DRMT Hatches Scheme for Dungeness River Property

by Steve Marble

Sequim, WA - 4/24/03 - A Dungeness River Management Team (DRMT) work group has drafted a plan that would take land contiguous to the Dungeness River out of private control. Alas, regulation is not enough! Each individual parcel on the lower 10.3 miles of river is identified and slated either for acquisition, conservation easement, or stewardship.

Acquisition, of course, is somebody’s pipe dream until a source of funding arrives. Remember, though, that the US Senate failed to pass CARA, the Conservation and Restoration Act, by just a few votes last summer. This bill would have diverted billions of dollars from oil lease revenue for conversion of private land to public property. Furthermore, a version of the Arctic oil drilling bill (ANWAR), was narrowly defeated in the Senate because a rider was attached giving billions to the same cause. The Faith Based Initiative, currently debated in Congress, has a provision to provide funding for The Nature Conservancy to buy conservation easements. At the rate these bills are introduced, money could appear in the Dungeness Valley for this project.

Conservation easements are eroding that bastion of the American tradition of freedom, private property ownership. What are conservation easements? Under these transactions, the State or a land trust acquires a (usually perpetual) deeded conservation easement which prohibits all but strictly limited uses of the property by the owner and gives the grantee, and sometimes citizen activists, certain powers to enforce the easement and manage the land. The "owner" actually becomes a residual owner under the terms of the easement, with his rights to use the land subsidiary to the rights conveyed, which can be very broad.

Another meager vestige of ownership, stewardship, allows the property owner to be party to developing the management plan for how he uses his property. This management plan is then monitored, including periodic inspections by an environmental group or a government agency. The American dream of property ownership finds new meaning.

This plan for the Dungeness River is based on the socialistic assumption that government manages land better than free individuals. No money is budgeted for maintenance of these acquisitions. No provision is made for loss of tax revenue to the county.

Indeed, current natural resources management embraces the philosophy that no management is good management. Anything not involving man is natural and good; most human activities on the land, on the other hand, are bad. Look at the results of the policies culminating in the forest fires raging throughout the West these past few summers.

The DRMT is a consensus committee comprised mostly of government agency representatives. The group began with individuals selected through a non-public process who then developed rules including ability of the ‘team’ to veto any potential new members, much like a fraternity or sorority. Although, the DRMT is advisory only, recommending their plans to elected officials, the state and federal agencies that funnel grant money into the county look for this committee’s endorsement before committing any funds.

Currently, County Commissioner, Steve Tharinger (D), is the chairman guiding this group, highlighting just one more reason why Republicans need to work hard to change commissioners in District 1 next November.


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