same time man attempts to straighten a crooked nature, he is striving to annihilate space, which seems but another phase in the war against substance. We ignore the fact that space and matter are shock absorbers; the more we diminish them the more we reduce our privacy and security.”

What I assert to you is, it seems, axiomatic: off-road vehicular “recreation” (what a misnomer!) in wild places constitutes a “striving to annihilate space.” These powerful, technologically sophisticated machines, built for thrill, power, speed, and the ability to “triumph” over the order of nature, can only destroy the lands upon which they are used. That is why we support their legal, restricted, and limited use on permitted private properties and authorized public lands. That is why we oppose extending more areas for them to gobble up.

What is perplexing, in considering your claim to be conservative, in the absence of any compelling reasons to grant more space to these vehicles, you seem to have already allied yourself with the corporations and lobbying groups which push for more space, more “opportunities” as they are wont to express it.

So my question is, why? Given this precious legacy of traditionalist and agrarian conservative love for, and conservation of, our wilderness heritage, what is it about the arguments off-road advocates make that you find so compelling? What overarching principles or changed circumstances have convinced you to advocate for those who want more “open” areas, fewer restrictions, less accountability? It may be something that is easily explainable and that I will have to live with.

It may simply be that you are more comfortable crunching numbers and arguing the mechanics of economic policy than trying to discern the worldviews (conscious or unconscious) held by some of your political admirers. If that is true, I hope you will at least agree to have a member of your staff meet with several people in your alliance (which includes volunteers in the 4th Congressional District). We would like the “opportunity” to present a case for property owners, business owners, and public lands users which is infrequently heard. We would be honored if you could free up, for a meeting at one of your Ventura County offices, one of your representatives.

We share, as to the importance of this issue, the same concern expressed by poet, farmer, and writer Wendell Berry: “Our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by the destruction of them.” [“Christianity and the Destruction of Civilization,” 1993]

Mesonika Piecuch
P.O. Box 550
Tehachapi, CA 93581
(661) 878-7838

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