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Will Bush veto the CARA threat?

By Peyton Knight
web posted September 10, 2001

The federal government currently owns approximately one third of the entire landmass of the United States. In some States it owns more land than either the State or all those living there. For decades, radical environmentalists have advanced a plan called the "Wildlands Project" that would insure half or more of the US would be off limits to any human use or habitation. Only in Communist nations does the government own all the land. Now that prospect is coming to the United States.

The Conservation and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701), otherwise known as "CARA," passed the House Resources Committee on July 25, 2001. Seventeen Democrat members of the committee were in attendance and voted in favor of the bill. The Republicans split their vote down the middle, 12 in favor and 12 against.

Now that CARA has passed the Resources Committee, a huge drive, led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Billy Tauzin (R-LA), is ensuing to make the $47 billion land acquisition trust fund a reality. With 239 cosponsors, CARA has the muscle to avoid a repeat of last year's defeat. It must be defeated! Failing that, property rights, the keystone of capitalism, cited and protected in the US Constitution, will fall before the juggernaut of government land acquisition.

The President now remains the primary hope that property rights advocates, conservatives, and stalwart Republicans have to stop this nightmare. A veto by President Bush would answer the pleas of his core supporters. Allowing CARA to become law would spell doom for his administration and Republican hopes to regain control of Congress. The American Policy Center is calling upon its supporters and all Americans to contact the White House and urge a Presidential veto.

CARA is a $47 billion dollar, 15-year trust fund that takes money from offshore drilling revenues and reapportions it for "conservation" efforts. Fully $900 million of CARA funds per year would be funneled into the already bloated budget of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), both at the state and federal level. The LWCF is the main land-grabbing agency of the government.

Ranches, farms, mines, pastures, and private estates would instantly become vulnerable to the whims of environmentalists of the kind who filed the suit that ruined the lives of 1400 farmers in the Klamath Basin. CARA exists to expand the property holdings of the government. Private property will be condemned and former owners will be forced to relocate. Private land that borders existing federal and state parks and monuments would also be targeted. Public lands would relentlessly expand, swallowing private property in their path.

If passed by Congress, President Bush must veto the CARA legislation because those property owners, ranchers, farmers, loggers and miners who are the very people that comprise the sea of red found on the famous "Bush Country" Election 2000 map. They elected him and they justifiably hate CARA. They are the ones who will be most affected by the rolling land grabs that will surely take place if CARA becomes law. If betrayed by this administration, it is these people who will stay home on Election Day 2004.

They will not be alone. Hunters, fishermen, campers, off-road vehicle owners and other recreational users of wilderness also turned out in droves to elect President Bush. They too would suffer greatly under CARA. As government acquires more and more private land, its pattern of hostility toward these outdoor enthusiasts will be extended.

The Bush administration has announced plans to clean up the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog at the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies. CARA would add millions more acres to this backlog, placing more land in the hands of bureaucrats who have proven inept at caring for it. Evidence of this has been dramatically seen in the extensive preventable forest fires that have ravished millions of acres of the nation's national parks and forests.

Most insidious, CARA is a trust fund and does not have to pass annual appropriations. The $47 billion, whose use would be spread over 15 years, is guaranteed once CARA becomes law. It is a $3 billion-per-year pork barrel, land acquisition bill that will tip the fiscal scales out of Bush's favor. Funds from CARA would go to government agencies that work closely with and often contract with extreme leftist, environmental groups. In essence, CARA funds the same radicals that work tirelessly to destroy Republican candidates, the same leftists that will inevitably unite to defeat Bush in 2004.

This is the greatest, modern threat to property rights in America and it is a political disaster waiting to happen. By urging House leaders to stand firm against CARA, President Bush can remain true to his core constituency and his oath to uphold the Constitution. If Bush does nothing and CARA becomes law under his watch, he will have betrayed his most loyal supporters and signed a political death warrant for the Republican Party. ESR

Peyton Knight is the Associate Editor of The DeWeese Report, a monthly newsletter, and Legislative Director for the American Policy Center, an activist, grassroots think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. © American Policy Center, 2001

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