The choice between economic growth and environmental protection is a false choice. More and more businesses are going green and take into account their impact on the environment. Many businesses are directly involved in producing goods and services that will help to reduce air and water pollution, develop a variety of affordable and clean alternative energies, conserve natural resources, and develop and apply technologies that will not only help protect our environment and resources, but restore and repair the effects of past environmental damage. Good and innovative public policies will help promote these kinds of enterprises.
Nowhere is the need for new legislative leadership more clear than on environmental issues. The legislatures of the 1990s weakened our water quality laws, and in 2001 the legislature weakened the Montana Environmental Protection Act. We need to restore the authority and protection we had in both areas. But that just puts us where we were before.
We also need to protect the base stream flow of Montanas rivers and fisheries to prevent dewatering and sustain fisheries, strengthen stream access laws, work to create uniform and wide stream setbacks, increase fish and wildlife protection, expand state conservation easements, expand protected open space and link it to habitat sustainability.
I love the outdoors and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. But there's more to environmental issues than protecting the environment as a commodity. Effectively addressing the consequences of environmental degradation and cultivating sustainable lifestyle practices are ethical issues. The choices we make now will determine the kinds of choices our children and grandchildren will confront. Unabated environmental degradation will create crises in the future.
The choices we make and the examples we set in city and county commissions and state legislatures can strengthen or weaken the national political will to make environmentally responsible choices and to reverse the destructive course our failure to do so will follow.