By Mike Hardiman
Author's note: The region described below is one of the original Target Areas of the Wildlands Project - the locals have risen up, exposed and almost defeated the land grabbers - with your help, they will finish the job and win! SEE ACTION ITEMS at end of article.
The Lynn Scarlett National Park
Farmers, ranchers, and other property owners in usually laid back Santa Barbara County, California are having the fight of their life over a proposal that would allow the federal government to condemn their land and turn it into a national park.
Local opposition to the proposal is intense and growing. Three city councils, two county supervisors, three chambers of commerce, two school districts, four agricultural organizations, numerous property owner and taxpayer citizen groups, and several thousand individuals who wrote letters and signed petitions have risen up in opposition to the park proposal. When one supervisor refused to fight the park, constituents garnered 14,000 names on recall petitions, nearly twice the number necessary to force a recall election.
Looks like another one of Bill Clinton's midnight land grabs, right?
Wrong. Look again. Blame this one on George Bush, not Bill Clinton. A top-level Bush Administration appointee, Interior Department Budget Director Lynn Scarlett, has joined forces with the Wildlands Project and a left-wing extreme enviro, Santa Barbara's Congressional Representative Lois Capps.
Together they are attempting to jam a 215,000-acre national park down the throats of unwilling residents, all in the name of currying favor with the politically powerful environmentalist lobby. Scarlett, like Capps, is a longtime resident of Santa Barbara.
At the behest of the Wildlands Project, Sierra Club and other land grabbers, Capps got the ball rolling on the national park proposal in November of 1999. She gained congressional approval for a "study" of a huge swath of Santa Barbara County.
The enviros' goal of this "study" is to establish a new unit of the national park system, which will permit federal agents to exercise eminent domain power, condemn private lands and eradicate the homes, ranches and farms dotting the area.
Capps' legislation had no cosponsors, no hearings, no amendments, no recorded vote, and consisted of thirteen lines inserted into a massive bill of more than one thousand pages, approved as Congress was walking out the door just before Thanksgiving recess.
Scarlett Caves In To the Greenies
Incredibly, joining Capps is Lynn Scarlett, who serves as Budget Director of the Department of the Interior (DOI). DOI is the federal government's primary public lands management agency. It oversees the National Park Service (NPS), which is pushing hard for this latest addition to its multi-million acre empire. DOI Budget Director Scarlett was appointed by, and is a close personal confidant to, Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
Scarlett watched the drubbing that her friend and boss Gale Norton took from the liberal media during Norton's confirmation hearings in early 2001. As a result, Scarlett is afraid of getting on the bad side of the liberal media establishment or the left-wing environmentalist movement. So when the Santa Barbara national park "study" started running into serious trouble, Scarlett saw it as an opportunity to burnish her green credentials, and jumped into the fray - against local land owners!
It's Just A Study
At issue is whether or not to establish an NPS unit in central and northern Santa Barbara County. From its coastline to the mountain ranges and the unusual ocean currents that create a nearly perfect year 'round climate, this region is certainly one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. So of course, in order to "save it" there needs to be a "study" done by Big Brother.
How could anyone be against that? After all, it's just a study. Well, here is the rest of the story: The completion of a "study" with a recommendation for any kind of federal role or action makes the area in question eligible for a national park designation - permanently. These "studies" have no expiration date, and so the threat of federal takeover and condemnation proceedings against residents never goes away.
Understandably, this devalues all private property in and around the area. Who would purchase a home that may be seized by the government five or ten years down the road? It also makes it nearly impossible to conduct the long-term plans necessary to run an agricultural operation, such as equipment purchases and planting crops like avocado trees, which take seven years to begin producing fruit.
The National Park Service has been working toward this goal in secret collusion with environmental activists for many years, and has excluded the public from much of its deliberations.
For example, here is a February 2000 email exchange between the NPS regional director conducting the study, Mr. Ray Murray, and a local enviro. Enviro: "We can shield sensitive info in several ways from Freedom of Information requests and subpoenas." Murray's response: "We may have to execute some kind of confidentiality agreement so that the draft does not become a public document."
It's Already Protected!
Santa Barbara County already has some of the most severe state and local zoning and land use controls in the entire United States, and these codes have gradually tightened over the years, due to residents' desires to maintain the quality of their lifestyle. Lack of water, difficult topography, and unstable soil conditions place additional natural prohibitions on development.
The entire 215,000-acre area proposed for the park will never see more than about 150 additional homes built. In nearly all of the proposed park area, the minimum zoning is 320 acres per house - which means two houses per square mile!
An NPS takeover and seizure of private property will ruin the livelihoods of thousands of families, and for no good reason. It will certainly not help the environment. The NPS has a multibillion-dollar backlog of maintenance projects; its properties are rife with overflowing trash bins, broken sewer pipes, and poorly maintained restrooms. Forest fires burn out of control, threatening and killing people and destroying private property.
Scarlett and her boss, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, are just plain afraid to stand up to the Sierra Club, which has led the way in making this land grab into a "national priority." They even brushed off requests from former Reagan Administration Interior, Secretary Judge William Clark, a resident of Paso Robles, which is a few miles from the proposed park; and former area Congressman Robert Lagomarsino. Scarlett rejected Clark's request for an injunction to stop the study, and Norton pushed aside Lagomarsino's property rights concerns.
The Current Situation
The deadline for comments sent to the NPS on the "Gaviota National Park" proposal is September 1.
Support for local control and opposition to a federal takeover builds each month. Nearby Congressman Elton Gallegly and the candidate challenging Capps in the election, sod farmer Beth Rogers, have added their opposition to an NPS takeover. They have joined more than twenty local entities including city councils, chambers of commerce, boards of education and agriculture, landowner and taxpayer groups against the Great Gaviota Land Grab.
Meanwhile, the politically paralyzed Interior Department is pandering to its enemies and is incredibly out of step with the people who voted for President Bush. Many people have derisively nicknamed the proposal the Lynn Scarlett National Park.
WHAT YOU CAN DO - See Addresses Below:
SUPPORT ALTERNATIVE ONE of the Gaviota national park study. This means "Current Programs," and no federal involvement - this is the only choice that will protect property rights and win the battle. PLEASE include the term "Alternative One" in whatever you send.
WHAT TO SAY To Support Alternative One:
Creativity is encouraged. You get the idea. Get in their faces!
WHERE TO SEND COMMENTS:
Email: email@example.com (Note: There is an underscore between pgso and gaviota.)
Gaviota Coast Study
CHECK OUT the local property rights group leading the fight, the Coastal Stewardship Council: http://www.coastalstewardshipcouncil.com/
THANK YOU! If we can beat the land grabbers here, it will continue the precedent being set across the country of fighting off the feds when they come calling!
Bills we are watching
*** SEE UPDATES to HR 1811, HR 2114, and HR 4840.
HR 601 (Simpson - R - ID) To reopen most of Craters of the Moon monument in Idaho to hunting. This would partially override one of the infamous Clinton national monument land grabs.
HR 937 (Pombo - R - CA) To prohibit the use of Federal funds for any program that restricts the use of any privately owned water source.
HR 1156 (Simpson - R - ID) To preserve the authority of the States over waters within their boundaries, to delegate the authority of the Congress to the States to regulate water.
HR 1174 (Duncan - R - TN) Requires the Bureau of Land Management to dispose of public lands that have been identified for disposal under the Federal land use planning process.
HR 1363 (Otter - R - ID) Ensures general aviation aircraft access to Federal lands.
HR 1592 (Thornberry - R - TX) To amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to provide greater protection of private property rights.
HR 1811 (McInnis - R - CO) Will fund Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) at its full level of approximately $300 million. Current PILT reimbursement to counties is less than $200 million. PILT compensates counties for local tax revenue lost due to federal land purchases. Property taxes are no longer paid when private property is converted over to government ownership. INCREDIBLY, the Interior Department has testified against this bill.
This is because Interior Department Budget Director Lynn Scarlett refuses to admit responsibility for her department's role in damaging the economies of rural communities, and wants to avoid compensating them! Scarlett tried to cut PILT this year, but has been rejected by Congress.
HR 2114 (Simpson - R - ID) Requires congressional approval of any national monument designation of over 50,000 acres. APPROVED by the House Resources Committee, awaits action by the full House of Representatives.
HR 2719 (J. Davis - R - VA) Restricts federal condemnation power when mitigating wetlands activities.
H R 2795 (Nethercutt - R - WA) Agroterrorism Prevention Act. Will protect public safety by establishing penalties for certain destructive conduct that is intended to injure, intimidate, or interfere with plant or animal enterprises.
H R 3705 (Pombo - R - CA) Amends the Endangered Species Act to require that a full range of scientific data be submitted along with any petition to list a species as endangered. It also requires a public process to include other competing data. Incredibly, the current ESA requires no data to be submitted with a petition, which allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maximum latitude to perform mischief in choosing which data it wants to accept - or creating phony data.
H R 3706 (Pombo - R - CA) Amends the Endangered Species Act to include a right to know for landowners who may be impacted by endangered species listings.
HR 3962 (Peterson - R - PA) Limits the authority of the Federal Government to acquire land for certain Federal agencies in counties in which 50 percent or more of total acreage is owned by the Federal Government.
HR 4840 (Pombo - R - CA, Walden - R - OR, Hansen - R - UT) Amends the Endangered Species Act to require data on allegedly endangered species to be scientifically sound, including a preference for field testing, requiring peer review of studies, an independent scientific review board, and public access to the listing process. APPROVED by the House Resources Committee.
S 322 (Thomas - R - WY) Establishes that there will be "no net gain" of public land in states where over 25% of the land is in government hands.
S 347 (Thomas - R - WY) Requires proposed Endangered Species Act listings to show scientific evidence of need for the listing.
S 365 (Thomas - R - WY) Allow snowmobile use to continue in national parks until noise standards are set.
*** SEE UPADATE TO S. 990, Federal Zoning
HR 36 (Bereuter - R - NE) American Discovery Trails. Establishes yet another excuse for federal agents to restrict use of private land, by naming trails.
HR 488 (Shays - R - CT) Northern Rocky Mountain Wilderness Act. Creates 18 million acres of wilderness in five western states - but not one acre of wilderness in his home state of Connecticut.
HR 701 (Young - R - AK) 'CARA' $45 billion land acquisition trust fund, nicknamed the Condemnation and Relocation Act.
HR 1465 (Holt - D - NJ) Eliminate snowmobile use in National Parks.
HR 1613 (Hinchey - D - NY), and Senate companion bill S 786 (Durbin - D - IL)- Proposes over a million new acres of Utah wilderness. Hinchey voted against creation of a wilderness in his own New York congressional district in 1997, citing economic hardships.
HR 2356 (Shays, R-CT and Meehan, D-MA) So-called "Campaign Finance Reform," actually it is Political Campaign Free Speech Restrictions. This bill and S 27 both place new reporting requirements and restrictions on grassroots organizations, but no limits on wealthy individuals like Hollywood movie stars. So who represents you, the grassroots or Barbara Streisand?
HR 2388 (Hefley - R - CO) Establishes the criteria and mechanism for the designation of national heritage areas. Creates yet another excuse for the National Park Service to gain control over private property.
HR 2438 (Boehlert - R - NY) elevates Environmental Protection Agency to cabinet level status. The EPA has been a disaster in so many ways, and this bill proposes to reward bad behavior.
HR 2656 (DeGette - D - CO) Adds 1.3 million acres of wilderness in Colorado, which would cut off even more access for family recreation.
HR 3558 (Rahall - D - WV) Proposes to eradicate non-native species from federal lands, and hands out $93 million per year in grant money to government agencies to keep human beings off of their own federal lands. Here is another eastern legislator who wants to score points with the Enviros by following the New Paganism - worship animals, hate people on federal lands.
HR 4865 (Inslee D-WA and Boehlert R-NY). Codifies - makes into law - the massive Clinton Roadless Land Lockup. Another Sixty million acres with NO ACCESS if these two get their way!
S 27 (McCain, R-AZ and Feingold, D-WI) Political Campaign Free Speech Restrictions. The Senate version of HR 2356, the campaign finance political speech restrictions.
S 498 (Murkowski - R - AK) Companion bill to HR 36 American Discovery Trails.
S 689 (Schumer - D - NY) Governors Island land transfer. Senator Schumer is adamantly opposed to "giving away land" out west, but seeks a free handout for New York State.
S. 975 (Chafee - R - RI, Reid - D - NV) and HR 1433 (Blumenauer - D - OR) the "Community Character Act." This would provide $125 million per year in bribe money for localities to adopt a "Legislative Guidebook" produced by the American Planning Association, which are the top promoters of the Smart Growth anti-rural agenda. APPROVED by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee - Chaffee and Reid are pushing very hard to have it brought to the Senate floor in September!
S 990 - the 'Son of CARA' the American Wildlife Enhancement Act. Sponsors - Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH). Authorizes Congress to spend up to $600 million per year on land acquisition and handing out grant money to leftwing environmental and animal rights groups. Also exempts state and federal agents from the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), despite scandals with existing disbursement of existing funds. Finally, it includes a $9 million payoff to the Trust for Public Land, for the feds to purchase land that TPL only paid $7 million for!
S 990 is now in the House under that same bill number - keep checking for updates - the land grabbers are really pushing for S 990, the "Son of CARA!"
S 1318 (Murkowski - R - AK) and S 1328 (Landrieu - D - LA). The Senate companion bills for the HR 701 'CARA' Land Grab.
Editor's note: Mike Hardiman is one of the most knowledgable and effective lobbyists in Washington, on property rights and resource use issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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