The 17-year old Republicans for Environmental Protection drops ‘Republican’ from its name in effort to advance its message that ‘conservation is conservative.’

What’s in a name?

A lot, apparently, if the name contains the word “Republican.”

For the newly named, but sill Republican, ConservAmerica, the former “Republicans for Environmental Protection” just didn’t jive with what the organization has been hearing from its party’s candidates and office seekers on a whole range of environmental issues — ranging from air quality to public lands, from enforcement under the Clean Water Act to climate change.

“The whole gestalt, I guess I should call it Zeitgeist,” the group’s vice president for policy and communications, Jim DiPeso said in a phone interview.

“Our mission is still the same,” DiPeso said — support Republicans with strong environmental credentials. “But we wanted to really get across that conservation is an essential part of conservatism,” and GOP rhetoric on and off the campaign trail just isn’t making the grade. “Too many people, including some who claim to be conservative, have lost sight of the fundamental truth that conservation is conservative,” the organization said in a statement announcing its name change.

The name change to ConservAmerica, which has been a component of its overall efforts since 1995, has so far gone over well with the group’s supporters and members who have voiced an opinion, DiPeso said, adding that the group’s numbers have remained more or less steady recently.

He said the 17-year-old organization “had been looking closely” at endorsing former Utah Governor and Obama administration Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman until he dropped out of the primaries. “We’re still studying the matter,” DiPeso said about an endorsement of a Republican nominee, but he said the group does not envision endorsing any Democratic candidates.

Reporting on the name change, Reporter Bob King, in Politico, quoted another official of the group, David Jenkins, as pointing to challenges in appealing to a growing number of independent voters at a time when few elected Republican national office-holders are viewed favorably on environmental issues.

“Messaging through a Republican frame doesn’t reach those people as well as reaching them through a conservative frame,” Jenkins told King. “If you see polling with Republicans on environmental issues, whether it’s fuel economy standards or clean energy,” he told King, “you’ll see the vast majority of Republicans are in favor of those things” even as they are supporting issues like the Keystone XL Pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and voicing doubts about climate science.

The organization’s president, Rob Sisson, said in the statement announcing the name change that “conservatism is in danger of being redefined in the minds of Americans as something it is not — an ideology devoid of the ethics of responsible stewardship, prudence, and humility that have been essential aspects of genuine conservative thought for more than two centuries.”

One thing that isn’t about to change is the organization’s logo. The elephant that is the symbol also of the Grand Old Party will remain … and in the case of ConservAmerica, still in green.

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