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Exploiting tragedy

By Henry Lamb
web posted October 8, 2001

While the world is focused on the war on terrorism, rumors persist that sinister forces inside the beltway are looking for ways to attach a train-load of pork to an emergency appropriations bill.

Don Young's (R-AK) Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA -HR701), was horrible legislation before September 11. So bad, in fact, that it has been dubbed the "Confiscation and Relocation Act" by Americans who believe that the more than 40 per cent of the land government already owns, is far too much. CARA, if enacted, would give government agencies, and NGOs (non-government organizations) such as The Nature Conservancy, about $15 billion over fifteen years, much of which is to be used expressly for the purchase of more land.

Most of the pork would go to the two states, Alaska and Louisiana, represented by the bill's two primary sponsors, Don Young, vice-chair of the Resources Committee, and Billy Tauzin, chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee. As chairmen of two important committees, these men can do a lot of silent, behind-the-scenes arm-twisting. Each of these men can say to all others something such as - "Your bill would have a better chance of getting through my committee if we had your support on CARA."

Of course, no Congressman would ever do such a thing, would they?

Even in the best of times, the bill should not become law. There is absolutely no justification for the federal government to increase its real estate inventory; it can't manage what it now owns. Why this urge for the government to own more land? To "protect" it.

From what? People.

A notion has arisen in this country that people abuse the land when they build houses and shopping centers, raise cattle and sheep, cut trees, plant crops, or extract minerals. To prevent these abuses, government has to acquire the land and convert it to wilderness, or buffer zones. Once safely under the protection of the government - or an NGO such as The Nature Conservancy - this land can never be abused again.

Nor can anyone ever benefit from this land again.

All the development in the United States occupies less than five percent of the total land area. Most of the 280-million Americans live in the developed areas. They need the products produced on the remaining land area. As access to the resources on the remaining land diminishes, one of two outcomes is inevitable: either the standard of living must decrease, or products must be imported from other countries.

It is no surprise that America's imports are increasing - dramatically. Our imports have exceeded our exports every year since 1976, when our trade deficit was $6.1 billion. By 1992, the deficit had grown to $36.5 billion. Since the World Trade Organization was created in 1994, our deficit has grown from $96.7 billion to a whopping $375.7 billion last year. (*** http://www.foreign-trade.com/highlights.htm Source ***)

We are not only exporting American jobs, we are rapidly becoming dependent upon other nations for our standard of living. Every square inch of land taken out of production - to protect it from people - increases our dependence upon other nations, and decreases our ability to take care of ourselves.

In this time of terror, and the uncertain times ahead, every Congressman - including Don Young and Billy Tauzin - should be looking for ways to improve our national self-sufficiency, not reduce it. CARA is a bill that will take land out of production, and, therefore, will reduce our self-sufficiency, and increase our reliance on nations that may or may not be our friends in the future.

The idea that any Congressman might take advantage of expedited procedures to address the September 11 tragedy, to slip through special, pork-barrel legislation, is at the very least, repulsive. This bill should be buried - deep. And forgotten.

Instead of thinking about locking up more land, Congress should be finding ways to open the land that has already been confiscated, either by purchase, or regulatory use restrictions.

Not since World War II has it been so clear that America must be prepared to take care of itself. We can, and should be, engaged with the other nations of the world, but we must never allow our nation to become dependent upon them.

We should do whatever it takes to achieve security in energy, and in food, and we must secure our borders. Aside from rooting out the terrorists - including the home-grown eco-terrorists - we have no higher national priority.

This notion that government must protect the land from the people is more silly, politically-correct non-sense, that this nation no longer has the time, nor stomach, to indulge. Shame on any Congressman who would exploit this tragedy in terror to further his own political or ideological agenda.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Will Bush veto the CARA threat? by Peyton Knight (September 10, 2001)
    Peyton Knight says that George W. Bush is the only thing standing between Americans and the adoption of CARA
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