But with increasing political polarization and the finger pointing that accompanies it - many Americans have forgotten that some of the best environmental legislation in America's history came from Republican administrations.
From Teddy Roosevelt, who established our system of wildlife refuges and national parks; to Barry Goldwater, a life long conservationist; to Herbert Hoover, who used the Antiquities Act to protect what today are the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Arches, Saguaro, Great Sand Dunes, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, and the White Sands national monument; to Richard Nixon, who signed the Clean Water Act, an extension to the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and established the EPA.
No, Democrats do not - nor have they ever had - a monopoly on protecting the environment. Many Republicans across this great nation understand that a healthy environment and sound economy are essential to our nation's future health and prosperity.
For decades, bipartisan efforts at the state and national level put an end to burning rivers, unregulated toxic waste dumps and outmoded industrial practices that polluted our cities and communities.
The rash of irresponsible dumping and lack of pollution controls created a toxic legacy that will cost Americans billions of dollars to clean up. In effort to increase public awareness of the hazards of toxic chemicals, the EPA banned a number of dangerous pesticides, including DDT.
Richard Nixon also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which required chemical manufacturers to publish Material Data Safety Sheets to protect workers and emergency response personnel during a chemical leak or fire.
In regards to clean up - the Center for Disease Control just released a report on dangerous hot spots in six states bordering the Great Lakes. The investigation can be found at the Center for Public Integrity's website: http://www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/359/.
Sadly, our nation's approach to cleaning up toxic contamination is not working as well as we once hoped. But we can tackle these problems, as long as we continue to work together to remove toxic contamination from our communities.
Locally, we are the proud owners (thanks to the Port of Bellingham) of the former Georgia Pacific West Pulp and Chemical Mill site that released hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic chemicals, including mercury, dioxin and PCB's into our air, water and land. I realize that people don't like to talk about this issue, but it wasn't that many years ago that Bellingham Bay was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as the most polluted Bay in America.
All three sites, the Whatcom Waterway, the former G.P. uplands and the ASB are "former" Superfund sites. They are currently listed as Model Toxic Control Act (MTCA) sites, (the state's version of Superfund), but that does not mean that the sites are no longer a risk to public health and safety.
It is in our best interests as a community to keep a careful eye on the Port's clean up efforts. Dangerous levels of mercury have already been identified in "hot spots" in the former log pond - a clean up site that is being touted by Department of Ecology and the Port as a model for "Natural Recovery" and capping mercury in place.
Meanwhile, I hope that the Democrats and Republicans can continue to work together to clean up toxic waste and abandoned industrial sites. Believe it or not, even "Republicans" were horrified by Love Canal, Three Mile Island and Bhopal.
The environment isn't about "Democrats v. Republicans." We live in a pivotal generation. A generation where scientific and technological marvels are outweighed in many cases by intense human suffering. We explore outer space while our oceans and planet grow more polluted.
Regardless of personal political beliefs, we are responsible for what we will pass on to future generations.
For additional information on GOP environmental supporters and activists:
Congressman Kirk Releases NOAA Report on Great Lakes: http://blogpublic.lib.msu.edu/index.php?blog=5&p=7501&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1Webster Kirkland Times: http://www.websterkirkwoodtimes.com/Articles-i-2008-01-25-72500.113117_Green_Republicans_Work_For_Environment.html#123
Independent journalist investigations of environmental issues:
The Center for Public Integrity article on the Perils of Pesticides: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/pesticides/
The Center for Public Integrity article on the Great Lakes: http://www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/359/
Lake Michigan Studies:
Human Health and the Great Lakes: http://www.great-lakes.net/humanhealth/
Toxic Contamination in the Great Lakes: http://ftp.great-lakes.net/envt/pollution/toxic.html
Midlakes Policy Center: http://blog.midwestlakes.org/05-09/lake-michigan-mercury.html