Former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt is hitting the campaign trail again. The unsuccessful contender for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination is not in quest of an elective office, he already has been elected. He is president of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

In this campaign, which will take him to 50 cities over the next 50 weeks, Babbitt hopes to increase voters' awareness of environmental politics and enlarge the coffers of environmental political action committees (PACs).

Babbitt, a longtime activist for environmental causes, said in an interview here last week that although there has been a lot of environmental action at the local level, the movement "is shapeless at the national level."

The league hopes to triple its political spending from the $300,000 in the 1990 election cycle to $1 million in 1992.

LCV executive director Jim Maddy estimated that environmental groups spent $500,000 last year directly on electoral politics; at the same time they spent $50 million on Washington offices to lobby Congress. "We won't win enough legislative battles without playing the electoral game," he said.

"The conservation movement has been too genteel," Babbitt said. "We have to learn from some of the junkyard dog tactics of other PACs -- that you define yourself by who you support and who you oppose."

His message to elected officials in both parties is that 1992 will be politically difficult for those not on board on environmental issues, such as opposing legislation to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

He said he expects environmental concerns to play a featured role in the 1992 congressional races in districts created after redistricting, the majority of which will be in the Sun Belt and in suburban areas where the environment has been an issue locally.

Babbitt noted that both candidates in the Arizona gubernatorial race "were on their hands and knees courting the Sierra Club endorsement. Eight years ago, no candidates even filled in the questionnaire. This is being replicated all over the country."