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The single-issue voter: A birder’s look at Sarah Palin (R)

September 25, 2008

The seemingly never ending election season is finally drawing to a close. But for those still wondering about the policies of the national candidates as they apply to birds and birders, The Drinking Bird is here for you. Every other week until November, I’ll be looking at the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates’ bird platforms. Hold your horses, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

First up, Republican Vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

I admit I’m a little behind the curve on this, other blogs have touched on it. But I think I need to add my voice to the melee, as this is no ordinary election and no ordinary time to have one. Much has been made of Palin’s relative inexperience in matters of foreign policy and economics, but fortunate for us, her time as Governor of Alaska allows for a fairly in- depth insight into her environmental (read: bird-related) platform. It’s certainly up for debate the impact that the Vice-President would have with regard to actual national policy, but one only has to look at the current VP to see the possibilities here. It’s clear now that VP Cheney was influential in shaping national energy policy, that policy that likely has the greatest whole environmental impact, so it’s crucial that the opinions and attitudes that the Vice President be taken into account.

With that in mind, Palin’s energy policy is refreshingly simple enough to be contained in a single word.


More oil, more quickly. In the Arctic Refuge and offshore and everywhere else. Whether or not you believe that this sentiment is an important part of national energy policy either as the centerpiece or as part and parcel with alternative energy initiatives, it goes without saying the the environmental and wildlife impact is substantial and negative. In fact, talked just last week about the possibility of drilling offshore in North Carolina. It’s a short-sighted and reactionary policy, and given Palin’s dealings with oil in Alaska, one she supports whole-heartedly.

Her policies on wildlife are no less troubling. As Governor she sued the Interior Department over its decision to list Polar Bears as endangered species. Government officials had tied the bears’ decline to habitat loss due to global warming. The fossil fuel industries obviously stand to lose with such a decision, and Palin, somewhat predictably, advocated for them. As population declines due to climate change become more prevalent, as they are predicted to do, this single decision bodes poorly for future situations, especially those involving those bird species that nest in the far north.

She’s famously an active hunter and fishermen which, in and of themselves, are not problematic, however, as head of state she advocates for a particularly cruel form of the sport called aerial hunting. The predators, typically wolves, are run until exhausted and shot from hunters riding in helicopters. Such actions are justified as part of a program to improve moose survival, a popular target for the big game tourist industry in the state.

On top of all this, Palin’s archaic views on global climate change and evolution seem practically small potatoes, but are indicative, at least, of an individual who doesn’t have an interest in or ability to comprehend scientific inquiry.

All of this adds up to a candidate who would likely be a disaster from an environmental and scientific perspective, no less so for birds and birders who watch them.

Next week: Her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden.

  1. September 25, 2008 11:08 am

    I’ll add that Cheney has had some influence over endangered species policies too, which we know from his interventions in the Klamath Basin fiasco. So there is good reason for worry in regard to Palin’s record.

  2. Larry permalink
    October 4, 2008 6:33 pm

    N8, I couldn’t agree more. Her anti-conservation points of view are farther right than George W. Bush’s if that’s possible. I’m sure she would love to abolish the Endangered Species Act all together if she could.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    October 24, 2008 12:43 pm

    Interesting overview. One item of note for birders is that she named her daughter Willow after Alaska’s state bird, the willow ptarmigan.

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