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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

OPINION:

I’ve had the privilege of visiting all 50 states, and I can confidently say America is unparalleled in its beauty, diversity, heritage, and bounty of natural resources. From deserts, to mountains, to marshes, to coastlines, and everything in between, ours is a country unlike any other. Church organist Katherine Lee Bates perhaps said it best when, inspired by her view from atop Pikes Peak, she penned the now familiar refrain, “Oh beautiful, for spacious skies/For amber waves of grain/For purple mountain majesties/Above the fruited plain.”

Given our vast natural wonders and resources, we have an incredible responsibility to care for them well. I believe this is our unchosen obligation, stewarding our resources in such a way that leaves them in better condition than we inherited them.


Unfortunately, environmental stewardship often takes a backseat to competing bureaucratic interests. It doesn’t have to be this way. Scientific forest management can curb devastating wildfires, sustainable energy production can occur right here at home, and local leaders can effectively manage and care for the wildlife native to their communities. That’s the goal. So how do we get there?

First, we start by acknowledging America is unmatched in innovation and potential. We should always be searching for ways to make the environment cleaner, healthier, and more resilient, but that does not negate how far we’ve already come. Instead of engaging in the left’s punitive, doomsday scare tactics, we must instead unleash the full potential of American industry and solutions. The U.S. is already a leader in reducing emissions and clean technology. Let’s keep it that way by allowing the free market to work.

Second, we have to hold global aggressors accountable. Look no further than Putin’s unhinged rampage in Ukraine. He’s not concerned about environmental regulations, yet he controls vast energy sources like the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and uses them as leverage to get what he wants. Americans feel pain at the gas pump as a direct result. That’s why Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I introduced the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, to promote the clean, safe production of American energy to meet our national needs and those of our allies.

It’s not just energy resources that Russia leverages for its own gains; Russia also has a booming forest products industry. Last year alone, the U.S. imported half a billion dollars’ worth of forest products from Russia and Belarus. That’s why I introduced the No Timber from Tyrants Act, which would immediately ban these imports and cut a significant portion of Putin’s economy off at the knees, while simultaneously boosting American industries.

We can’t forget China either. They now control the vast majority of critical minerals production outside the U.S. Our modern lives from your cellphone, to your car battery, to your TV, to everything in between are built on these minerals, and yet President Biden and congressional Democrats are content to say “not in my backyard,” shutter American mines, and sell out to China. That’s why my Republican colleagues have joined forces with the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to introduce the American Critical Minerals Independence Act, which would reduce reliance on minerals sourced and processed overseas by supporting responsible domestic mineral development and innovation in the U.S.

These and many more of our Republican policies aren’t rocket science; they’re commonsense, practical solutions to the issues we’re facing, and we can implement them immediately. Unfortunately, Democrats in this administration and in Congress refuse to listen to the science. Instead, they put the U.S. last, choosing instead to line the pockets of China, Russia, Venezuela and other OPEC+ nations to meet our nation’s demands for natural resources.

I refuse to think America should feel ashamed or afraid when it comes to responsibly utilizing our natural resources. I look at what we’ve already accomplished in science and technology, and I believe the best is yet to come. We’ve brought species back from the brink of extinction, produced cutting-edge energy technology that’s cleaner than ever, and have the best and brightest minds in the world who are constantly innovating. Now is not the time to kowtow to our adversaries we have to lead, and lead by example.

I’m honored to fight for conservation, free market innovation, open access to public lands, and government transparency here in Congress, and I know the Natural Resources Committee’s work on these issues has only just begun. Our beautiful nation deserves nothing less.

• U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman, Arkansas Republican, is the Ranking Member of the Committee on Natural Resources and serves on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A Hot Springs native, he represents the state’s 4th Congressional District and serves on the Minority Whip Team. An engineer and forester by trade, he was named Engineer of the Year by the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers in 2013.


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