Long Island: A Model for Conservative Environmentalism


Monday, December 12, 2022

The Republican Party has deep roots in environmental conservation. Over the last century, Republicans have made it a mission to preserve and protect America’s exceptional natural resources for future generations. In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt used the power of his executive office to safeguard over 230 million acres of public land. Decades later, Richard Nixon used his platform to pass the Clean Air Act and establish the Environmental Protection Agency

Right here on Long Island, Republican voters and officials in both Suffolk and Nassau Counties have continued in this great tradition, embracing conservation as a cornerstone of local politics.

For Long Island conservatives, conservation is inextricably linked to everyday life. From the beaches of the Atlantic where we recreate with friends to the waters of the Peconic where the fish and scallops feed our families, the island’s tremendous ecological diversity is the lifeblood of our prosperity. It’s easy to understand why farmers, entrepreneurs, and retirees alike all aggregate in this beautiful place. 

Thus in the arena of electoral politics, environmental issues play an outsized role in the local Republican Party. From Albany to Washington D.C., Long Island conservatives have sent fighters to defend our coastlines, endangered species, and recreation areas. Officials on both the local and federal levels have showcased their common sense solutions to protect our waterways and wildlife, most notably by engaging with the private sector. 

This kind of conservative environmentalism should serve as a model for national policy. By reducing bureaucratic barriers to clean energy and green business practices, Long Island Republicans have created a 21st-century environmental blueprint: conserve, invest, and build. 

At the most local levels, Republican leaders across the region have made tremendous strides to protect our outdoors. In the town of Brookhaven, Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico spearheaded an oyster restoration and composting program. In Hempstead, Supervisor Donald Clavin prioritized the protection of over 17,000 acres of wetlands and 180 miles of coastal waterways. And in Smithtown, the Republican town council implemented shellfish seeding programs, wildlife habitat improvement, and woodland restoration efforts. Local leaders know how to solve the environmental problems of their communities efficiently — and Republicans have acted.

Republican representatives at the state level in Albany have also worked on environmental issues— including Long Island’s own Assemblyman Keith Brown and State Senator Phil Boyle. Assemblyman Brown sponsored legislation to decrease water pollution, establish additional recycling programs, and prohibit source pollution in both the Long Island Sound and Great South Bay. Senator Boyle authored various bills, removing trash from the hamlet of Kismet and transferring land into the Oak Brush Plain State Preserve.

And in the halls of Congress, Representative Lee Zeldin — formerly the Republican nominee for New York Governor — has made significant contributions to the environmental conversation. Over his eight-year tenure in Washington D.C., Zeldin’s accomplishments range from federal support for maritime infrastructure in the Long Island Sound to investing in the Intracoastal Waterway and Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) projects. Recently-elected Representative Andrew Garbarino is adding to this legacy, fighting to rehabilitate the Bethpage toxic groundwater plume. 

National Republicans are slowly but surely following the lead of Long Island conservatives. In 2021, a group of sixty Republican members of Congress formed the Conservative Climate Caucus, which focused on limited government solutions to climate change – membership is now at seventy-five. And of course, Congressman Zeldin and Garbarino promptly joined the caucus during its founding session.

Long Island conservatives were victorious in the 2022 midterms, which indicates that voters of all demographics are ready for these common-sense actions in their communities. Shifting the conversation toward targeted climate solutions instead of alarmism will replicate Long Island’s environmental success across the nation. As President Teddy Roosevelt pioneered Republican environmentalism in the 20th century, so too must current Long Islanders lead the conservative climate movement into the 21st century.

Brett Patrick is the President of the American Conservation Coalition’s Long Island branch. He is a senior at Deer Park High School.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Brett Patrick

Brett Patrick is the President of the American Conservation Coalition’s Long Island branch. He is a senior at Deer Park High School.

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