At the annual dinner of the National Parks Conservation Association Wednesday, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander called upon the next U.S. president to appoint a third President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, in order to “look ahead for another generation and tell us what we need to do to create a new conservation agenda.”
A generation has passed, since the last commission in 1985-86, which Alexander chaired at the request of President Reagan, “and there are new challenges and new opportunities, from climate change and invasive species to new technologies and the National Park System Centennial,” he said.
New technologies, for example, “offer both promise and challenges,” Alexander said. “For example, carbon recapture from clean coal plants could help make us energy independent and clean the air and deal with global warming all at once. On the other hand, I didn’t think of cell phone towers 25 years ago when I persuaded the Tennessee legislature to create 10,000 miles of scenic parkways with no new junkyards and billboards. Now there are 190,000 cell tower sites in the United States, some in the most scenic of places.”
Another example, he said, is wind power. “Tens of thousands of giant wind turbines are about to go up. While there is obviously a place for wind energy, it should not be along scenic seashores, the foothills of the Smokies, or the Grand Canyon.”
“When President Reagan asked me to head up the second President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, it was to be successor to Laurance Rockefeller’s commission a generation earlier which had recommended the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF),” Alexander said. “For two years we looked a generation ahead to determine what Americans would want to do outdoors and how we could have appropriate places to do those things.”
“Some of the strategies we recommended have become fixtures in the outdoors movement,” Alexander added, including conservation easements, scenic byways, greenways, and taking revenue from the sale of non-renewable assets, such as oil, to pay for part of the LWCF.
Laurance Rockefeller chaired the first such commission, then called the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, which was established by President Eisenhower. Alexander chaired the second.
At the dinner, the National Parks Conservation Association awarded Alexander its William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award for his support for the Great Smoky Mountains and all national parks. The association’s highest award is presented annually to a public official who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the protection of America's natural and cultural heritage. For more information, visit http://www.npca.org/media_center/press_releases/2007/page.jsp?itemID=30075641.