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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• Making your vote count
With elections approaching, it’s time to review what our elected officials have been doing over the past several months so we can all make an informed decision when it comes time to vote. I hope you are all making your votes count. First, the good bills:

HR 2114, introduced by Representative Simpson (R–Idaho), would require congressional approval of any national monument designation of over 50,000 acres. This bill has been approved by the House Resources Committee and awaits action by the full House of Representatives.

Representative J. Davis (R–Virginia) introduced HR 2719, which would restrict federal condemnation power when mitigating wetlands activities.

Representative Pombo (R–California) introduced HR 937, HR 3705, HR 3706, and co-sponsored HR 4840. HR 937 is intended to prohibit the use of Federal funds for any program that restricts the use of any privately owned water source. HR 3705 would amend the Endangered Species Act to require that a full range of scientific data be submitted along with any petition to list a species as endangered. It also requires a public process to include other competing data. The current ESA requires no data to be submitted with a petition, allowing the US Fish & Wildlife Service too much latitude in choosing the data it wants to accept. HR 3706 would amend the Endangered Species Act to include a right to know for landowners who may be impacted by endangered species listings. HR 4840, sponsored by Pombo, Representative Walden (R–Oregon), and Representative Hansen (R–Utah), would amend the Endangered Species Act to require data on allegedly endangered species to be scientifically sound, including a preference for field testing, a peer review of studies, an independent scientific review board, and public access to the listing process. This bill has been approved by the House Resources Committee and is awaiting action by the full House of Representatives.

HR 3962, introduced by Representative Peterson (R–Pennsylvania), would limit the authority of the government to acquire land for certain agencies in counties where 50 percent or more of total acreage is already owned by the government.

Senator Thomas (R–Wyoming) introduced S 322, and S 347. S 322 would require “no net gain” of public land in states where over 25% of the land is already in government hands. S 347 would require proposed Endangered Species Act listings to show scientific evidence of need for the listing.

Representative Simpson (R–Idaho) introduced HR 1156 intended to preserve authority of the States over waters within their boundaries, and to delegate the authority of Congress to the States to regulate water.

HR 1174, sponsored by Representative Duncan (R–Tennessee) would require the Bureau of Land Management to dispose of public lands that have been identified for disposal under the Federal land use planning process.

HR 1592 would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to provide greater protection of private property rights, and was introduced by Representative Thornberry (R–Texas).

Representative McInnis (R–Colorado) introduced HR 1811, which would fund the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) account at its full level of approximately $300 million. Current PILT reimbursement to counties is less than $200 million. PILT compensates counties for local tax revenue lost due to federal land purchases. Property taxes are no longer paid when private property is converted over to government ownership.

Now, the bad bills:

Representative Shays (R–Connecticut) introduced HR 488, the Northern Rocky Mountain Wilderness Act. The bill would create another 18 million acres of wilderness in five western states (but not one acre of wilderness in his home state).

HR 701 would allocate $45 billion for the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), a land acquisition trust fund that has appropriately been nicknamed the Condemnation and Relocation Act. The bill was introduced by Representative Young (R–Alaska).

Representative Hinchey (D–New York) introduced HR 1613, and Senator Durbin (D–Illinois) introduced companion bill S 786, which would designate over one million additional acres as wilderness in Utah. Hinchey voted against the creation of a wilderness area in his own state, citing economic hardship.

Representative Hefley (R–Colorado) introduced HR 2388, which would establish criteria and mechanisms for designating national heritage areas. Multiple-use would be restricted in these areas, and they would likely be handed over to the National Park Service.

HR 2656 would add another 1.3 million acres of wilderness in Colorado. The bill was introduced by Representative DeGette (D–Colorado).

Representative Rahall (D–West Virginia) wants to give $93 million in grant monies to eradicate non-native species from federal lands under HR 3558. The bill would place further restrictions on access to these areas.

Representatives Jay Inslee (D–Washington) and Boehlert (R–New York) faced a wave of opposition from property rights groups and withdrew their amendment, HR 4865, intended to make the Clinton Roadless regulations permanent.

S 975, introduced by Senators Chafee (R–Rhode Island) and Reid (D–Nevada), and companion bill HR 1433, introduced by Representative Blumenauer (D–Oregon), would provide $125 million per year to entice local governments into adopting a “Smart Growth,” anti-rural agenda. The bill, called the “Community Character Act,” would force local governments to follow a “Legislative Guidebook,” produced by a group calling themselves the American Planning Association, in order to receive the money. This bill has approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and is awaiting action by the full Senate. The bill has not cleared committee in the House.

S 990, the American Wildlife Enhancement Act, nicknamed the “Son of CARA,” was introduced by Senators Harry Reid (D–Nevada) and Bob Smith (R–New Hampshire). The bill would authorize Congress to spend up to $600 million per year on land acquisition via grants to environmental extremist organizations and animal rights groups. It would include a $9 million payoff to a group calling themselves the Trust for Public Land, which paid $7 million for lands it wishes to turn over to government control–an instant $2 million dollar profit.

Additional CARA style land grab bills were introduced by Senator Murkowski (R–Alaska) and Senator Landrieu (D–Louisiana). The bill numbers are S 1318 and S1328, respectively.

You can follow the progress of all of these bills on the Internet at: http://thomas.loc.gov, find out which elected officials are cosponsoring each bill, and learn the current status of each bill. Just go to the above website and enter in the bill number.


• CCI proposal omitted from Interior budget
The Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI) was a proposal offered by Interior Budget Director Lynn Scarlett and Interior Secretary Gale Norton to create a $50 million fund for purchase of lands to “protect” endangered species. One of CCI’s authors was Karl Hess, an environmental extremist who has fought legislation designed to compensate landowners when the Endangered Species Act restricts or eliminates the use of their property. Hess was designated to distribute CCI funds. The CCI proposal was removed from both the Senate and House versions of the Interior Department budget.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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