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10 Republicans from another era who helped the environment

By: Ken Edelstein on May 3, 2010, 12:40 p.m.
Sherwood Boehlert

Photo: U.S. government archives

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Sherwood Boehlert

Everyone knew the upstate New York congressman was the last of the Mohicans — one member of a dying tribe of moderate pro-environment Republicans. Boehlert’s work in the 1980s on legislation was aimed at reducing acid rain caused by smokestack pollution in the Midwest which was killing rivers and lakes in his part of the country.

But Boehlert wasn’t a single-issue environmental advocate. Increasingly, he became isolated as a lone voice in the Republican House caucus, most notably in his advocacy for funding environmental agencies, for his support of endangered species legislation and for basing policy on science rather than politics.

Now, he serves on the board of former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection — something that is inconceivable now for any current Republican member of Congress. Boehlert decided not to run again in 2006, when Democrats virtually swept the Northeast. He was a man caught between his own view of traditional conservatism, and the national Republican Party’s unpopular positions on many issues — including the environment.