Magazine article Sierra

Green Elephants: The "Environmental Conscience" of a Party That May Not Want One. (Lay of the Land)

Magazine article Sierra

Green Elephants: The "Environmental Conscience" of a Party That May Not Want One. (Lay of the Land)

Article excerpt

Martha Marks has an unenviable job: She's the president of an organization called Republicans for Environmental Protection. The 2,000 members of "REP America" are trying to keep alive the flame of Teddy Roosevelt (who established the national park system), Richard Nixon (who signed the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act), and Barry Goldwater, a REP America member. They don't lack for current heroes--among them Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) and Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), and Representatives Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Sherwood Boehlert (RN.Y.), and Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.)--but their cause is reviled by their party's leadership. We reached Martha Marks at her home in northern Illinois.

Sierra: How did you get started?

Marks: In March 1995, I showed up at a conference about endangered species in the first 100 days of the "Gingrich Revolution." The organizers made a big deal of the fact that I was a Republican elected official--I was a county commissioner at the time. During the course of the conference, people kept coming up and whispering, "I'm a Republican too. We really need a Republican environmental organization." So I said, "Let's do it." We incorporated, and even copyrighted our slogan, "Conservation is conservative," which we use liberally, if you'll pardon the expression.

Sierra: Do you feel a greater responsibility, given the current situation?

Marks: Definitely. While we're delighted to help good Republicans win office, we're leery of the anti-environmental element in our party, and concerned about what they may be planning. We are not greeting the prospect of unified Republican government with unabashed joy.

Sierra: Has the Republican Party taken notice of you?

Marks: They know we're here. We have good contacts in Congress, but we're pretty much persona non grata in the White House. …

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