Cooperative conservation

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On August 26, 2004, President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order to facilitate cooperative conservation. As defined in that order, the phrase means "actions that relate to use, enhancement, and enjoyment of natural resources, protection of the environment, or both, and that involve collaborative activity among Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, private for-profit and nonprofit institutions, other nongovernmental entities and individuals." [1]

2005 conference

One year later, the administration held an invitation-only, three day White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation in St. Louis, Missouri. At the keynote address on the opening day of the conference, August 29, 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns "described a future where credits for clean water, greenhouse gases or wetlands can be traded as easily as a commodity such as corn. A Market-Based Environmental Stewardship Coordination Council will be created to ensure that 'a sound market-based approach to quantifying conservation services is developed,'" Johanns said, according to the Associated Press. [2]

Other federal officials also described the initiative. Department of the Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said the aim of cooperative conservation is '"to energize citizen-conservationists." James L. Connaughton of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said the goal is to "reduce some of the expansive machinery of government that can sometimes get in the way" of local conservation efforts. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen L. Johnson argued that a cooperative approach to conservation is more effective. "When we act alone, mandating rules and regulations, our environmental progress is limited," he said. [3]

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned against too much cooperation, stressing that military needs must trump environmental considerations. "When those concerns are not balanced, the consequence can be unfortunate," he said. [4]

Connaughton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "one of the strongest catalysts for the conference grew out of a two-hour meeting Bush had at his ranch in April 2004 with about a dozen conservation group leaders." Cooperative conservation matched Bush's "strong commitment to the notion of 'citizen stewardship'," he said. So Bush "pushed for billions of dollars in conservation incentives to farmers who do conservation work on their land, sometimes in concert with conservation groups who provide technical expertise." As a result, according to Connaughton, "What you get now is instead of farmers being in conflict with some conservation groups, you have farmers working on partnership with conservation groups. ... There are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are hunters and fishermen. Working together, they can make some pretty smart choices." [5]

According to a press release, the industry-funded Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy took part in the cooperative conservation conference, as did such "leading U.S. employers" as Anheuser-Busch, ExxonMobil, International Paper, and the American Chemistry Council. [6]

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