Hardly anyone can deny the environment is in some kind of trouble. The reason it is in trouble is that it is too much like one of those pottery piggy banks. You can't get any money out of it unless you ruin it. And anyone who isn't after money is highly suspicious in the eyes of administrative Washington today. That puts environmentalists on the endangered lists along with the rest of the wildlife.
Inside Washington an environmentalist is acceptable if he goes to Tarzan movies and watches Jacques Cousteau on television. Outside Washington an environmentalist seems to be anyone who doesn't work for the Environmental Protection Agency. America's biggest challenge in the coming years will be to outlast the EPA.
According to some sources, President Reagan's education in environmental history came from acting in westerns. If this is true, he could always point to the movies of American Indians as an example. They supported the environment and look what happened to them.
The news media sometimes hint that the President isn't in favor of supporting the environment at all; but this can't be true. When environmentalists were demanding he fire Anne Burford from the EPA, what was his response? He said he is ''not going to run for cover and throw someone off the sleigh.'' How can anyone who rides around in a sleigh with Anne Burford be against the environment? In case some readers don't know what a sleigh is, it is a horse-drawn vehicle with runners for carrying people over the snow. You can't get closer to nature than that.
When the President is not riding in a sleigh, he is riding a horse. You need some kind of environment for a horse. Presumably Ronald Reagan chose the location of his California ranch because it is a high-class environmental property without any factories next door. It isn't even situated on the site of a chemical waste dump. It may be one of the few places that isn't.
Anyway, it shows his heart is in the right place and with all those trees and hills around him it is no wonder he thinks people who worry about the ecology are extremists.
Extremists are hard to define. Naturally, it depends on where your ranch is. But these extremists, President Reagan says, won't ''be happy until the White House looks like a bird's nest.''
Offhand, this doesn't seem likely, even if some birds did dare to build a nest on the White House. Probably the White House is sprayed every so often just to prevent this kind of takeover.
After all, who would want it to be said that this administration is for the birds?