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Conservatives' 'courage of convictions' are important in these difficult times

Republicans host Lincoln Day Dinner

DAYTON–Difficult issues related to salmon and the Snake River dams, power generation and the environment are best approached from a free-market point of view, which is paramount in crafting the best solutions, keynote speaker Todd Myers said at the Columbia County Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner here October 8. Myers, Environmental Director for the Washington Policy Center, spoke to some 130 guests at the local Republican Committee's fund-raising event at the Fairgrounds Pavilion.

Myers' journey started while working on Doug Sutherland's 2000 campaign to become Commissioner of Public Lands. He admitted knowing very little about environmental policy, but soaked up information walking in the woods with foresters and biologists in that job.

Visiting with a forester, Myers remarked that he had never heard any of the viewpoints about forest stewardship, except from people in forestry. "And he looked at me and said 'Oh, yeah. They don't know what's going on,'" he said.

"Here I am 22 years later, still working in environmental policy because it is my desire every day to tell that story in Olympia and in Washington state that the way we need to manage natural resources is to have control under people who live closest to it, who have the knowledge, have the right incentives," Myers said. "It is a hard fight.

"I think we need to remind ourselves of that," he said. "To have the courage of our convictions, that individual incentives and individual dignity, not collectivism, are not only more successful, at managing natural resources, or running society and honoring the values of America, but, it is more moral to honor individual dignity. And we need to have the courage of that because it is a difficult time and we face difficult challenges. And there are plenty of times when we want to make moral compromises...when we want to say 'well, maybe a little bit of government power...I'll use it for me now, but I'll give it back: trust me.'

"And the Left is very good at trying to seduce people into that," he said.

"So I'm going to talk to you about the environment, but what I really want the message to be is that the environment is a metaphor for courage and conservative ideas.

"When people think about conservatism, they do not always think first about the environment. But, even in the environment, an area the Left thinks of as their domain, what we find is that their policies don't work, and our approach to stewardship of the land does," Myers said.

"Because the principles that work in so many areas also work in the environment," he said.

Myers referred to a once-lovely Ravenna Park in Seattle, populated with stately, old-growth trees. To preserve this park, the City of Seattle bought it. Soon the trees were being cut down due to a "safety hazard."

Closer to home, Myers questioned, tongue in cheek, "I hear there are some dams on the Snake River?

"So, too, have the people in western Washington [heard about Snake River dams]. And they are very convinced that the dams need to be removed, and you will hear, all the time, that the dams are destroying salmon runs.

"Last year, in the Spokesman-Review, the head of the Washington Environmental Council, a Seattle-based environmental group, wrote a piece saying that it is 'not hyperbole' to say that the salmon on the Snake would be functionally extinct by 2025.

"I've worked in politics for a long time," Myers said. "When somebody starts a sentence with 'it is not hyperbole,' the next thing you're going to read is hyperbole."

Myers challenged the Council about its contention that salmon would be "functionally extinct" by 2025. "Let's bet!" he said. "I bet you that the salmon runs will increase in 2022. And they refused, but two people did. The editor of the Lewiston Tribune, who paid his bet–a $5 bet–and the other person said they would bet if it was raised to $5,000.

Myers was somewhat concerned about that wager being a lot of money when all he desired was to make a point, and when Myers mentioned at the Washington Policy Center's Annual Dinner, an individual approached him and pledged to cover the bet, and, if it was a win, the proceeds would go to charity.

Myers emailed the individual to place the bet and "he was very silent." But they finally agreed on the wager.

"Representative Mary Dye," Myers queried in the audience, "Were the salmon runs higher or lower last year on the Snake?" "They were substantially higher," Dye responded, to the audience's applause.

"I've not heard from that person since then."

"It is absurd to me when people in Seattle will stand at the ferry dock and say 'tear down the Snake River dams' when the water twenty feet away from them is so polluted it is killing salmon," Myers said.

"If you were going to spend $30 billion recovering salmon, I could tell you a lot of places to spend it," he said. "I would not tell you to spend all of it in one small stretch of river.

"For context, Washington state spends about $100 million a year on salmon recovery. Thirty billion dollars would be 300 years' worth of salmon recovery funding," Myers said. "Why would we spend all of that in one place when we have a problem everywhere? Especially the impacts it's going to have on the economy, on electricity."

Myers talked about California's renewable energy initiatives, that, when renewable sources don't produce electricity, cause a shift of power generation to Washington's hydropower. During peak demand hours in California, only 8% is from renewable, he said.

Wind statistics for the Pacific Northwest and Montana were collected for the year 2021 and given to a statistician for analysis. He pointed out that there were two weeks when the wind didn't blow in both the Pacific Northwest and Montana.

"Fundamentally, the people who make these decisions, don't feel the costs," Myers said. "For them, the benefit they get is the image of looking good while somebody else pays the costs."

"To be truly good stewards of the environment, we need to connect people back to the decisions," Myers said.