By Tom DeWeese
Unlike the fictional starship, "Voyager", Americans do not have "replicators" that can create food and other necessities of life out of nothing. Everything we use begins somewhere as a farmer's crop, a rancher's herd, a tree, a mineral that must be mined, oil and gas that must be extracted, a chemical that begins as a natural substance provided by planet Earth.
To sustain the highest standard of living the world has ever known, America must have its farms, ranches, mines, and productive forests. The vital commodities these elements of the economy produce are the targets of environmental radicals and the web of federal regulations they've been instrumental in creating.
Banning these industries outright would meet too much resistance. Instead, powerful government regulations, guidelines and punitive taxes are being used to slowly diminish and then drive out them out of businesses. Fully a third of all federal regulations and laws are devoted to the "environment."
As an industry disappears from a region, the land it formerly occupied is removed from any further production. It then joins millions of other newly created non-productive acres under control of the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service. After that, no human use is permitted.
Because of federal environmental regulations, only a fraction of the timber that formerly was harvested from federal lands is permitted. The number of forest acres shrink every year, despite the fact that America is home to 70 per cent of the forests that existed when the Pilgrims arrived. As this is written, fully 247 million acres (33.5 per cent) are reserved from harvest by law or represent slow-growing woodlands unsuitable for timber production.
Bans are in effect that prohibit even the removal of dead trees or those downed by storms. Between 1992 and 2000, the years of the Clinton-Gore administration, more than 300 timber mills were closed in the northwestern states alone, at a cost of an estimated 130,000 jobs. Entire communities that depended on timber revenue have been destroyed.
Since 1990, timber harvest on federal land has declined from 12 billion board feet a year to barely 2.5 billion board feet in 2000. This nation is actually importing timber! The cost of building a new home in America today has risen by $5,000 to $10,000 as a result of the strangulation of our nation's timber industry. As a ripple effect, lower-income families cannot even dream of home ownership and are condemned to live in crowded cities. As the number of logging acres diminish, prices increase. It now costs more to harvest fewer available trees. In upstate New York, in just one year, the cost of raw hardwood jumped 60 percent.
We're told that the ban on timber in public forests is for the protection of the environment. It's not. It's a planned attack on an essential American industry. While sawmills stand empty and jobs disappear, the dead trees attract insects and disease, affecting the remaining healthy trees, and endangering the forest more severely as the result of government-mandated forest management practices.
Those unhealthy forests are the number-one reason why millions of forest acres now burn every year, destroying trees that could have been used for productive purposes. As this is written, the Department of the Interior is recruiting and training thousands to fight the fires they know are coming. These are fires that could be avoided with proper forest management.
As the timber industry reels under the regulations, and more and more forests become untouchable to human hands, the land holdings of the federal government grow in proportion. In Washington State, heart of the Northwest timber industry, almost 50 percent of the state is now owned by either the federal, state or county governments. Only half of the land remains in private hands.
The total acreage of public land in Washington is 42,606,080. Of this, 2,599,250 acres are controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, 25,492 acres are in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Natural Area Preserves and 46,892 acres are in DNR Natural Reserve Conservation Areas. Citizen access to these federal areas is severely restricted or prohibited. Now, under a green-driven 1990 program called the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) the state government is in an all-out drive to buy or take more and more land.
On the Great Plains the battles for water rights and grazing rights (the bedrock of the ranching industry) is little understood but potentially devastating to America's ability to feed itself. Water and grazing rights are supposed to be guaranteed to those ranchers who operate on public lands. Those agreements go back over one hundred years to the days when the western territories became states. Under those agreements, negotiated in good faith with state and federal authorities, they were not to be subject to question. Water and grazing rights are considered by ranchers to be just as sacred as any homeowner's deed of private property.
For years, however, the Department of the Interior has been pushing to raise grazing and water fees to levels that would destroy ranching and farming in these areas. If the battle is lost it will mark the end of America's cattle and sheep industry, and the destruction of family farms. The land where those ranches and farms now stand will become unproductive, barren wilderness controlled by the federal government.
Without them, can America continue to feed itself, let alone the rest of the world? Meanwhile, in tandem with this federal assault on cattle ranching, animal rights activists like People for the ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) advocate the elimination of meat consumption. This is no coincidence.
If the United States had been invaded by a foreign enemy who had seized our lands, we would be at war today, but in Clinton's first term more than 141 million acres were taken by the federal government. In 1999 Clinton removed more than 2.3 million acres from access to mineral exploration. While this once-productive land was turned into wilderness, many roads, bridges and even some dams were closed or eliminated. Tax bases were destroyed, turning whole communities into virtual ghost towns.
Piece by piece each of these moves by the federal government, aided by the environmentalists, dismantles American infrastructure. The plan, created by radical environmentalists is called The Wildlands Project. It is being implemented by the U.S. government. If successful, it will return 50 percent of the nation to wilderness. It will forcibly remove Americans living in every State of the Union requiring them to give up their homes and move into government-approved human habitat areas.
Does this sound like science fiction? The mad tale of someone's fevered imagination? It is happening. We are watching it happen. Now we must lay siege to our elected representatives in Congress and the new administration to end it. America is being dismantled and all that is necessary for this to continue is our silence, our compliance, our willingness to let someone else fight this battle.
Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, an activist think tank headquartered in Herdon, VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org.
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