This two-part commentary from Bay Journal News Service presents the views of the Republican and Democratic candidates for president on their policies regarding the Chesapeake Bay region.
To appreciate the impact of a McCain administration on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, one needs to understand the strong stewardship ethic that guides Sen. John McCain's policy decisions.
Mr. McCain cites three strong influences that shape his approach to protecting the environment.
The first is his personal hero, Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. McCain is a true expert on Roosevelt and his conservation legacy. He has said that he would appoint environmental officials who reflect a conservation ethic reminiscent of great conservation champions such as Roosevelt.
The second is Morris K. Udall, a Democratic congressman who is revered as one of our nation's greatest environmental champions and was a close friend of Mr. McCain's. The two teamed up to protect more than 3 million acres of wilderness in their home state of Arizona.
The third is the Grand Canyon, which Mr. McCain says is "a special, sacred place whose timeless beauty moves me." He refers to it as a "monumental inspiration regarding our obligation to be faithful stewards."
Mr. McCain has made it his mission to advocate policies that protect the interests of future generations and ensure that they will inherit "the blessings of a rich, productive and unspoiled natural heritage." He has also said that improving the management of our nation's wetlands, fisheries and ocean ecosystems would be one of his top priorities as president.
Mr. McCain is not only a dedicated steward of our environment, he is also a steward of taxpayer dollars. Critical natural resources such as the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and the Everglades stand to benefit greatly from Mr. McCain's efforts to rein in unnecessary, and often environmentally destructive, pork-barrel spending and require independent review of water projects. This would mean that important water resource dollars being wasted on special-interest-driven pet projects can be available for efforts that are clear national priorities, such as Chesapeake Bay restoration.
Another hallmark of Mr. McCain's approach to environmental policy is his commitment to making decisions based on sound science and facts, not on special-interest politics. Mr. McCain's fight against the influence of special interests and his dedication to government transparency and accountability would be a great plus for efforts to safeguard our environment.
The bay, like other marine environments, is coming under increasing pressure from the impacts of climate change. Addressing climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels are important to the future health of the bay.
Mr. McCain is one of the lead authors of the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act, a cap-and-trade bill that, if passed, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 67 percent by 2050. Mr. McCain used the political capital necessary to secure votes on the bill in the face of opposition by his own party members.
To build support for climate legislation, Mr. McCain undertook an intensive effort to educate his colleagues in the Senate and the House about climate change and mankind's role. He has taken skeptical senators and representatives to the ends of the Earth, including Antarctica, Alaska, Greenland and New Zealand, to show them the impacts of global warming and change their minds on this issue. Mr. McCain's long record of dedication to fighting climate change and his bipartisan approach offer the best opportunity for signing long-overdue climate legislation into law.
People who care about the health of the bay and its fisheries should also be excited about Mr. McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. No state in the union does a better job of protecting its marine fisheries than her home state. Alaska's program is the example ocean advocates point to as the best model of fishery management.
Mrs. Palin, herself a commercial and sport fisherman, has made fishery protection a priority. She developed a rigorous enforcement protocol to ensure that cruise ships, which are like small cities in their environmental footprint, obey a state law prohibiting the dumping of waste in state waters.
You can be sure that a McCain-Palin administration would have the stewardship ethic and the experience to be a strong and effective advocate for the Chesapeake Bay and the people who depend on it.
David Jenkins, government affairs director for Republicans for Environmental Protection, serves as national coordinator of the Environmental Stewardship Coalition for McCain-Palin 2008.