David Jenkins

President, ConservAmerica Education Fund

As an avid hiker, backpacker, and paddler, I venture into the wilderness every chance I get. The experience reinforces my faith by increasing both my appreciation for God’s handiwork and my understanding of how everything in nature has its own unique purpose and value.

The Endangered Species Act, which was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and was signed into law by President Nixon, stands as testament to the fact that we can rise above our lesser instincts and be good stewards of what President Reagan called “this magical planet of ours.”

While exploring wild places, I have encountered my share of wildlife. The most memorable of these experiences have usually involved predators. Observing a bear, wolf, or mountain lion in the wild is awe-inspiring, and it heightens one’s senses like few things can. For me, however, the true value of these experiences is more profound.

Sharing the landscape with wildlife, including predator species, has enhanced my appreciation of and respect for how healthy ecosystems are supposed to work. It has also forced me to approach activities in the wild with more knowledge and humility, and this carries over to other aspects of my life.

From the deliberate and cruel efforts to eradicate wolves and grizzly bears, to the more inadvertent actions that drove the bald eagle—our national symbol—to the brink of extinction, history is full of examples of humankind’s intolerance of wildlife and ignorance of their needs. Too often, our selfishness allows us to view wild animals as an inconvenience to displace or destroy, instead of as God’s creatures that were put on earth for a purpose. Being good stewards of our natural heritage by respecting the design of our natural systems, and recognizing that all wildlife species serve a necessary function, is certainly more prudent than not doing so.

The Endangered Species Act, which was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress and was signed into law by President Nixon, stands as testament to the fact that we can rise above our lesser instincts and be good stewards of what President Reagan called “this magical planet of ours.”

What many people—on both the political right and left—may not recognize is that the Act is a very conservative law.

The fathers of traditional conservative thought—including British statesman Edmund Burke, American political theorist Russell Kirk, and conservative philosopher and author Richard Weaver—emphasized that prudent forethought, humility, a spirit of piety, and responsible stewardship are core conservative principles.

Just a few years before the Endangered Species Act was signed into law, Kirk pointed out that “nothing is more conservative than conservation.” Years earlier, Weaver lamented humankind’s tendency to disregard nature in the name of progress. He warned that “Triumphs against the natural order of living exact unforeseen payments,” and astutely pointed out:

“…man is not the lord of creation, with an omnipotent will, but a part of creation, with limitations, who ought to observe a decent humility in the face of the inscrutable.”

Conservatism, at its heart, is about humankind rising above our base instincts, and the Endangered Species Act is one of the best examples of this that we have.