Why is the GOP legislature's default mode to trash the environment?Legislative ratings are a staple of American political life. Last week's story about the Oregon League of Conservation Voters' grades for the 2003 Oregon Legislature was enlightening. The OLCV overall rating of the Legislature declined from that of the 2001 session.

It is disheartening to observe that the default mode of the legislature has become anti-environment. As the OLCV report details, more than two dozen anti-environment bills were introduced by the House of Representatives leadership. Some would have weakened farm and forest protection, others were anti-wildlife. All but one of those bills were killed in the Senate.

Clatsop and Tillamook county's legislators scored relatively high. Rep. Betsy Johnson scored 77 percent while Sen. Joan Dukes rated 67 percent and Rep. Elaine Hopson rated 65 percent.

It seems that being a Republican legislator now seems to require a man or woman to trash the environment. It wasn't always that way. America's original conservationists were Republicans. Theodore Roosevelt set the standard. The National Audubon Society is known as an old-line Republican organization. In Oregon, two Republican legislators - Stafford Hansell and Hector McPherson - and a Republican governor, Tom McCall, led the way to statewide land-use planning.

Today the GOP and some Democrats sell out to one developer or polluter interest after another, apparently to whoever is paying the campaign bills. The columnist Russell Sadler has observed that Oregon has the best legislature that money can buy.

As the OLCV has pointed out, there is a strong environmental ethic among Oregon voters. People choose to live in Oregon because it has taken such bold steps as the Bottle Bill and statewide land-use planning. There really is no statewide sentiment in favor of generating sprawl.

Yet weakening land-use rules is all about encouraging sprawl.

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