In the Arena, by Rich Jefferson: Trojan Horse Would Inflict Government Control
The Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) was originally due for a Senate committee mark-up by mid-June. But the Senate postponed the mark-up until at least the end of the month, maybe later, and that’s a good thing.
The bad news is that CARA received more than 300 votes in the House. Nevertheless, Mike Hardiman, the Washington, D.C. lobbyist for the American Land Rights Association, told Timberline that CARA opponents have a few things in their favor.
First, there are three versions of the bill in the Senate: S-25, S-2123 and S-2181. Three sets of legislative sponsors and their egos are on the line. More egos means more chances to derail this awful legislation.
Second, the Senate bill most likely to pass is different from the House version. That means a conference committee of House and Senate members would have to try and iron out the differences between the two. Twelve years ago the American Heritage Trust Act fell apart before reaching conference.
Third is greed. In the CARA trust fund, some states are more equal than others. The funding mechanism halves the annual $3 billion in CARA pork between the feds and the states. Of the $1.5 billion available annually to the states, Alaska gets a cool $160 million, but Louisiana and California put all four feet in the trough, wallowing in $310 million and $324 million, respectively. That leaves only $985 million to divvy up for the other 47 states.
Where does all this money come from? Revenues from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas extraction. OCS oil drilling is heaviest in Alaska and Louisiana. Currently, these revenues fund existing programs in all 50 states. If CARA passes, these funds will be diverted from the federal treasury to the off-budget CARA trust fund. In this scenario, states such as Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio will be financial losers. As Hardiman points out, “These OCS funds are currently used for general fund purposes, such as shoring up Social Security and Medicare.” If the OCS funds are taken from the federal general fund and placed in an off-budget trust fund, Congress will want to “pay” for those general funds. That makes possible a tax increase.
Do you like the sound of this? Money is diverted from the general fund to buy your land at bargain basement prices, and then your taxes are increased. So much for CARA’s smoke and mirrors funding.
If you want to understand CARA’s potential impact on logging, look what the environmentalists did to hunters in New York. The scenario for logging will be similar.
G. Ray Arnett served Gov. Reagan as the director of the California Department of Fish and Game, and President Reagan as Interior Department assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He has served as president of the National Wildlife Federation and as the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. In a letter to all members of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus, Arnett said, “CARA is destined to be a disaster for one of its intended beneficiaries, the sporting community of hunters and fishermen who are the true and most able conservationists in America. The unprecedented flood of money provided by CARA will enable buying, and turning over to the government, private lands historically and currently used for hunting and fishing. This will subject the property’s sporting use to the whim of public opinion, and a bureaucracy increasingly hostile to sport hunting, fishing, trapping, and gun ownership.”
This has already happened in New York. For more than 100 years, a 139,000-acre tract was leased for recreation, including hunting and fishing. Arnett reports that when the state of New York bought the land in 1999, the government’s first ‘management’ action was to eliminate hunting access and drastically limit other recreation uses. State officials ordered the destruction of 298 hunting cottages used each year by almost 3,000 sportsmen.
As this column noted a few months ago, anti-hunting forces have abused the Pittman-Robertson fund. (See the Web site at www.nwi.org for more information.) “CARA fits perfectly into the plans of the Animal Protection Institute, since it will provide a revenue source outside the sportsmen-paid excise taxes to fund Pittman-Robertson,” Arnett wrote. “Once the land is purchased and under government control, these well-funded, anti-sportsmen groups will lobby Congress and government agencies for the elimination of any consumptive use of wildlife resources.”
Hardiman points out that the New York state bureaucrat responsible for this shutdown of New York lands to hunting and recreation, Bernadette Castro, was one of its biggest cheerleaders during hearings on CARA, testifying in its favor in the House.
If the enviros go to this extent to stop hunting, how do you think they will use a bill like CARA to deal with logging?
A report on CARA published by the Heritage Foundation said that CARA represents a “vast expansion of federal and state roles in local land management decisions. Unlike the practice in many of the programs that CARA would replace, (CARA) would require the U.S. Department of the Interior to review and approve many of the plans the states submit for the use of the funds. The funds would not be disbursed to a state without the Secretary of the Interior’s approval. One needs only to look at the experiences of the federal implementation of the Clean Air Act and the withholding of federal highway funds to see how powerful a threat the federal government can become to state and local land use decision making.” (Visit website at www.heritage.org/library.backgrounder/bg1370.html.)
The federal government is bribing some states with the Trojan horse of free money. The reality of CARA is radically different from the image presented by its supporters. This should not surprise us. It should infuriate us. Let your U.S. Senator know how you feel.
(Editor’s Note: Last month’s column contained a misprint; Don Young is a U.S. Representative from Alaska, not a U.S. Senator.)