Redford raves about Reid

The star came to Reno for a $500-a-plate fundraiser and bashed Bush on behalf of Nevada’s most powerful Democrat

Robert Redford loves the planet and Sen. Harry Reid—but he doesn’t think much of President Bush’s attempted rollbacks of environmentally friendly laws.

Robert Redford loves the planet and Sen. Harry Reid—but he doesn’t think much of President Bush’s attempted rollbacks of environmentally friendly laws.

Photo By Wishelle Banks

In his onscreen appearance as Tom Booker in The Horse Whisperer, Robert Redford politely returns a call to the desperate mother of a traumatized girl injured in a tragic accident on horseback. Look closer—Redford’s talking on a Nevada Bell pay phone.

As veteran newsman Warren Justice in Up Close & Personal, the Sundance Kid marries Tally Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Biggest Little City in the World girl who hits it big in broadcast journalism.

That’s Redford’s reel life.

In real life, too, the Academy Award-winning director and producer expresses a genuine affinity for the Silver State, a walking-his-talk gesture that goes beyond the Utah resident’s good-neighbor philosophies. Redford was in Reno Sunday for a fundraiser for Democratic U.S. Senator Harry Reid. The $500-a-head dinner at Rancharrah raised re-election dollars for the lawmaker’s 2004 campaign. The event—closed to the media—was initiated by the maverick filmmaker.

“I’m pretty familiar with Nevada,” Redford said at a pre-dinner press conference held at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. “I’m here because I’m a Westerner, because I have very, very deep concerns on the environment and human rights. I grew up in California, went to school in Colorado, live in Utah, spent a lot of time in Nevada, skied the Rubies. The Loneliest Road in America [is] one of my favorites.”

Reid spoke warmly about the actor’s environmental commitment.

“Your interest, Robert, in … trying to lessen our dependence on fossil fuel, doing something with alternative energy and helping us focus on the fact that you can’t roll back the Clean Air Act—I just am grateful you’re here,” Reid said. The senator didn’t miss the chance to remind those gathered of his own record regarding environmental issues.

“In 1986, when I was elected to the Senate here in Nevada, I made the personal decision that we were going to stress the environment,” Reid said. “Many of my advisers said, ‘You can’t do that. Nevada’s not ready for having someone to focus on the environment. This is still a state that’s heavily involved with cattle and mining.’ But I believe that’s the reason I won the election. I wasn’t afraid to talk about the problems we have in the Truckee-Carson, and how the great Lake Tahoe was being damaged by people.”

For three decades, Redford has advocated environmental causes. Some say his activism contributed to such legislation as the Clean Air Act, the Energy Conservation and Production Act and several bills that took a harder line on strip mining.

In 1979, Redford produced The Solar Film, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short, and in 1987 he received the United Nations Global 500 Award, followed by 1989’s Audubon Medal Award.

In his Sundance, Utah, community, Redford and his filmmaker son James formed a foundation called the North Fork Preservation Alliance. The not-for-profit organization was “established for the purpose of preserving and protecting the open spaces and wild lands of Provo’s North Fork Canyon and to educate the public regarding conservation ethics and the human impact on fragile mountain ecosystems.”

A 1998 ceremony marked the gift of The Redford Family Nature & Wildlife Preserve, an 860-acre conservation easement from the Redford family to Utah Open Lands. As a 28-year board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Redford’s current efforts include a public e-mail campaign targeted at urging Americans to “send messages to United States senators and representatives, telling them to stand up in defense of our environment.”

Redford spoke at length Sunday on what he described as the Bush administration’s covert actions. From the moment Bush & Co. began an assault on civil liberties and the environment, he said, he’s been speaking out.

“In my lifetime, since I’ve been politically involved, I’ve never known a time more threatening or dangerous to the American people, or the country,” Redford said. “The attitudes, behaviors and policies that are being [imposed] on us right now [are] very, very alarming. Because we keep hearing the word ‘democracy’ thrown around a lot, I’m more than ever afraid that we’ve never had democracy more threatened. I personally resent the way that word is thrown around, particularly when it’s so abused with double-speak, deception and an overall cynical attitude.”

He said the inconsistencies of the present administration’s views are clear to a growing number of people.

“It’s right out in front of us like a giant billboard, tied to an attitude that disregards the environment … to dissemble, undercut and literally destroy all the hard work that’s been done over the years,” he said.

Redford warned of the growing dangers of current policy trends.

“The American people are being really ill-served right now, nowhere more disgracefully than the environment,” he said. “We’re not just talking about hugging trees or preserving wildlife, [but] health and the well-being of children to come. We can’t go through our lives without having some eye toward the future. I’ve never known an administration more narrow, more limited and more mean. The lack of respect is beyond me. When I hear words like, ‘We’re out to protect the American people’ thrown around so easily, I realize not only is that not true, we’re [being harmed].”

Redford reiterated the need for Sen. Reid to be reelected for a fourth term.

“My eye is on supporting people that are a genuine voice, an honest voice for issues [like] health, public welfare and the future,” said Redford. “There are a lot of senators or congressional people beholden to special interests, sometimes at the expense of states they represent. [Reid] truly represents the interests of Nevada.”

Redford noted Reid’s preservation efforts for Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River.

“Although I’m not a voting Nevadan, I appreciate what [Reid] is doing, because it’s a terrific model for states that are equally threatened,” he said. “When you have a man who truly represents in an honest way, and calls a lie a lie—those people are going to be targeted. That’s what’s happening here. Reid is willing to stand up against disgraces when the administration tries to put something past, like Yucca [Mountain].

“That’s only one of many promises broken. We’re becoming cynically used to [that] after elections—certainly none more than this administration—but Reid is a man who has fulfilled his promises, and I support him. He crosses party lines. That’s important … in the interest of democracy. The fact he attracts Republicans as well as Democrats … means he’ll be moving away from divisiveness that’s hit our country so hard.

“That’s why I’m here, and I would do it anytime. That’s all I can do, but I’m glad to do it."