Skip to comments.House green lights major enviro bill
Posted on 11/19/2002 1:37:33 PM PST by Zviadist
Literally minutes before adjourning for the year, the House of Representatives without debate unanimously approved a $261 million-a-year legislative grab bag of goodies for environmentalists and their allies in government, and sent it to the Senate for final approval.
Co-authored by Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Bob Smith, R-N.H., The American Wildlife Enhancement Act S 990 provides the wherewithal for massive land acquisition by state government agencies and non-profit groups, boosts the powers and status of the environmental organizations, and enacts a major amendment to the 1973 Endangered Species Act by adding a new designation "species at risk" to the familiar "threatened" and "endangered" categories. The establishment and expansion of several national wildlife refuges and a five-year rodent control program are thrown in for good measure.
The congressman responsible for its passage by the House last week was Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah. Although Hansen headed the House Resources Committee, to which the bill was assigned after it passed the Senate in December, he held no hearings on it. Instead, he kept it on a back shelf until 2:22 a.m. Friday, when he asked that the Resources Committee be discharged from further consideration of the bill and that it be placed on the calendar for a vote. Three minutes later with major sections stripped from it S 990 was on its way to the Senate.
The same tactic was used for 14 other bills submitted for last-minute approval. Each was labeled non-controversial, placed on the consent calendar, voted upon, and sent to the Senate.
This was essentially a rerun of the bill's passage by the Senate. On the evening of Dec. 22, at the end of one of the longest legislative years in decades, and with a mere handful of senators still present, Reid called for "unanimous consent" to pass S 990. The bill passed.
"Who voted for and against the bill? No one will ever know. Was there even a quorum present? No one will ever know," wrote Henry Lamb, in an article in WorldNetDaily.
Lamb suggested that the bill would be better named the "Screw-the-Landowner Act of 2001," and observed: "It is one of several proposals to provide tax dollars and authorization to convert even more of the rapidly diminishing private property in America to government inventories. The bill provides $600 million per year for five years for the 'acquisition of an area of land or water that is suitable or capable of being made suitable for feeding, resting or breeding by wildlife.' With this broad purpose, no land anywhere is safe from condemnation and acquisition by an agency of government."
"Apparently, the U.S. Senate will use our tax dollars to buy pig swill if it is sold in a green bucket," Lamb added.
And, apparently, so will the House of Representatives.
Hansen's move in the dead of night caught S 990's opponents off-guard, but they moved quickly to try and derail it in the Upper House. Faxes and e-mails have been flying through the phone lines and across the Internet, urging property-rights activists and the public to contact their senators and demand that a hold be placed on the bill.
Under the Senate's unanimous consent rules, if one member objects to a bill it must be removed from the consent calendar, and cannot be considered until next year. A vote could come as early as today. The Senate is scheduled to adjourn Thursday.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Water Resources Association (the Western irrigators) have weighed in opposition, joining the American Land Rights Association, a grassroots group based in Battle Ground, Wash., which has been actively fighting the bill from its inception, along with its earlier variants.
Lobbyist Mike Hardiman, who represents ALRA on Capitol Hill, views S 990 as "the most dangerous property rights bill this session" and not only because of its land-acquisition provisions. In fact, as approved by the House, the sections that would have allocated some $350 million a year for the Pittman-Robertson Fund were eliminated. The Pittman-Robertson Fund is a long-established, dedicated fund, supported with a tax on purchases for sporting equipment: guns, ammunition, archery equipment and other outdoor supplies.
This was to be augmented by the $350 million per year, the largest allocation in the bill. It was inexplicably removed by Hansen, who requested and was given permission to amend the bill that had been voted upon by the Senate. Hansen not only removed the funding provision, the entire section dealing with amendments to Pittman-Robertson was deleted, and several new sections were added.
The cost of the bill went from $3 billion over five years, to $1.3 billion a cut of over half in 30 seconds.
But $1.3 billion over five years is a great deal of money, and Hardiman has dubbed S 990 "Son of CARA," as it is a scaled-down version of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, the mega-land bill that environmentalists and land-trust advocates have been trying to get through Congress for several years, with only partial success.
"The reason I call it 'Son of CARA' is that it is just a fraction of what they [environmentalists] want," Hardiman explained. "We've really beaten them up on the CARA bill so badly that now they're just taking little pieces of it and trying to slip these through."
But there are differences, he added. "CARA was a 15-year authorization for guaranteed money. It is a trust fund: guaranteed money for 15 years. A total disaster. CARA-Lite, which did pass last year, is a five-year program with several hundred million for land acquisition each year. S 990 is a Son of CARA, which is several hundred million more for up to five years, but it is not a trust fund. It is not guaranteed money. They will have to go back and ask Congress for it every year, and there's no guarantee they're going to get it."
But money matters aside, in Hardiman's view the most egregious section in S 990 is the one amending the Endangered Species Act.
"This is the most dangerous part of the bill, as well as the most overlooked," Hardiman told WorldNetDaily. "If it passes, people will have to worry not only about endangered and threatened species on their property, but 'at risk' species, too."
Species at risk
Specifically, S 990 creates a category called "species at risk," defined as any species identified by the secretaries of Interior and Commerce to be a "candidate species" for listing as endangered or threatened. Some $150 million a year would be allocated to enforce this new provision, with the grant money going to environmental groups, sportsmen's groups, land trusts and selected individuals for land acquisitions and programs.
"That's money handed out mostly to environmental groups to go tell people that they have a species at risk on their property," said Hardiman. "It expands the reach of environmental groups into people's lives, their property, their livelihood. The burden of evidence the environmental groups will have to provide is virtually nothing, it's vapor. This is not about endangered species. It is not about even threatened species. It's a new invention called 'species at risk,' and it can apply to potential habitat for a species at risk, as well."
"We've come a long way from the actual Endangered Species Act," he said.
The $150 million per year allocation is the largest single financial component of the bill and will come to $750 million over the next five years, but there are other allocations and costs. These include:
$50 million-a-year for a competitive matching-grant program for "cooperative conservation" plans that include "property acquisition." The federal government will make grants to states and groups of states "to pay the federal share of the costs of conservation of non-federal land or water of regional or national significance." The federal share will be no more than 50 percent to 75 percent of the cost, depending on the kind of project it is. Much of this "conservation" is essentially land acquisition, and there are no prohibitions on condemnation power.
$50 million-a-year will go for "shrubland and grassland" conservation (that is, acquisition), "with environmental organizations again eligible to feed at the taxpayer trough," as Hardiman puts it in an e-mail alert. "Even worse," he adds, "grass and shrubs are defined as, well, grass and shrubs and areas 'historically dominated' by grass and shrubs and areas that 'if restored to natural grassland or shrubland, would have the potential to serve as habitat for endangered species, threatened species, or species at risk.'"
"In other words," he quips, "Just about every inch of America outside the Mojave Desert."
$6 million-a-year goes for nutria eradication in Maryland and Louisiana. Nutria are furry rodents native to South America, that are causing considerable damage to marshlands.
$5 million-a-year to begin implementing a new completely new statute: The Marine Turtle Conservation Act.
That's $261 million-a-year for the five-year programs: a total of $1.3 billion.
And it does not include additional one-time expenditures scattered through the bill, such as the purchase of 198-acre Garrett Island, Md., to expand the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge for which no cost figures are given.
Nor does it include the $9 million that outgoing Sen. Bob Smith wants to give the Trust for Public Land for property that will cost the trust $7 million. Smith lost in the primary to New Hampshire Rep. John Sununu, a fellow Republican, who went on to win the Nov. 5 election.
And it does not include $15 million to the state of Utah for a quitclaim deed for state-owned properties in the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Bear River Bay of the Great Salt Lake.
Of that, $5 million must go for trail development, including $2 million for the "development, improvement, and expansion of the James V. Hansen Shoshone Trail."
In addition, $11 million is to be spent on the construction of an education and administration center at the Bear River refuge. Reportedly, the center is to be named after the Utah congressman, but that is not specified in the current version of the bill.
Hardiman attributes Hansen's maneuverings to secure approval for S 990 to his pending retirement after 20 years in the House.
Hansen's 'legacy mode'
"Hansen is completely in legacy mode," Hardiman said. "He wants to be able to name something for himself, like a trail or building, so he put all that green stuff in so the environmentalists will let the bill go through. He's saying, in effect, "Here's a whole bill with several hundred million in it for you guys, and I'm just going to tack a couple of things of mine on it.'
"Then he can go to the Republicans and say, 'Hey, I'm a fellow Republican, so leave my bill alone.'"
If Hardiman is correct, it would help explain Hansen's action earlier this month when he introduced legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act. In what has been termed "a parting shot to detractors in the environmental community," Hansen proposed exempting private property, military land and plant life from the federal ESA.
Hansen conceded that the bill would not move this year, but said he hopes others would take up the cause next year.
"Right now, in this country, the rights of an endangered fly or a species of seaweed take precedence over national security, commerce and many people's right to the enjoyment of property and the pursuit of happiness," Hansen said in a statement. "Our founding fathers would be appalled."
Debbie Sease, national legislative director for the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, told The Spectrum, a southern Utah newspaper, that she "wondered" about his motives in proposing such a controversial bill at the end of the term.
"Maybe it's for his legacy," she said. "I think it's pretty outrageous. Limiting biological diversity will come back and harm man in the long run."
While the retiring congressman was apparently sticking it to the environmentalists by threatening to push an unlikely amendment to the Endangered Species Act, his action whatever his motive served to distract property-rights watchdogs from his moves in Congress.
Contacted for comment, Hansen's office did not return phone calls.
Pork is pork, and enough is enough!
The other articles mention that the house version was slightly different than S 990. Deleting the Pittman- Robertson portion makes it an entirely different pirce of legislation. There is nothing left but pork.
Henry Lamb BUMP!
$1.3 billion here, $1.3 billion there...
pretty soon you're talking about some serious money.
It's not trivial. That $1/citizen amounts to a total that is aimed at a few people in paritcular. It is other peoples money, taken to provide financing for green pork programs and rulemaking, that transfers private property decisions to green orgs. Programs that the green nitwits wouldn't dream of financing themselves, because they no that in a Free world, they could never generate the funds and support themselves.
These takings are only trivial when it's not your stuff their after.
Operating expenses. Pork for some constituents back home and trade in the house for things like homeland security.
Here's a major feature of the bill that amounts to much more than a pittance and is worthy of being designated as a severe threat to private property rights.
"Specifically, S 990 creates a category called "species at risk," defined as any species identified by the secretaries of Interior and Commerce to be a "candidate species" for listing as endangered or threatened. Some $150 million a year would be allocated to enforce this new provision, with the grant money going to environmental groups, sportsmen's groups, land trusts and selected individuals for land acquisitions and programs."
This money goes to green orgs for propaganda, rulemaking and electioneering activities. It's a force multiplier for the dems and greens to engage in land and property right grabs.
There's no hyperventilation going on here, just pointing out the facts. This bill only appears as trivial matter if it's painted as low cost, but when viewed as a part of the big picture significant cost is manifest and also significant loss of Freedom is apparent.
Amazing how people here will contort themselves to justify big government. Big government is fine with you as long as the people taking our money have an "R" after their name. I've got news for you: you are not conservative. You are social democrats. There is a difference...
Anybody, please tell me again why I should vote Republican?