Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

With "the death of environmentalism" being debated across the land—and with the mainstream movement under siege from without and within—it's time to meet the winning side in America's new green wars. Here they come, ready or not: the 20 most powerful voices leading the environmental counterrevolution.

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
The Counter-Enviro Power List

WILD RIVERS and clean water, wilderness and wildlife—these are our national treasures, the resources that have defined our spirit of adventure and shaped the American character. Nobody would deny that they have to be protected and preserved.

But how, and by whom?

In a few short years, the answer to that question has changed with stunning and dramatic speed, in a seismic shift without parallel in the history of green politics. Unable to put the environment at the top of the nation's agenda, the modern green movement has come to a point of reckoning. And as a conservative counterrevolution makes sweeping policy changes, traditional environmentalists are wondering what went wrong.

America has a passion for arguing about environmental politics. In the 1960s and '70s, a coherent and energized environmental movement produced legislative landmarks, from the Wilderness Act to the Clean Water Act; it kept dams out of the Grand Canyon, and, with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, in 1970, gave enforcement a strong institutional base. It is perhaps too easy now to forget the ferocity of the opposition to these achievements. But among environmentalism's greatest accomplishments was the forging of a broad bipartisan consensus about the proper role of law and policy in the stewardship of our resources.

Today, that consensus is under attack and in retreat. When George W. Bush, that oft misunderestimated president, announced the dawn of "a new environmentalism for the 21st century," in Sequoia National Park on May 30, 2001, it was not yet clear how relentless and successful his counterrevolution would be. But the transformation has not been simply a matter of White House clout and the mandate of reelection; Bush's new environmentalism is part of a brilliantly effective rebranding of the basic terms of conservation politics.

The critique goes like this: Mainstream environmentalism is a deluded ideology hostile to private property and common sense. It puts animals and trees before people and jobs. At best, it is a reflexive ally of a discredited liberalism; at worst, it is a cultlike alliance of nature-worshiping pagans. The green movement, its critics say, supports intrusive government regulation, and its actions impede the engines of economic prosperity and security.

Whatever your politics, if you care about the future of America's natural resources and wild places, you need to know the power brokers driving the counter-enviro juggernaut. In the pages that follow, we examine the 20 men and women who have seized the initiative, confronted mainstream environmentalism, and left it reeling, demoralized, in disarray.

And they say their work has only begun.

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