Politics: Ask Not What They'll Do for Your Countryside

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, February 1995

Politics: Ask Not What They'll Do for Your Countryside

Face-to-face with the environment's newest movers and shakers in Washington
By Ned Martel (with John Galvin)

Pumped with Gingrich fever, Congress promises to take up environmental issues with newfound rowdiness. Consider John Hostettler, the representative from Indiana who's suggested that citizens should have the right to own anything the government owns -- including nuclear weapons. Or James Hansen, the Utah rep who is threatening to "look into" boarding up a few national parks. Here are other members -- some new, some newly empowered veterans -- who starting this month will be scrambling to get their hands on Clinton-era environmental policy. Remember, your country asked for 'em.

The Alaska Phalanx
Frank Murkowski and Don Young, both from Alaska, rising chairmen of the Senate and House public-lands committees, respectively

Enviro agenda: It's hard to convince this pair of frontier-types that there are actually limits to the West's resources. Stay tuned for a wish list that includes reopening Tongass National Forest to logging and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Indelible image: In a hearing on marine mammal protection last year, Young lectured U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chief Mollie Beattie on the need for continued walrus hunting while waving an 18-inch walrus penis bone and emphatically pounding it into the palm of his hand. Might this be the new chairman's gavel?

James Watt in a Skirt
Helen Chenoweth, first-term representative from Idaho

Enviro agenda: Dedicated to grouchy Old West values and feisty rhetoric, Chenoweth will be the freshman most likely to be heard if Congress reconsiders predator-reintroduction plans. Of course, with her district filling up fast with Internet-surfing California refugees, will she be forced to show her progressive side?

Indelible image: At a fund-raiser dubbed the Endangered Salmon Bake, Chenoweth pooh-poohed the notion that her state's Snake River sockeye population was in danger (only one made it to the headwaters last year). Her evidence? "You can buy a can of salmon off the shelf in Albertson's."

Smells Like Quayle Spirit
Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Representative David McIntosh of Indiana, former aides to Vice-President Dan Quayle, now ambitious first-termers in the student-body-president mold of their mentor

Enviro agenda: As former executive director of Quayle's Council on Competitiveness, McIntosh was the direct line to the White House for industries chastened by the Clean Air Act. Now expect him and Rust Belt colleague Abraham to try to knock antipollution regulations back a few years. For his part, Abraham has already pledged to keep down fuel-efficiency standards.

Indelible image: Young Spence refused to go night-night at age eight until the Midwest tallies were in for Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign. "Illinois is a key state," he told his mom.

They Laughed at Reagan
Sonny Bono, former Cher husband and bell-bottom-wearing 1960s singer and 1970s TV star, now a conservative first-term representative from California

Enviro agenda: As mayor of Palm Springs, Bono had to deal with such volatile issues as whether thong bikinis should be legal. On the national scene, however, his e-policy has been likened by pundits to unevolved primordial ooze. Overwrought and unfair criticism, perhaps, but consider that on the campaign trail last year, Bono said this: "Give them [endangered species] all a designated area and then blow it up. It sounds insane, but that's how insane the endangered species people are."

Indelible image: Greg Allman for prez in '96?

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