Critics of the Obama White House – plentiful as they are – have noticed that the president tends to release his regulatory agenda right around the holidays, perhaps in an attempt to sneak one by the American people. Not that Obama would ever do such a thing.

This year proved to be no exception. This week, Obama released a massive regulatory agenda consisting of thousands of federal restrictions sure to inspire strong opposition from the GOP. Among the regulations are 189 new rules that come with a price tag exceeding $100 million. The enforcement price of the regulations, though, is only a small piece of a larger problem.

Conservation Isn’t The Problem

Conservatives get a bad rap when it comes to opposing federal regulations, particularly as they pertain to the environment. It’s a reputation that’s not entirely fair. For one thing, conservatives aren’t all hunters and fishermen, but it’s safe to say most hunters and fishermen are conservatives. And they are also among the most conservation-minded Americans. Without clean air, clean water, and environmental protection, after all, they would have no place to ply their trade.

But you don’t have to enjoy outdoor sporting to support environmental protection, and you certainly don’t need to believe everything you hear about global warming. One look at the smog in Beijing is enough to tell you that it’s important to care for our surroundings. But caring for the environment doesn’t have to come at the expense of jobs. It doesn’t have to add unnecessary burden to the taxpayer. And it doesn’t have to mean running away from fossil fuels before the next energy revolution.

Wrecking an Economy That Can’t Afford It

Unfortunately, for Obama, that’s exactly what it means. His federal regulations have already wreaked havoc in several Southern states, West Virginia in particular. And with new EPA rules coming that promise to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, states that rely on the coal industry are going to get hit a second time.

Worse yet is an incoming rule that will redefine the waters that fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA. This regulatory shift has drawn scorn from both sides of the aisle as well as much of the private sector. Critics say it represents an extraordinary private land-grab on the part of the federal government, giving the EPA dominion over even the smallest wet areas of the country.

These specific arguments will be hashed out in Washington over the next year, but the bigger argument – how much regulation is enough? – still needs to be addressed. Whenever and wherever we can trust the private sector to police themselves, we should do just that. Unfortunately, far too many of today’s environmental regulations (to say nothing of regulations in other spheres) are nothing but bureaucratic overreach. They increase the size and authority of the federal government, increase taxes, and provide little to show for it. At the same time, they take a toll on the economy and limit job creation.

Conservation is vital. None of us want to live in a country where forests and wildlife have disappeared in favor of shopping malls and industrial plants. But there’s a line between conservation and absurdity. Thanks to Chicken Little Democrats, we’ve long since passed it by.