Friday, August 21, 2009

What's Happening Now

Is national health insurance Constitutional? No. Not convinced yet? Go here then.

"It's almost as if the president has no experience..." Ya think?

What planet is this guy on?

Independence Institute: Medical coverage is like a game show. (90 sec. video)

Write about the Fifth Amendment, get sued.

Death panels are real.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:46 PM

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CWRA's Chances of Passage

Senator James Inhofe believes it is doubtful the the Clean Water Restoration Act will pass the full Senate.

I am a bit less sanguine, but readily acknowledge his superior familiarity with the Senate.

Here's hoping he's right.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 PM

CWRA Approved by Senate Committee, As Expected

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Clean Water Restoration Act by a party-line vote this morning.

This was expected.

Prospects for CWRA on the Senate floor are less predictable. It could go either way, although the left appears to have an advantage given 1) its control of Congress, and 2) the limited public attention (even from conservative media) the onerous provisions of this massive bill are receiving.

On a more positive note, excluding the bigger-the-government-the-better crowd, the more Americans look at this bill, the less they like it. And why would they like it? Who wants to get a federal permit, or the very least have to investigate whether they need a federal permit, just to landscape their own back yards?

It is not as though the original Clean Water Act, which is a powerful law by anyone's definition, has been repealed or expired. We don't need CWRA to have clean water.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:58 PM

Inhofe on CWRA

Senator James Inhofe's opening statement on CWRA from the hearing is a useful addition to the debate.

I hadn't previously realized the National Association of Realtors and had come out against the bill (perhaps I should stop reviewing the environmental groups' propaganda sheets, which often claim only right-wing dirty water lovers oppose CWRA).

An excerpt from Senator Inhofe's statement:
I see this bill as a significant part of a hostile agenda aimed squarely at rural America. Whether it’s new energy taxes from cap-and-trade legislation or more unfunded environmental mandates, it’s clear that this bill is yet one more raw deal for rural America.

Allowing EPA and the Corps to exercise unlimited regulatory authority over all inter- and intrastate water, or virtually anything that is wet, goes too far and is certainly beyond anything intended by the Clean Water Act. But, that is what S. 787 does. It vastly expands Federal control of private property, despite assurances contained in S. 787. In fact, the very premise of the bill is to override a State’s fundamental right to oversee waters within its borders and to usurp the power of land owners to manage their property as they see fit. The Constitution never envisioned federal jurisdiction being boundless; it carves out room for state and local governments and private property owners to manage their resources.

Two of my Republican colleagues have filed amendments to S. 787, which highlight some very legitimate concerns with the bill. I have chosen not to try and amend the bill because, frankly, I don’t think this bill is fixable. Allow me to just briefly list some of the groups that have expressed concerns with this bill that are not covered by any the amendments filed today: The Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of REALTORS, the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Association of Airport Executives, and the list goes on for about 14 pages...
Senator Inhofe's statement on CWRA should be read in its entirety.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:56 PM

Pop Quiz on the Clean Water Restoration Act

1) Which two states hate the Clean Water Restoration Act so much, their legislatures actually passed resolutions urging the Congress not to enact it?

A. Texas and Oklahoma
B. Georgia and Alabama
C. Washington and Oregon
D. Idaho and Montana
C. Rhode Island and Massachusetts

2) Which of the following groups oppose the Clean Water Restoration Act?

A. National Association of Counties
B. National Cattlemen's Association
C. American Farm Bureau
D. National Association of Home Builders
E. All of the above

3) Which is more accurate:

A. The original Clean Water Act, which remains in effect, was intended to cover all waters in the United States, but the U.S. Supreme Court limited its scope. The Clean Water Restoration Act would simply restore the original scope of the Clean Water Act.

B. The original Clean Water Act, which remains in effect, limited federal authority to "navigable" waters of the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this definition. The Clean Water Restoration Act would expand federal authority beyond navigable waters to virtually every drop of water in the United States, including water on private property.

Answer to 1: D - Idaho (House and Senate) and Montana (Senate).
Answer to 2: E
Answer to 3: B

If you didn't get 3-out-of-3, visit our Clean Water Restoration Act Information page.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote of Note: Clean Water Restoration Act Means Troubled Waters

"For years, the 1972 Clean Water Act has been misused in the name of protecting America's waters and wetlands. The statute’s original limitation that its key provisions only apply to navigable waters was largely ignored. Instead, the law was broadly applied to a wide variety of circumstances, including remote and inconsequential drainage ditches or temporary puddles and even to completely dry land.

The statute’s complex and costly provisions interfered with the economic use of the lands it encompassed, including farming and ranching operations, construction of housing and other buildings, and domestic oil and gas production.

Fortunately, two Supreme Court decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States in 2001, and Rapanos v. United States in 2006 partially reined in these excesses.

Now, the CWRA seeks to overturn these Supreme Court decisions and make the statute more expansive than ever. In fact, it would turn the Clean Water Act into what some analysts believe to be the most dangerous federal intrusion on private property rights in existence..."

-Ben Lieberman, "The Clean Water Restoration Act Means Troubled Waters For Property Owners," Heritage Foundation The Foundry blog, June 17, 2009

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:32 PM

"The Biggest Bureaucratic Power Grab in a Generation"

If you haven't visited the National Center for Public Policy Research's new Clean Water Restoration Act Information page (or even if you have), you can get a good 2 1/2 minute summary of CWRA from Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) from the video above.

Senator Inhofe starts the video with "Rural America, watch out!" and goes on to call CWRA "the biggest bureaucratic power grab in a generation."

If you have a blog or web page yourself, please consider posting this video. Although few people have heard of this bill, Senator Inhofe is not exaggerating about its scope.

It's important that people become educated about CWRA -- the issue is that big.

P.S. Our Clean Water Restoration Act Information page provides links to addition information about CWRA from a variety of sources.

The legislation is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 18.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:09 AM

Monday, June 15, 2009

Backyard Puddles to be Regulated by Feds?

The American Farm Bureau is reporting, correctly, that if the Clean Water Restoration Act (Senator Russ Feingold's S.787) becomes law, the federal government will claim the authority to regulate "all water" in the United States.

"S. 787 would remove any bounds from the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, so that the regulatory reach of the act would extend to all water -- anywhere from farm ponds, to storm water retention basins, to roadside ditches, to desert washes, to streets and gutters, even to a puddle of rainwater," says a letter signed by the group.

Nearly two years ago, the groups's president, Bob Stallman, explained in more detail:
Since its enactment in 1972, the Clean Water Act has regulated “navigable waters,” or waters of the U.S. The proposed legislation would delete the term “navigable” and replace it with “all intrastate waters” and add confusing language allowing the federal government to regulate “activities affecting these waters.” Although technical and hard to get your head around, these terms, if interchanged, would pose serious consequences for most landowners.

The legislation would grant -- for the first time ever -- the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all wet areas within a state, including groundwater, ditches, pipes, streets, municipal storm drains and gutters. It would grant these same agencies -- for the first time ever -- authority over all activities affecting those waters, regardless of whether the activity is occurring in water or adds a pollutant. With unfunded mandates, this slippery slope takes away power from state and local jurisdictions, shifting the control to the federal government for development and use of local land and water resources.

What does this mean for the typical residential landowner? Likely, a lot of hassle, expense and time spent in court. The legislation clearly states "all waters." Those of you with farm, stock and even goldfish ponds – beware.
The legislation is scheduled to be voted upon in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18.

The National Center for Public Policy Research has a Clean Water Restoration Act Information webpage here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:39 AM

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Information Webpage Created

The National Center for Public Policy Research has created a webpage with links to resources about the Clean Water Restoration Act.

The page has links to resources about CWRA published not only by the National Center, but by a variety of other organizations as well. If you are a columnist, blogger, speaker or talk show host planning to address the issue, you will find plenty of useful information on the page.

As National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith noted below, the legislation is scheduled for a markup and vote in the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18.

You can visit the page here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:05 AM

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Scheduled for Senate Committee Vote June 18

An important message from National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith on the Clean Water Restoration Act, which is less about protecting our nation's waters and more about expanding the federal government's power to regulate private property.

From R.J. Smith:
I received an email at 11:05 p.m. last night from Senate Environment and Public Works staff that Senator Barbara Boxer and company are going to bring the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) up for full committee mark-up and vote in their Thursday 18 June business session scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the EPW Hearing Room, 406 Dirksen.

This is Senator Russ Feingold's S.787, which was introduced on April 2.

With the Democrats having nationalized the financial, banking and automobile industries -- bringing a strong layer of socialism to the key portions of the US economy -- they are now moving to nationalize the American land and water.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Federal government only had the authority to regulate "navigable waters" and control the discharge of pollutants and dredge and fill activities within those navigable waters.

The so-called Clean Water RESTORATION Act restores nothing. That is a hoax. Instead, it removes the restrictive and limiting terms "navigable" waters and unconstitutionally extends the Federal regulatory authority over ALL waters of the United States. This includes the driest desert areas that may only hold water for a few weeks a year during summer monsoon rains. And it includes completely isolated prairie potholes (small ponds and marshes) with no connection whatsoever to any other waters.

Furthermore, the bill will now prohibit ALL activities affecting all waters of the United States. This means that anything a landowner, a business, a county roads department, a waterfowl conservation program undertakes that could conceivably affect anything that is wet -- will be subject to the discretionary jurisdiction of Army Corps or EPA bureaucrats. They will then be able to make the lives of family farmers, ranchers, tree farmers, home builders -- almost anyone and everyone -- literally impossible. They will have the total power to force every farmer or rancher or ordinary business owner to run a gauntlet of permits, red tape, delays -- that will delay projects long enough and cost so much as to essentially shut down or bankrupt even the most necessary and innocuous projects.

There are copious examples of wetlands horror stories over the last 20 years in which people have been imprisoned and fined staggering amounts for simply building their own home, cleaning up dumps, or creating habitat for waterfowl. And that occurred under the CWA restrictions of "navigable waters" and prohibitions only on discharging pollutants and dredge and fill activities.

Once those constraints are removed by the CWRA, life will quickly become a bureaucratic nightmare with no exit -- particularly so throughout all of rural America. This bill would be much more honestly named "The Rural Cleansing Act of 2009."

This will be a tough battle given that the E&PW Committee make up is 12 Ds and 7 Rs (which includes Senators George Voinovich and Lamar Alexander).

It is important that people who are concerned about this enlist the help of the agricultural community, especially county and state farm bureaus. They should notify not only the members of the Senate E&PW but also the Senate Agriculture Committee.

It is also vital to contact Rep. Collin Peterson Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and request that he ask for oversight hearings on the impact of the CWRA on America's farmers and the nation's food production.

They should also request that the farmers and ranchers they know and their county and state farm bureaus and cattlemen's associations contact the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, asking them to strongly oppose the CWRA.
Addendum (6/14/09): For more information on the Clean Water restoration act, please visit our new CWRA information webpage at

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:03 PM

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do As I Say...

...not as I do.

(With apologies to National Center for Public Policy Research board member Peter Schweizer for stealing the title of his book.)

Hat tip: Climate Depot.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:38 PM

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

U.S. House Holds Kangaroo Hearing to Fool Public About Causes of California Drought

The National Center for Public Policy Research has sent a 'kangaroo' to a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Committee on climate change and the California drought.

The kangaroo's appearance will to protest the fact that the hearing is expected to ignore the contribution of environmental regulations in exacerbating the drought, and also the fact that only representatives of government agencies, mostly federal, have been invited to testify.

Our press release explains:
'Kangaroo-Court' Hearing a One-Sided View of California Drought

Regulations Making Water Shortage Worse

For Release: March 31, 2009 10:30 AM

Contact: David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11 or
[email protected]

Washington, D.C.: The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources is holding a one-sided hearing this morning on the California drought that is expected to blame climate change for a critical water shortage while glossing over the role of activist-inspired environmental policies in exacerbating the shortage, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

The hearing, entitled "The California Drought: Actions by Federal and State Agencies to Address Impacts on Lands, Fisheries, and Water Users," will be held today, March 31, at 10:30 am in Room 1324, Longworth House Office Building.

Only representatives of government agencies will be permitted to testify at the hearing. Most of the witnesses will be from federal agencies.

To draw attention to the biased nature of the proceedings, The National Center for Public Policy Research will send a representative to the hearing best suited for a kangaroo court - a kangaroo.

"At the height of a California drought and during a serious recession with massive unemployment in California's Central Valley, one would hope that the committee cared enough about agricultural workers and minorities to invite as witnesses actual unemployed farm workers from the scores of communities closing down," remarked R.J. Smith, a Senior Fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Let's have an open Committee hearing and hear real people discussing the impacts on their lives from government regulations and their massive job losses - instead of more government bureaucrats who are only causing the problem."

California - the nation's largest producer of tomatoes, lettuce, almonds, apricots, strawberries and many other crops - risks agricultural losses of over $2 billion for the upcoming season and $3 billion in total economic losses in 2009. According to a University of California at Davis study, 80,000 jobs could be lost in the Central Valley.

Although global warming is expected to receive much of the blame for this economic disaster, government regulation is a more significant - and preventable cause - of it, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research.

For example, state and federal water officials have sharply cut agricultural water deliveries in California so that more water can go out to sea as part of an effort to protect the Delta Smelt - a three-inch long fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In February, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced a "zero allocation" of water from the Central Valley Project, cutting off the massive federal irrigation system that serves numerous California farms. The supply of water from California's State Water Project is 20 percent of normal.

"By demanding that the water flow into the Pacific Ocean, government meddlers have forced farmers to abandon production, threatening both the nation's fresh food supplies and the jobs of farm workers, many of whom are among the nation's poorest minorities," said Mr. Smith. "Ironically, the cut-off of agricultural water has done nothing to help the Delta Smelt. Every year less water is diverted for agriculture, yet the fish population continues to decline."

The state of California also deserves blame for the water shortage because it has failed to build the water infrastructure necessary for the state's growing population.

Donn Zea, President of the Northern California Water Association, wrote in the March 5th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle that although California's population has doubled over the past 40 years, the state has not meaningfully updated its water storage capacity since 1967. "As a result, when drought hits, we have an amount of water suitable for California in 1960 - not 2009," wrote Mr. Zea.

The Resources Committee - which has a history of promoting global warming alarmism - is expected to explore the dubious link between a modest increase in global temperatures and localized weather patterns devastating California.

"If certain members of the House Natural Resources Committee want the world to believe that a regional drought in an arid area of California is further 'proof' of global warming, then let's hope that they apply the same reasoning to the floods that are ravaging eastern and central North Dakota," remarked Dr. Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research. "By the thousands, residents of Fargo and Bismarck are trying to protect their cities from the rising waters of the Red and Missouri Rivers. The blocks of ice on the Missouri River north of Bismarck were so huge that explosives were used to blow them up. Will Chairman Rahall invite Fargo's mayor and other North Dakota officials before his committee to testify on how ordinary citizens spent hours in sub-freezing, snowy weather protecting their homes and businesses from the effects of global cooling?"

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-profit 501(c)(3) communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems. For more information, visit the National Center's website at or call (202) 507-6398.

Here's hoping our 'kangaroo' (actually, a man in a kangaroo costume) is able to draw some attention to government regulations that are needlessly hurting Californians.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:23 AM

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pickens Plan May Test Obama's Leadership

From David Almasi:
Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli's commentary on the inherent problems within the "Pickens Plan" was published in today's Washington Examiner newspaper.

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens claims altruistic reasons for promoting the construction of massive wind farms and converting trucks and fleet vehicles to be powered by natural gas in order to lessen U.S. demand for foreign oil. Deneen points out the plan may result in both misery for politically-weak urban communities and money for Pickens.

Ultimately, she notes, the Pickens Plan may be a test of President Barack Obama's leadership.

In "Pickens Plan is Hot Air That May Burn America," Deneen writes:
Converting vehicles to natural gas taps a resource now used by power plants to generate electricity. To compensate, the Pickens Plan suggests massive wind turbines. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 100,000 such turbines - many the size of 40-story buildings - would be necessary to handle just 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs.

To deliver that power, the Energy Department further estimates 12,650 miles of new transmission lines would be needed by 2030 at a cost of between $64 and $128 billion...

...Pickens compares the proposed new power grid to the construction of the 46,000-mile interstate highway system decades ago. Sadly, back then it was often the poorest neighborhoods selected for eminent domain evictions to make way for new roads.

So-called "negro removal" in Detroit's Paradise Valley and Newark's Central Ward helped spark the July 1967 riots that collectively led to 66 deaths. Highway construction destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes in a process the San Francisco Chronicle in 1959 called "a crime that cannot be prettied up."

Pickens has not assured the public his plan would not repeat this exploitation of minorities and the politically-disadvantaged.

Pickens would also likely profit from his plan, thanks to taxpayer support. He testified before Congress that his plan might succeed only with the wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), which was recently extended by the $787 billion bailout bill.

Mesa Power, a Pickens' company, wants to build a 2,700-turbine wind farm in Texas. According to a report by the National Center for Public Policy Research, "Pickens' firm stands to receive between $1.66 billion and about $3 billion in PTC payments alone over 10 years, a significant portion of its original investment."
Regarding the proposal as a challenge for the President, Deneen notes:
Obama's leadership will soon be tested. Will he side with the little guy, protecting their homes and guarding their access to affordable energy? Or will he deliver for special interests like T. Boone Pickens and anti-energy environmental organizations?

If he chooses the latter, it won't be the change so many people thought they voted for last November."
To read the entire commentary, click here.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Executive Director David Almasi. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:13 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Diverse Coalition Appeals to Congress Regarding Unjust Provisions of Omnibus Land Management Act

Readers with an interest in property rights, civil rights or simply staying out of jail for doing something one has no idea is illegal will want to review the coalition letter sent to the Congressional leadership, the Attorney General and to President Barack Obama by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences and the National Center for Public Policy Research during the last 24 hours.

The letter was organized by John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner,

Our respective organizations have diverse viewpoints, but we share a deep and abiding belief in due process under the law. We believe that that Congress should perform careful diligence before adding violations to the criminal codes, that federal crimes should be narrowly defined and show clear criminal intent, and that the use of asset forfeiture must be narrowly tailored so that it does not unduly punish the accused before a trial has proven their guilt. As such we have grave concerns about sections of the pending Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009, which passed the Senate last week as H.R. 146, regarding "paleontological resources preservation."

These sections, now contained in the bill under Subtitle Dof Title VI, seek to empower the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to"protect paleontological resources on Federal land using scientific principles and expertise." We understand that preventing theft of and harm to important fossils on federal land is a serious objective. However, we are concerned that the bill creates many new federal crimes using language that is so broad that the provisions could cover innocent human error. There is also, in defining the crimes, a troubling lack of words such as "knowingly" that clearly establish criminal intent as a prerequisite for prosecution. As Georgetown University legal ethicist John Hasnas has written, to serve the greater goal of justice, all criminal laws must require the government to establish that "one had to knowingly or at least recklessly act in a morally blameworthy way to be subject of criminal punishment."

H.R. 146 would make it illegal to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any paleontological resources located on Federal land" without special permission from the government. Penalties for violations include up to five years imprisonment. "Paleontological resources" are loosely defined as all "fossilized remains ... that are of paleontological interest and that provide information about the history of life on earth." We are troubled by this definition that paleontological organizations say could cover many common rocks that adults and children collect. The Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences has warned that with this wording, it is easy to visualize "a group of students unknowingly crossing over an invisible line."

We are also concerned about the bill's prohibition against "false labeling" of fossil specimens, an offense that also carries criminal penalties. The bill makes it a crime to "make or submit any false record, account or label for, or any false identification of, any paleontological resource excavated or removed from federal land." This broad language could criminalize innocent misidentifications, limit scientific inquiry, and infringe on the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. Fossil labeling is a complex process, and even the top museums of the world have been known to revise labeling in their exhibits upon scholarly review or new facts being discovered ..Thus, the fear of making an honest mistake in fossil labeling or even having fossil identifications proven "false" in light of new scientific discoveries could have a chilling effect on new research in paleontology.

We are pleased that the Senate recently improved provisions regarding forfeiture. Language in earlier versions of the legislation would have allowed government officials to engage in the pretrial seizure of "all vehicles and equipment of any person" accused of theft or harm to a "paleontological resource." Forfeiting a person's property without a conviction undermines the bedrock principle of our legal system: that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Past abuses of forfeiture led to bipartisan passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, and we had feared that these provisions would go against the spirit of these reforms. The Senate heeded our concerns with an amendment, and as passed on March 20, "vehicles and equipment" were removed from the forfeiture language, so that the forfeiture provisions apply only to the "paleontological resources" taken from federal land. This is a marked improvement, and we would oppose any attempts to reinsert forfeiture of personal property in a revised bill.

Above all, we are concerned that a bill containing new federal crimes, fines and imprisonment, and forfeiture provisions may come to the House floor without first being marked up in the House Judiciary Committee. That committee is tasked with providing centralized oversight of criminal legislation, thereby enhancing the fairness and consistency of those enactments. As such we strongly urge that the criminal provisions of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act be stripped from any final legislation until they are subject to Judiciary Committee review and amendment."

Representatives of the signatory organizations of this letter would be happy to meet with you or members of your staff to address these concerns.


Caroline Fredrickson
American Civil Liberties Union
Washington Legislative Office

Tracie Bennitt
Association of Applied Paleontological Sciences

John Berlau
Director, Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Kyle O'Dowd
Assoc. Executive Director for Policy
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

David A. Ridenour
Vice President
The National Center for Public Policy Research

Cc: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
House Majority Whip James Clyburn
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith
President Barack Obama
Attorney General Eric Holder
For more information on this issue, see this blog's previous coverage of this here and here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 PM

Massive Omnibus Public Land Management Act to See Another Vote

By R.J. Smith:
Sometime today the Omnibus Public Land Management Act will come up for its final vote in Congress. A courageous band of defenders of energy production, natural resources use, public multiple-use of the public lands, and property rights and private land ownership have tenaciously fought this massive 160+ bill package since the fall of 2007.

On Thursday 19 March the Senate completed the complicated bill switch, replacing H.R. 146 (the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act) with S.22 and then voting on that. The Senate passed the bill 77-20 (2 NV). 20 GOP voted Nay. 21 RINOs voted Yea to further shut down the West, destroy domestic energy production, lock-up tens of millions of acres of public lands in categories that much of the public will never be able to use. Destroying energy production, mining, timber harvest, grazing, and recreation.

Bad enough in normal times. Unforgiveable in a recession and energy shortage.

In addition to the 1,000 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designations there were 2,800 miles of new National Trails that will have the authority to shut down anything that can be seen from the trails that the Feds disapprove of.

Senator Reid had allowed Senator Coburn to offer 6 amendments, 5 of which were defeated, and one of which the Democrats had agreed to pass on a voice vote.

Coburn's successful amendment was to the Paleontological Resources Protection Act section of the Omnibus which would criminalize any private collection of fossils on the public lands. His amendment removed the criminalization of "casual and unintentional" collection of rocks that may contain a fossil or portion of a fossil. However, any knowing collection of a fossil is now a felony, with the Feds having nationalized all fossils on public lands and essentially closing down amateur and independent paleontological discovery, research and collection on the public lands.

But the most important provision of Coburn's amendment was that it removed the bill's draconian provisions to apply civil asset forfeiture laws to all who collect any fossils -- giving the Feds the authority to seize the vehicles and equipment and even the homes, ranches, farms and lands of amateur and professional paleontologists.

Because the original H.R. 146 had already passed the House, the complicated Senate actions sent the Omnibus and the Battlefield bill back over to the House on Monday, with the House needing only to vote to concur with the amended Senate bill.

Yesterday the House Rules Committee voted to consider it under a closed rule -- eliminating the possibility of a motion to recommit and all amendments to the bill. The House Natural Resources Committee minority members had submitted about a dozen amendments for the Committee to consider, but they were rejected. There will now be a one hour debate on the rule and then a one hour debate on the Omnibus -- and then a simple majority vote, guaranteeing that this monstrous bill will pass.

The Democrat leadership even rejected an amendment to codify the right to carry concealed weapons on National Park and National Wildlife Refuge lands -- one of the last regulations from the Bush Department of Interior. A week ago a U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction blocking the regulation. Reportedly the Democrat leadership promised the pro-gun, conservative and Blue Dog Democrats that they would bring up a stand-alone bill to restore Second Amendment rights. But it is highly unlikely that Rep. Pelosi and other extreme liberals will ever allow such a bill.

The genuine hero in the long convoluted efforts to kill this terrible bill was Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and everyone should make an effort to thank him. He kept the land-grab bottled up for almost a year and a half.

In the House, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) certainly deserve your thanks for fighting this bill in the House and for attempting to have honest and open hearings and debates on the scores of bills in the Omnibus which the House had never considered or debated.

This is another massive "mystery meat" bill with well over a thousand pages of bills which no one has read or understands. Driven by the shameful lust of Congressional members to bring pork to their districts at the expense of American freedom, energy production and security, natural resources use and the locking-out of more and more of the public from the use of their lands.

It is a step closer to making America a Third World country and a feudalistic nation with the government owning an ever-increasing majority of the land and resources.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

Addendum: Here's how the vote ended up.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:12 AM

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Outrage of the Day: Harry Reid Tries Again

Today's Outrage of the Day goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his reported intention to try again to get the monster Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S. 22) into law without proper deliberation.

Following the bill's defeat last Wednesday (under suspension of rules) in the House, Reid reportedly plans to try again by attaching the huge bill as an amendment to a bill, H.R. 146, "The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act," that has already received House approval, and is to be voted on early this week in the Senate.

As National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith pointed out in this extensive commentary last week, it's likely that no one has read the bill-cum-amendment, as it's 1,294 pages long and nine inches thick. There have been no hearings, mark-ups or floor debate about most of it.

What's the hurry, Harry?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:51 PM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NY Times Blog's "Fair Analysis" of Public Lands Bill

R.J. Smith is calling this post by Kate Phillips on the New York Times Caucus blog "a pretty fair analysis" of recent Hill action surrounding the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22).

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:03 AM

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Omnibus Public Land Management Act Defeated - For Now

A followup to our blog post on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22) posted during the wee hours this morning, from the New York Times, by Eric Bontrager:
The House rejected an amended omnibus package of more than 160 public lands, water and resources bills despite a last-minute change designed to ease concerns about the bill.

By a vote of 282-144, the House failed to pass S. 22 (pdf) under a suspension of the rules, which barred any amendments from being added to the bill but also required a two-thirds majority for passage...
Read the rest here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:21 PM

Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 on House Floor Today - 170 Bills in One; Half Have Had No Hearings

By R.J. Smith:
S. 22, the giant Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, will go to the House floor today (Wednesday, March 11) under suspension of rules. This means debate will be limited to a mere 40 minutes and amendments will not be permitted. Congressmen will be asked to vote on the bill without knowing what is in the 1,294-page, 9-inch thick bill! Some 170 separate bills have all been rolled into this one omnibus. Nearly half of them have never had any hearings, review or mark-up in the House.

The major concern with the bill is the vast expansion of every sort of Federal land ownership, including new and expanded National Parks, National Trails, National Heritage Areas, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, and more.

It creates 82 new Wild and Scenic Rivers including over a thousand miles of rivers.

It will also create millions of acres of new Wilderness Areas.

In addition, S. 22 will give legislative authority and statutory permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System. The NLCS was created by decree in June 2000 by then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. It effectively removed at least 26 million acres from BLM multiple-use management, giving these lands near-Wilderness status. Federal bureaucrats and environmentalists have longed to give this new land-management system official designation, placing it on a par with the National Park System and preventing future secretaries from opening the lands to even necessary and vital energy exploration.

This massive Omnibus bill would lock up millions of acres of land at the height of an economic recession and at a time the U.S. is struggling to improve energy security. Instead of creating jobs and increasing resources, energy supplies and wealth -- it would destroy them. It will shut down cattle grazing, mining, timber harvest, energy exploration and production and recreation.

And it will add another $10-12 billion of Federal spending.

Hundreds of millions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas will be locked up. It will kill a vital new Liquefied Natural Gas terminal/port in Massachusetts so that Congressman Barney Frank -- who frequently rails against oil companies for pushing energy prices higher -- won't have it spoil his view.

The Omnibus creates a new Coastal and Estuarine Conservation program as well.

It also includes provsions providing Global Warming and Climate Change programs on public lands.

Under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act it makes it a Federal crime to collect or pick up fossils or fossilized rocks on any Federal lands. It will become a Federal crime for school children to collect fossilized sharks' teeth. And in a scary twist it would extend civil asset forfeiture, permitting the government to seize ownership of all vehicles and equipment used in the gathering of any fossilized material.

The good news is that because the bill is coming up under suspension, it requires a 2/3 vote of the House of Representatives. This means only 146 votes against the bill will be sufficient to derail it.

Please spread the word about this bill and encourage people to contact their Congressman. Because it is coming up tomorrow, time is of the essence.

Thanks for your help.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

Update here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:01 AM

Monday, September 08, 2008

Project 21 in Washington Times

Project 21 members and staff have been published in the Washington Times' op-ed page several times recently. Fans of the group may wish to click on one or more of the following:

"Speed-Limit Myths" - Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie takes on Senator John Warner of Virginia's trial balloon favoring a federal mandate to lower speed limits. After explaining who/what really would benefit from such a policy (hint: not the environment, but it involves something green), Massie suggests that "it might be better if Mr. Warner just drove off into the sunset. If only he could go a little faster."

"History is the Final Judge" - Project 21 member Ak'Bar A. Shabazz asks, "if we disregard the calls for freedom and democracy in places such as Tibet, where are we placing ourselves as it relates to world history?," and quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., saying "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"Property Rights" - Project 21 research associate Reece Epstein examines the government's use of eminent domain power in a predominately black city to take choice land from small businesses in order to sell it to large ones. He says, "Self-professed champions of the poor don't help when they oppose eminent domain reform. Doing so simply allows government to take from one and give to another - at the expense of communities - just to rake in tax dollars."

"Let Them Eat Cake" - Project 21 member Kevin L. Martin calls on Congress to allow more oil drilling, saying "There may be a day when we all have electric cars, but the one I have right now doesn't have a plug, solar panel or hydrogen converter. It takes gasoline. While I don't object to the possibility of alternative energy sources in the future, I know that most Americans own cars that need gas and live in homes that are powered at least in part by coal. When the elites stifle access to plentiful power, the financial burden is a lot smaller for them. They can afford to pay more for a hybrid car and rave about getting better gas mileage. They can also feel better about their indulgences when they buy imaginary 'carbon credits' that give them the moral authority to use more energy than they want to allow the masses. Like Marie Antoinette, they think the rest of America can 'eat cake' like they can. Sadly, we can't."

"The Civil Rights Shakedown: Myth or Reality?" - Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli takes a look at shakedown allegations against Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and describes her own effort to urge a corporate board not to be part of such a process. Deneen wrote, in part, "Frustrated by what appears to me to be a long history of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton using semi-subtle campaigns to pressure corporations to donate, I spoke up at the JPMorgan shareholder meeting. After Mr. Jackson spoke, I took his place at the microphone and asked Mr. Dimon and his board: 'Will there ever be a day where you will stand up and say 'No' to Mr. Jackson and to his demands and messages of victimization and divisiveness? This is the United States of America, and this is not the 1960s. People should be hired based on their talents and they should be retained based on their results. There should not be color-coded hiring in the United States.' Shareholders clapped. But, unlike Mr. Jackson's, my question went unanswered."

"Gaining Access with Identification" - Project 21 research associate Reece Epstein turns the Voter ID debate into a civil rights issue -- but maybe not in the way you think: "The bottom line is that someone without proper identification is out of step. And those who want to keep them there are out of line."

"Black America is Still Not Free" - Project 21 research associate Reece Epstein reviews the new book "Sweet Release: The Last Step to Black Freedom" by psychologist Dr. James Davidson, Jr.: "...although he criticizes liberals, Davidson is quick to note he is no conservative. He writes: 'My behaviors and ideas [are] anything but conservative. Trying to improve one's social and economic lot by rejecting traditional societal and black community standards for achievement seemed antithetical to [being] conservative.' The apolitical goal of Sweet Release is to create advancers: 'What you seek is simply not in the 'hood. It never has been, and it never will be... We must now move beyond our own remaining chains, beyond the mental barriers that keep so many of us constrained in our thoughts and deeds.'"

"Governance drives this crisis" - Project 21 associate and Initiative for Public Policy Analysis executive director Thompson Ayodele asks, "Hunger is an everyday problem in Africa. What can be done about it?," and answers, in part: "For one thing, a better governmental infrastructure and incentives can stimulate production if done right. Anything that would dampen competition, and thus lower the incentive to produce, should be avoided. When these programs are instituted, they must be administered with professionalism and transparency."

"Too few Watts: 'Segregated News' is Not the Answer" - Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie isn't too thrilled about former GOP Congressman J.C. Watts' plans to create a black news television channel: "...the question begging an answer is what exactly constitutes 'black news.' There are things that happen to black people in black communities that don't really have an impact on the rest of America, but that doesn't mean they should be provincial to black America. News happening in America is American news, and it should be everyone's concern."

"Jesse Jackson Outrage Strategy: No Dough, No Go?" - Project 21 staff director David Almasi and research associate Justin Danhof wonder why Jesse Jackson never challenged XM Satellite Radio for alleged racial insensitivity for a gold tooth ad similar to one run by Toyota which Jackson did protest. They ask: "Remember when Jesse Jackson challenged XM Satellite Radio for its racist advertising? Probably not, since it never happened. Why he didn't is the question." Could it be because Toyota has more money?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:45 PM

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It

David Ridenour shared news of a new property rights information resource with the National Center for Public Policy Research's email list last night:
Dear Friend,

I'm writing to tell you about an excellent new book – and exceptional resource – that will be released tomorrow, "Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights and How We Can Fight It." It was written by my friend Don Corace and I had the privilege of getting an advance peak at the book.

The book details a series of property rights horror stories, some that you've no doubt heard about, such as the Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case, and some that might be unfamiliar to you.

Corace tells the story, for example, of Jim and Tom Stephanis, who fought the City of Pompano Beach to build a hotel on a 1.3-acre site where their restaurant once stood. They fought the city for 31 years, during which time the Pompano government officials stonewalled the project through bureaucratic shenanigans and frivolous lawsuits. The city even deliberately violated a court order. The Stephanis brothers won nine consecutive lawsuits and numerous appeals before a chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court intervened, ordering an appeals venue change and hand-picking the judges who would hear the case – a highly-irregular and controversial move. This was the turning point in their battle and the Stephanises ultimately lost millions they'd invested in the project. Within a year of their final blow – the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear their case – Jim Stephanis suffered a major stroke. Today he works as a wine manager for a liquor store. His brother, Tom, is retired.

Government Pirates provides especially good insights on how government and outside special interests collaborate to take away Americans' property rights. As a successful real estate developer, Corace has seen this process up-close, first-hand.

If you'd like to take a look at sample pages of the book or see where you can tune in to hear Don Corace talking about the book (he'll be on Hannity and Colmes this week, for example), check out the Government Pirates website. Journalists and bloggers can download a press kit or email publisher HarperCollins here. To pre-order Government Pirates right now, go here.

This book is not only a must-read, but a vital reference book for your library. I encourage you not only to purchase it, but to tell others about this truly important contribution to the property rights movement.


David A. Ridenour
Vice President

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:43 AM

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Congressman Paul Broun Fights for Property Rights

A note on the fight to protect property rights from National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith:
To all --

Once again freshman Congressman Paul Broun from Georgia's 10th is on the House floor fighting for property rights.

Congress has been sending lots of bad Green Federal land grab bills to the floor under suspension of the rules, allowing no amendments, and very limited debate, and trying to sneak them by on a voice vote. This has given cover to a surprising number of GOP members, including supposed conservatives, who have been attempting to sneak some Green earmarked pork to their districts with no recorded vote.

Good ol' Paul Broun is down there making certain there are recorded roll call votes taken. The strategy: Stop the bills if you can. Make people think twice with a recorded vote. Hold the RINOs' feet to the fire.

If you haven't visited Paul Broun's website and seen his Congressional Property Rights Action Caucus and the weekly e-letter that his staffer Stephen Kraly sends out, do so. And get on the mailing list for the newsletter. And for those of you who remember Aloysius Hogan and all the great work he did with Senator Jim Inhofe: Aloysius is chief-of-staff for Rep. Broun. You've got some friends in an increasingly hostile Congress.

-- RJ
R.J. Smith is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. To contact him directly, write him at [email protected].


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:35 PM

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Weyrich: Congressional Hearings on Land Trusts Needed

Conservative leader par excellence Paul Weyrich has written a column about National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso's National Policy Analysis paper, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

Paul begins:
Phil Truluck is today Executive Vice President of the Heritage Foundation. He is the right-hand man of Edwin J. (Ed) Feulner, Jr. In 1973 he worked under my supervision. Then as now he is one of the most able and tireless laborers for the cause I ever have known. That year he worked day and night on the liberal's pet cause of that era - namely, land use. Had the land use bill passed the federal government would have been able, in effect, to do away with private property.

Although others took credit for the defeat of that terrible bill, I can state without fear of contradiction that it was Truluck's work that was responsible for the outcome. It is true that this bill has not reared its ugly self for the past 35 years but no bad idea ever dies in Washington. The National Center for Public Policy Research has issued a new study which contends that the federal government has found a new way to restrict the use of private property. A total of 37 million acres throughout the nation is under the control of land trusts. The best known of these is the Nature Conservancy. Dana Joel Gattuso, a senior fellow at the National Center, is author of the report, "Conservation Easements: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly." It seems that the Conservancy approaches land-rich but cash-poor farmers. In return for donating their land for supposed conservation purposes, the land owners are provided with federal and state tax breaks provided they agree never to develop or use the land for anything other than farming or ranching.

But the next thing that most often happens is a land flip...
Paul ends the piece with a call upon Congress to hold hearings to expose the way conservation easements are being abused, with an eye toward amending the law to prevent these abuses.

Read the rest of Paul's commentary here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:36 PM

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Government Land Acquisition on the Sly

Joe Thomas of WCHV in Charlottesville, Virginia has posted a podcast online of his radio interview with National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow Dana Joel Gattuso.

Dana, as many of you know, is the author of the absolutely excellent new paper on conservation easements, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," published by the National Center for Public Policy Research on Tuesday.

If you are among the millions of Americans concerned about the steady growth of government, and you aren't already aware -- as most aren't -- of the explosive growth in conservation easements and how these easements are a door through which governments are exerting greater ownership of and control over private land (typically without the taxpayers knowing about, or any legislature ever voting for, the expansion), then I urge you to read Dana's study.

For a shorter summary of what the issue is all about, I recommend our press release, ably written by Judy Kent, and reproduced below.
Contact: Judy Kent at (703) 759-7476 or email [email protected]

Landowners Beware - The Government's Found a New Way to Control Your Land

Conservation Easements Not What They Used to Be, Says New Report

Washington, D.C.: Under the guise of making more land accessible for the public's use and providing tax relief for land-rich but cash-poor landowners, the government has found a convenient way to restrict the use of private land - often without the original landowner's knowledge. Enter The Nature Conservancy and other large land trust conglomerates that approach farmers or large landowners with what seems like a "win-win" for all involved. In return for donating their land for conservation purposes, the landowners are provided with federal and state tax breaks and agree never to convert, develop or use the land for any purpose other than farming or ranching.

A total of 37 million acres of land throughout the United States are currently under the control of land trusts.

However, according to a new report by the National Center for Public Policy Research titled, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," all-too-often that acquired land, placed under "conservation easements," goes from the land trust right into the governing hands of the largest landowner in the United States, the federal government. Dana Joel Gattuso, author of the report and senior fellow of the National Center, explains these "prearranged flips" provide a back door approach to acquiring land control that is good for the government and the original land trust, but bad for the unsuspecting landowner, who has been kept out of the loop.

How profitable is it for conglomerates like The Nature Conservancy to participate in flips? Gattuso cites their annual report, which states about a fifth of the land trust's annual support and revenues come from the sales of easements to the government. "In one example, The Nature Conservancy bought an easement for $1.26 million, then directly sold it to the federal Bureau of Land Management for $1.4 million," she says. The Nature Conservancy certainly isn't alone, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, one of that state's largest land trusts, has sold more than 700 of its 850 easements to the state and federal government.

Besides being able to take control over more and more land, "Government agencies like the arrangements because they are able to restrict activity on private property absent public approval, unlike land purchases, zoning laws and other land conservation regulations, which can draw heated opposition - and great angst," Gattuso says. According to a Department of Agriculture report on easements, "conservation easements provide opportunities for public agencies to influence resource use without incurring the political costs of regulation or the full financial costs of outright land acquisition." It is troubling that "easements, absent reforms, could evolve into the prevailing method for government to shift lands unobtrusively from private to public control under a pretense of private stewardship," she states.

This trend toward more government involvement in land trusts troubles Gattuso. While conservation easements "have become the rage in land conservation - rising in number from 740 in 1995 to 6,500 today - so has the role of government and government's influence over land trusts." Initially, the benefits of land trust involvement with easements created the possibility of an effective land stewardship program. "Yet land trusts, particularly the larger organizations, are changing their focus from independent and private approaches, to working in tandem with government agencies in an effort to assist government in controlling private lands," she cautions.

Gattuso says the biggest reason landowners enter into a conservation agreement is to obtain relief from burdensome taxes - especially death taxes, which break up well-managed lands. Tax benefits are extended to everyone, from wealthy landowners who own hundreds of thousands of acres to struggling farmers who have inherited a hundred-acre farm. These easements, however, extend into perpetuity and can become a big concern when future generations inherit the affected land, the report says. Environmentalists presently view this as beneficial, but what is ecologically-beneficial one day, may not be the next. Legal and policy experts agree these binding agreements that extend into perpetuity "ultimately become antiquated and, therefore, useless or even harmful. The rule fails to recognize that conservation needs - as well as definitions of scenic, aesthetic and cultural - change over time, and that the easement may eventually lose any ecological benefit or even become a detriment. Modern views in ecology hold that the environment is in a constant change rather than in search of a stable end-state," Gattuso reports.

Robert J. Smith, also a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and a foremost authority on property rights, shares Gattuso's concerns. "Short-term conservation easements were once considered a method to protect lands short of fee simple acquisition. But over time they have morphed into perpetual lock up of lands in a single use. This is not only disastrous from an environmental viewpoint, because nature is forever changing - but it is also the antithesis of a free market because they preclude all future choice," he says.

Additional problems with tragic consequences arise when there are different interpretations of what a conservation easement allows. There is no shortage of landowners who offer their own disastrous story of their involvement with conservation easements. As an example, the Property Rights Foundation of America cites the case of a farmer who bought a 42-acre property in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Wanting to build a farmhouse to house three generations of his family, he didn't expect to run into any problem with a conservation easement that had been placed on the land. The easement noted the land could be used only for farming or nature conservation, and for small buildings related to those uses. However, the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust sued to stop the construction, claiming the farmhouse did not fall within the parameters of what was allowed to be built on the land. A judge with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the farmer and noted the construction of the farmhouse "does not offend the easement definition of a 'small building' incidental to farming use." Construction on the farmhouse continued and so did the legal stranglehold the Trust held against the family. The Trust appealed the judge's decision all the way to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. Ultimately, the tragedy of how these conservation easements can be misunderstood is evidenced by the bulldozing of the family's farmhouse, which destroyed the dreams of three generations of family farmers and 15 years of savings.

The paper, "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," by Dana Joel Gattuso is available online at

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a free-market communications and research foundation established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.



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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Should Earmarks be Spent on Lobbying? Should Lobbyists Represent Congressmen?

Should earmarks paid for with public funds be spent promoting projects under consideration by Congress?

Is it OK for a lobbyist to represent a Congressman at a meeting about one of the Congressman's bills?

As far as I know, these things as legal, but are they proper?

Husband David has an op-ed on TownHall today that examines at a case in which both seem to have happened.

At issue is the creation of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, which will run from Gettysburg, PA to Charlottesville, VA, unless President Bush vetoes the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (S. 2739), which is now on the President's desk.

Heritage areas are National Park Service preservation zones in which environmentalists, federal officials and local activists influence local land-use decisions, frequently in ways that restrict the rights of private property owners and make property ownership more difficult for those of low or moderate income.

The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 is the same legislation that would allow taxpayer money to be spent studying places "that are significant to the life of Cesar E. Chavez." Chavez was, of course, the ultra-militant leader of the United Farm Workers and a man who, as Project 21's Joe Hicks has said in Congressional testimony, "did or said little to reign in the violence" against workers by union organizers. Members of Congress who find this form of domestic terrorism worthy of honor are trying to use tax funds in an effort to make Chavez seem like another Martin Luther King, Jr.

As Joe Hicks pointed out on May 5, "To say the jury is still out on the legacy of Cesar Chavez is an understatement. Unlike other individuals who have been honored in the manner suggested by this earmark, the politics behind and the consequences of Chavez's activism remain dubious."

Hicks, once a member of the Communist Party USA, trained UFW members in "revolutionary theory" and marched arm-in-arm with Jesse Jackson at Cesar Chavez's funeral in 1993.

If you have an opinion on using earmarks to promote legislative proposals, Congressmen being represented by lobbyists, national heritage areas or even the use of tax dollars to honor dubious labor union organizing techniques, drop by to learn more and leave your views.

Addendum, May 8: The White House has signaled its comfort with the above, signing the bill into law today. The full text of the White House statement:
On Thursday, May 8, 2008, the President signed into law:

S. 2457, which authorizes the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Tribe to lease certain land to entities for up to 75 years, rather than 25 years as under current law,

S. 2739, the "Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008," which designates the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington State; designates three new National Heritage Areas; expands several national parks; authorizes funding for specified water projects; modifies two existing energy programs; applies U.S. immigration law to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and grants the Commonwealth a non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
I can't say I'm surprised President Bush signed this, if only because he's signed a lot of bills that appear to be contrary to a limited government philosophy, and it is his Administration's National Park Service that worked in favor of the legislation and failed to fully comply with a Freedom of Information Act request regarding its activities (not that I am under any illusion that National Park Service officials thought they were doing the bidding of the man the voters elected when they did these things). When it comes to expanding government's size, "just say no" has not been the hallmark of this Administration or its agencies.

On a more positive note, however, it's almost a miracle the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area was not adopted two years ago. When proponents of legislative proposals get a million bucks worth of help in tax money from Congress before they are even incorporated, its a pretty clear sign they've got Congressional support and a leg-up over those of us who rely on voluntary donations to pay our bills. Before we started this fight to remind Congress that federalism and the Fifth Amendment right to private property are worth defending, national heritage areas tended to sail right through Congress. Even genuinely conservative Members hadn't stopped to think about the contradiction between their beliefs and what national heritage areas do and are. Now opposition to them is the new, though for all that, fairly strong conservative position on Capitol Hill. We may not have been able to stop the wasteful (and far worse) behavior surrounding the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, but we've most likely slowed the creation of more of these elitist boondoggles.

Those interested in more information about national heritage areas -- as this particular policy battle is far from over -- might find the following resources helpful:
"The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area: An Example of How Pork-Barrel Politics Can Threaten Local Rule and Property Rights," by Peyton Knight for the National Center for Public Policy Research, available here

"Another Federal Assault on Property Rights: The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act," by Ron Utt for the Heritage Foundation, available here (this is the paper in which Dr. Utt revealed that the private organizers of this heritage area have "acknowledged that they are contemplating additional wealth-enhancing opportunities through the creation of a privately owned, for-profit real estate investment trust (REIT) to acquire properties in the heritage area and presumably develop them for the benefit of the REIT's shareholders...")

To read a coalition letter signed by over 110 organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens about heritage areas sent to Congress in September 2007, go here (pdf)

For a short handout-style document on heritage areas, "What People Are Saying about National Heritage Areas," suitable for distribution at public meetings, go here (pdf)
Or, simply go to the National Center for Public Policy Research's search page and type in "national heritage areas" -- we've got 80 documents so far, and, no doubt, more to come.

Thanks to all who joined us in this effort. While supporters of limited government had a setback today, because of our work together on the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, our support for the next battle federalism and property rights battle is much deeper. I'm confident that victories lie ahead.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:41 PM

Friday, May 02, 2008

Project 21's Nedd Joins Other Religious Leaders at UN Public Health Conference

From David Almasi:
Project 21 member Council Nedd II, a bishop in the Episcopal Missionary Church, is returning from Geneva, Switzerland, where he helped lead a non-governmental organization (NGO) delegation to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property. Council was there to defend the intellectual property rights that currently protect patents on prescription medications.

Activists are seeking WHO approval to circumvent these patents, saying the needs of the poor and afflicted outweigh a drug company's intellectual property rights.

Council and three other members of the international clergy -- Bishop Emeritus Albilio Ribas of Sao Tome & Principe (Roman Catholic), The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh of Asaba, Nigeria (Anglican, like Nedd) and Pastor William Daldoum of the Nations Upon the Rock Church in Sudan (Pentacostal) -- have signed a statement of principles regarding faith, health care and the protection of individual property rights (the patent on medicines, in particular). They see patents and the protection of them as vital to ensuring new and better health care advancement in the future.

These men -- who have engaged in health care-related missionary work in African countries that include Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria -- decry the claim that "patents deny patients access to medication" and instead want to promote "the importance of intellectual property rights to advancements in developing world health care."

To follow is their statement:
Whereas it is being said in certain quarters that patents deny patients access to medication, we the clergy gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, based on our hands on experience in our public health missionary activities, particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sa Tome & Principe, Angola, Sudan and Nigeria hereby declare and affirm that:
The most important issue here is keeping people alive and healthy.

Drug counterfeiting which is prevalent in Africa and particularly in Uganda, Ghana, Sudan and Nigeria denies patients access to life saving medicines because of the abysmally poor and dangerous quality of the counterfeit drugs.

Scientific and technological research and development are very important in guaranteeing the development and production of new quality life saving medications and in effect opens the door for patients to access quality medication.

Counterfeit and inferior drugs worsen and complicate ailments and the condition of patients. In very many cases, counterfeit drugs destroy lives and deplete needed human capital. Patients should be protected from counterfeit drugs.

Patents are a driving force for incentives in drug research and development. If researchers insist on being rewarded through patent protection for their inventions and discoveries, so be it. The important thing is that lives are saved thereby and not destroyed. The laborer after all is deserving of his pay.

Considering that all human beings are individually gifted, and if it be necessary to preserve patents as an incentive, monetary or otherwise to encourage further scientific and technological discoveries in quality life saving drugs, then we should do it. More especially as we cannot at this point rule out the possibility of the emergence of new diseases that could threaten human existence in the future, we need to preserve incentives to encourage an individual to use his/her gifts for the benefit of others especially in matters of human health. After all our civilization does not encourage us to force a man to use his natural gifts for the benefit of his fellowman. Such an individual may refuse his gift, and if he does so, that is a matter between him and his maker.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Miracle Healer. He tells us in the book of John 14:12 that "The things I do ye also can do them." The effect of this is that it is in our power to be miracle healers through gifted scientists by preserving the instrument that encourages them to find solution to our health problems. Patent protection seems to effectively do that. The starting point is to discover the solution such as the drug and then ensure that the patient is able to access the solution. First the solution must be available, and then we ensure access.

In light of the above, patents actually do save lives. The issue is to ensure that people are kept alive and healthy.

Counterfeit and fake drugs do not save lives. They destroy lives. Existing medicines must be made available to those in need of them, wherever they may be. We must not allow bad politics to take precedence over the safety of human lives and good health today and tomorrow.
God Bless. Signed this 30th Day of April 2008,
The Most Rev. Albilio Ribas, Bishop Emeritus of Sao Tome & Principe

The Right Rev. Council Nedd II, Bishop of the Chesapeake, EMC

The Rev. Fr. Anthony Ojeh, Asaba, Nigeria

Pastor William Daldoum, Nations Upon the Rock Church
For more on this issue, I recommend a New Visions Commentary, "Underserved and Overlooked," by Council Nedd that Project 21 published in February.
To contact author David Almasi directly, write him at [email protected]. David is executive director of the National Center for Public Policy Research. He provides staffing support to Project 21.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:15 PM

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flaws in Clean Water Restoration Act Exposed in Congressional Hearings

From Mike Hardiman comes this roundup of information about recent Congressional hearings on the Clear Water Restoration Act:
Both the United States Senate and House of Representatives recently held hearings on the Oberstar/Feingold Clean Water Restoration Act. These hearings are a clear sign that the environmental community intends to push this controversial legislation to a vote in both houses of Congress sooner rather than later.

The Senate hearing was held on April 9 under the direction of bill co-sponsor Senator Barbara Boxer of California, and the House followed on April 16 with a hearing chaired by the legislation's House sponsor, Representative James Oberstar from Minnesota.

Contrary to the sponsors’ wishes, the two hearings exposed numerous flaws and very strong opposition to HR2421/S1870, the proposal to dramatically expand the federal government's role in land use regulation.

Senate Hearing

The Senate hearing, held by the Environment and Public Works Committee, unveiled several issues to which bill sponsors had difficulty responding.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma spoke at length regarding the bill's removal of the phrase "navigable" from the term "navigable waters." He claimed it would lead to a dramatic expansion of federal authority over wetlands from navigable waters to nearly anything that is wet.

Both witnesses and Senators supporting the bill denied that it would be an expansion of power, despite the removal of the key modifying word "navigable." Meanwhile, a witness opposing the bill, rancher Randall Smith, said of removing the word navigable, "it is a dream for litigators" and "it opens up a whole can of worms."

Supporters stated that the bill's purpose is only to clear up confusion generated by a recent Supreme Court decision, known as the Rapanos case, while opponents showed that it was actually a considerable expansion of authority.

Bill supporter Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general, lectured at length witness David Brand, a county engineer from Ohio opposed to the legislation. Whitehouse insisted repeatedly that "we are just picking up where we left off (before the Rapanos decision)."

Brand replied, "No, and repeating that doesn't make it true."

An exasperated Whitehouse responded, "Yes, it does make it true."

Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was opposed to the bill, and stated that he could not think of any kind of water that was not covered by the bill.

Attempting to contradict him, Clinton-era EPA Administrator Carol Browner said puddles were exempt. Vitter asked for a definition of a puddle, and Browner was unable to directly answer the question. Senator Whitehouse unconvincingly chipped in, insisting that "EPA has no interest in chasing puddles."

Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming asked witnesses how the proposed bill benefits ranchers and farmers. Bill supporters did not address the question, while opponents said it would be harmful.

House Hearing

Representative James Oberstar is both the bill sponsor and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which held its own hearing April 15. This marathon session featured twenty-three witnesses and forty-four congressmen questioning them, resulting in an eleven hour hearing that stretched into late evening.

Oberstar accused the Supreme Court of "legislating from the bench" and said his bill only sought to repeal two court rulings on wetlands from recent years which protected private property, the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions.

This was challenged by congressman John Mica of Florida, who said the Oberstar bill would "fundamentally alter the course of water regulation" and produced a display featuring several hundred organizations opposed to the legislation and a pile of petitions several feet high opposing the bill.

Oberstar said his bill would clear up ambiguity that had been created by the Supreme Court. Mica agreed that there would be no ambiguity under the bill, because there would be no restriction on federal control of all water, since any non-federal or private rights would be overridden.

Congressman John Boozman from Arkansas pointed out that the bill proposes to regulate all "activities" near waters, instead of current law, which says only "discharges" into waters are regulated.

Some members were undecided. Congressman Nick Rahall from West Virginia did not take a position for or against the bill, but said "whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting." After several witnesses complained about both current law and the proposed legislation, Congressman John Salazar from Colorado told them there must be more than complaints, and asked how to make the bill better.

Witness Virginia Albrecht pointed out another major change proposed in the bill, that federal agencies be given the power to regulate "to the limit of constitutional authority." Congresswoman Thelma Drake from Virginia agreed that these are "absolute words" which could fundamentally change federal-state relationships.

Attorney Robert Trout testified that "if this bill passes, it will put my kids through college" because of all the new litigation that will be generated.
Witness Linda Runbeck, a former Minnesota state legislator, said the bill negatively impacts private property rights and hurts families because most of their net worth is tied up in the land they own, which may be sharply devalued by the bill. She also brought up the poll commissioned by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which shows that when the bill is described to them, most Americans stating an opinion do not support it.

Overall, a very thorough airing of opinion was had in the two hearings, and the legislation's many weaknesses were displayed out in the open and for the record. However, the bill's supporters remain determined first to wipe out gains made by property owners in the Supreme Court, and, second, to expand federal authority beyond current law.
Comments to author Mike Hardiman can be sent to [email protected]. Mike Hardiman, a Capitol Hill veteran, recently completed a special educational project on the Clean Water Restoration Act for the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:55 AM

Monday, March 03, 2008

Peyton Knight on Eco-Terrorism – Listen LIVE

From David Almasi:
National Center for Public Policy Research Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Peyton Knight will be on KIRO in Seattle on Monday night at 3:00 pm PST (3 pm eastern) to talk about the eco-terror attack in the Seattle suburbs last night that destroyed several area homes under construction.

You can listen by clicking here and looking for the KIRO on the air tab in the middle of the page.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:45 PM

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some of Us Support Species, While Others Support the Endangered Species Act

In an article reviewing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's new book, "A Contract With the Earth," Salon refers to The National Center for Public Policy Research thusly:
Gingrich also inspired the wrath of some conservative think tanks for defending the Endangered Species Act.
The entire National Center document Salon linked to shows there was a lot more at stake than us supposedly attacking the Endangered Species Act, while Newt Gingrich "defended" it.

In fact, we were trying to reform a failed Act, and Gingrich was blocking reform.

Here's what Salon linked to, from 1996:
House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the single greatest threat to needed reform of environmental laws, announced the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research on June 24. The Speaker's efforts to stymie meaningful reform of the Endangered Species Act, his support for legislation that would threaten private property and subvert efforts to base legislation on sound science, and his efforts to give the environmental establishment veto power over all environmental legislation mean the Speaker should be the poster boy of the environmental movement -- not its villain -- says the group.

In recent months, environmental groups have been attempting to use the Speaker's waning popularity to sink regulatory relief efforts. But Newt Gingrich and the environmental movement are like two peas in a pod. In fact, says the group, Newt Gingrich has staked out environmental positions that are so radical that some of the staunchest environmentalists appear moderate by comparison. For example, Gingrich recently blocked changes to a dolphin protection measure that had been given the green light not only by environmental establishment Republicans like Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), but by environmental groups like Greenpeace. In May he also urged Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) to abandon eforts to pass property rights legislation -- a measure supported by over two-thirds of the electorate.

"Given the Speaker's apparent contempt for private property rights, his penchant for 'junk science' and his indifference to the plight of Americans suffering under unreasonable regulations, he ought to be the environmental movement's poster boy -- not its villain," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. Ironically, at the very time Speaker Gingrich has been villified by the environmental movement, he's been working to ensure that they have greater say in the nation's policies. Recently, Gingrich established a House Task Force on the Environment designed to give environmentalists veto power over all environmental legislation. Gingrich appointed Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) to co-chair the Task Force, one of the House of Representatives' most rabid environmentalists -- Democrat or Republican. Boehlert received a 92% score in the League of Conservation Voters' environmental scorecard -- higher than 53% of House Democrats.
Our complaints about then-Speaker Gingrich on environmental issues only began with the the Endangered Species Act. There was a lot more to it than that.

Yet the Endangered Species Act was, and remains, a failure. Nonetheless, as Speaker, Gingrich blocked reform intended to improve the Act.

Here's what The National Center recommended for Endangered Species Act reform when Gingrich was Speaker, taken from a 1995 press release of The National Center's Environmental Policy Task Force:
The Endangered Species Act has failed to protect endangered and threatened species while needlessly violating the constitutional rights of individual citizens and costing the nation billions of dollars, according to the Environmental Policy Task Force. The Task Force has just released guidelines for effective Endangered Species Act reform that can protect both species and the rights of the American people.

The guidelines, published in two just-released Talking Points on the Economy cards, "Checklist for Endangered Species Act Reform" and "A Species Protection Plan That Works for Both Wildlife and Humans," include four general recommendations for effective reform and six specific policy recommendations. Among the Environmental Policy Task Force's general recommendations is that Congress recognize that the current Endangered Species Act has failed before attempting to reform the law. Some 900 plants and animals are currently listed as either "endangered" or "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act with another 4,000 species either candidates for future listing or in the process of being listed. But in the 21 years the law has been on the books, only 27 species have managed to get off the "endangered" list. Seven of these delistings were due to extinction and the remaining were due to data error, court orders or species improvements completely unrelated to the Endangered Species Act. The Act has been an abysmal failure because it actually encourages the destruction of species habitat.

"The greatest fear of any landowner is that their property will be identified by federal bureaucrats as potential habitat for an endangered species. Federal restrictions on the use of the land that result can render a property worthless," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research and Director of Environmental Policy Task Force. "If landowners are destroying wildlife habitat today, it is only because the current Endangered Species Act has taught them that if they want to keep any of their investment they must extract whatever natural resources their land possesses quickly and make the land as inhospitable to wildlife as possible."

The fundamental flaws of the Endangered Species Act -- including its failure to protect endangered species -- means that the Endangered Species Act has outlived its usefulness and must go, according to Environmental Policy Task Force. In its place, the Task Force suggests that a voluntary, incentive-based species protection plan be adopted that includes such incentives as tax breaks and even cash payments to reward individuals for wildlife preservation. Rather than using the government's coercive powers to force individuals to shoulder the burden for species protection that the country as a whole desires, individuals would be rewarded for responsible stewardship by the public.

"The Endangered Species Act is out of control because the bureaucrats who enforce it don't have to pay for it. They transfer the cost of protecting endangered species habitat from the public at large to private individuals," said Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ), a member of both the House Resource Committee and the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's subcommittee on natural resources who will likely play a key role in Endangered Species Act reform. "Congress can restore rationality to the system by making the Fish and Wildlife Service pay for what it demands."

The Environmental Policy Task Force's reform guidelines recognize the underlying reasons for the Endangered Species Act's failure and thus represent a bold departure from past reform efforts. If there is to be meaningful Endangered Species Act reform, there can be no room for sentimental attachments and "good intentions" alone simply won't do.

"Now is not the time to be reaffirming the failed approach of the past," said John Shanahan, policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation who helped devise the Task Force's recommendations. "What is called for is a new vision which for the first time protects people and wildlife alike."

The Environmental Policy Task Force is a project of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation and resource center based in Washington, D.C. The Task Force was established to find and promote innovative, workable solutions to environmental problems -- solutions that minimize the suffering of working Americans while still protecting the environment.
Gingrich opposed what we suggested; supporting instead the status quo.

Did the Gingrich status quo protect species? It's years later now, so let's examine what happened:
ESA's 32 Years of Failure

In the 32 years the ESA has been on the books, just 34 of the nearly 1,300 U.S. species given special protection have made their way off the "endangered" or "threatened" lists. Of this number, nine species are now extinct, 14 appear to have been improperly listed in the first place, and just nine (.6% of all the species listed) have recovered sufficiently to be de-listed. Two species - a plant with white to pale-blue flowers called the Hoover's Woolly-Star and the yellow perennial, Eggert's Sunflower - appear to have made their way off the threatened list in part through "recovery" and in part because they were not as threatened as originally believed.

A less than 1% recovery rate isn't good. Some environmental groups, however, insist that this statistic proves the opposite - that the ESA has been very effective. These organizations note that, since 99% of all the species given special protection have either recovered or are still on the endangered and threatened lists, these species all "still exist" and, therefore, the ESA has worked. The "still exist" standard, however, tells us little about the true status of endangered and threatened species and certainly does not prove the efficacy of the ESA...

... Just 36% of the species on the endangered and threatened lists are currently believed to be stable or improving - meaning that 64% are declining...

-David Ridenour, 2005
So what Gingrich was "defending" was a status quo that leaves 64% of species in decline.

I guess some of us support species, while others support the Endangered Species Act.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:20 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research