When Alaska voters first sent Republican Don Young to Congress in 1973 as the sole
representative for their state, his unswerving position on property rights
quickly earned him their respect, and it wasn’t long before he was a hero to
tens of thousands of small property owners across the country embroiled in
battles with powerful federal agencies, such as the National Parks and the
Forest Service, that were seizing private lands to increase the size of the
“Whose land are we stealing today,” Young would ask sarcastically at the
beginning of committee meetings. His constituents cheered and returned him
to Congress year after year figuring they could count on him to be a
forceful advocate of their property rights.
For a quarter of a century Rep. Young championed the rights of
“inholders” — the people who own land within federal areas. He fought those
within and outside the government who wanted to ban logging, hunting,
ranching, mining, and residency on federally controlled lands. And he
vigorously opposed the federal government’s expansionist policies of land
That was then; this is now.
Today, Don Young — who became chairman of the House Resources Committee in
1995 when Republicans took control of Congress — has joined Sens. Frank
Murkowski, R-Ala., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., in pushing legislation that
would make of millions of dollars a year available for land acquisition by
state and local governments and create a dedicated, off-budget,
multi-million dollar trust fund for acquisition of private land by the “Big
Four” federal management agencies — the National Park Service, Forest
Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The
purpose? To increase the size of their holdings and sweep inholders off
their properties and out of federal areas.
HR 701, The Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999,
— called CARA — which Young introduced in February with Reps. John
Dingell, D-Mich., and Billy Tauzin, R-La., is intended as a way for coastal
states to get a share of the $4 billion to $5 billion oil and gas revenues
generated every year from drilling on the outer continental shelf. At
present these go into the nation’s general fund. Under CARA, a part of the
revenues would be distributed to state and local governments throughout the
United States and territories for buying private land, developing
conservation programs, and funding construction of recreational facilities
like tennis courts and Little League fields — with a special allocation of
$378 million a year earmarked for land acquisition within federal areas.
On the Senate side, Sen. Frank Murkowski — also a heretofore property rights
advocate — and Landrieu introduced S 25, which has the same
title and is similar but not identical to HR 701. Under S 25, the federal
agencies would be allocated $330 million to buy land.
To make HR 701 and S 25 palatable to voters, they’re being marketed as land
conservation, rather than land acquisition bills.
The environmental lobby is thrilled.
“This could be the most comprehensive piece of conservation legislation in
our lifetime,” remarked David Waller, vice president of the International
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, at a hearing in March.
But the bills have drawn considerable opposition, and many of Young’s and
Murkowski’s constituents and former supporters are confused by their about
“I have not found anyone who understands why Rep. Young and Sen. Murkowski
have introduced or are pushing this legislation,” says Tom Fink, a former
two-term mayor of Anchorage and former speaker of the Alaska House of
Representatives. “In the past, they generally have been in support of the
devolution of power to state and local governments and opposed centralizing
more authority in the federal government. The two of them generally have
been very supportive of the private property concept and opposed to the
Property rights advocates are outraged.
“This legislation is as threatening to private property and to the country
as a whole as the Endangered Species Act,” says Chuck Cushman, executive
director of the American Land Rights Association, formerly the American Inholders Association,
headquartered in Battle Ground, Wash. The reference was to the 1973
legislation which extended federal protection to over a thousand species —
such as the notorious kangaroo rat — closing farms, stopping construction,
and wiping out industries in the process.
Cushman is spearheading a major grass-roots campaign against HR 701, S 25
and related legislation. Contacted by telephone, he shared his concerns
about the bills with WorldNetDaily.
Cushman said he fears that S 25 and HR 701, by including a section targeting
inholdings for acquisition, will accelerate a process begun decades ago.
Since 1966 over 115,000 people have lost their land to the Park Service
alone, and uncounted numbers to other federal agencies. Cushman estimates
there are about 1.2 million inholders nationwide, but notes this figure
would not include entire communities that lie surrounded by federal land.
“HR 701 will make tens of thousands of landowners within national forests
new targets of land acquisition and they don’t even know it,” he said. “The
Forest Service has never focused on land acquisition because there hasn’t
been the money. Now there will be a massive effort to consolidate all the
checker-boarded private lands and inholdings in the national forests.
Hundreds of small, unincorporated communities will find that, if HR 701
passes, life in the national forests will turn ugly.
“If these bills go through it will mean the end of rural America,” he
warned. “And not only rural America — these bills spell the end of the
“In urban areas a Republican is lucky to break even. Sometimes he does, but
generally not — but Republicans get very large majorities in the rural
areas; that’s how they carry a district. If you clean out the rural areas by
forcing people off the land and into the urban areas, you’ve ultimately
killed the district for Republicans.
“So if some version of these bills pass and governments — federal, state,
local — start buying up land, there will be fewer and fewer people in rural
areas, which means that in 10 to 15 years we will have a permanent
Democratic Congress. This means Republicans have actually authored a bill
which sows the seeds for the ultimate demise of the Republican Congress. If
the districts their constituencies come from are bought out and people move
to the cities, there’s no chance they’ll hold it over an extended period of
Young, Murkowski and their committee staffs vehemently deny HR 701 and S 25
are land acquisition bills.
“Only 20 percent of HR 701 deals with federal land acquisition,” said Greg
Thom, media contact for Young’s office. “That’s really just a sliver of the
bill. I know that there are a lot of people saying it’s a land acquisition
bill, but that’s pretty far from the truth.”
(The 20 percent figure is arrived at by taking 50 percent of $4 billion, a
rough figure for outer continental shelf oil drilling revenues.
Twenty-percent of $2 billion is $400 million — slightly more than $378
million, the amount earmarked for the federal agencies’ land purchases.)
Ostensibly, the bills’ overriding purpose is to provide a way for states to
get part of the $4 billion to $5 billion in oil and gas royalties generated
every year from drilling on the outer continental shelf. The problem from
Young’s, Murkowski’s and Landrieu’s perspective is that all the revenue from
leases and royalties generated by offshore production goes to the federal
government and into the general fund where it’s been used to pay down the
States with onshore oil and gas production on their federal lands are more
fortunate. Revenues generated by onshore production are split 50-50 with the
“The anomaly is that states with offshore oil get nothing and should get 50
percent — that’s the driving force that motivates the Alaska and Louisiana
delegations,” explained Myron Ebell of the
Institute, a Washington-based public policy group, in
a telephone interview with WorldNetDaily.
“If that money were from onshore federal leases — like it is for some of
the Western states — the royalty from the oil produced would be split with
the state,” said Ebell. “If Louisiana had onshore federal leases that
produced, say, $4 billion in royalties, Louisiana would get $2 billion. But
because it’s offshore, Louisiana gets zero.
“This has been a subject of great bitterness for a long time,” he said.
Only six states — Louisiana and Alaska are two of them — allow mineral
development on the outer continental shelf, an area under federal domain.
How can these states get their hands on a piece of the oil royalties pie?
How can their congressional delegations get a bill passed that would divert
part of the revenues from oil and gas production into state treasuries that
currently goes into the nation’s general fund?
The answer: craft a something-for-everyone pork-barrel bill that cuts all
the states in on the deal and provides constituents back home — such as
city councils and state fish and game departments — with new revenue
sources (even if its only a few million dollars) to buy land for parks and
pay for construction of recreation facilities. And don’t forget the four
federal agencies that own most of the public lands — they want a piece of
the action, too.
HR 701 and S 25 are basically pork barrel bills, with complex formulae for
dividing the money. As with onshore royalties, the money (say $4 billion a
year) would be cut into two portions: With S 25, it’s a straight 50-50
split. That is, 50 percent would go to the federal government for deposit
into the general fund, the other 50 percent would be divided among the
states — with a sizable cut to the federal government for land purchases.
HR 701 gives only 40 percent to the federal government, with 60 percent for
the second portion, which includes a similar provision for federal land
Few would begrudge states and local communities a share of OCS revenues. But
within that second portion the provision for funneling millions of dollars
to the Big Four federal land management agencies (BLM, NPS, USFS and F&W) to
expand their gargantuan holdings has drawn fire from critics.
Under CARA the agencies would be allocated $330 million (S 25) or $378
million (S 701) a year from a dedicated fund not subject to congressional
oversight or the appropriations process. In addition, the bill does not
prohibit state and local governments from using their money for land
acquisition. Cushman predicts that the $330 million or $378 million cap will
not remain in place for long and will be “inevitably” increased — in
increments of $100 million dollars every two years until it stands at $900
million or more.
“What you have to worry about is this off-budget trust fund,” he said. “If
they don’t have to run it through the congressional appropriations process
any more, that means the agencies will have an automatic amount of money no
matter what happens. Rain or shine they’ll get the money to buy land.”
Some critics question the wisdom of adding any additional land to the
According to R. J. Smith, senior environmental scholar at the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, the federal government already owns roughly 676
million acres — over 30 percent of the United States, while state
governments own about 10 percent. “That means that about 42 percent of the
country is owned by government, he said, “And that doesn’t include holdings
at the county and city level.”
Tina Kreisher, of the Senate Energy and Resources Committee, which Sen.
Murkowski chairs, said fears about land acquisition are exaggerated and that
“important safeguards” were included to protect property owners, and she
reiterated the position of the staff in Young’s office that S 25 and HR 701
are not land acquisition bills. Although CARA does not prohibit land
purchasing nor the use of condemnation (eminent domain), Kreisher thinks it
“unlikely” that the states or local governments would embark on their own
“We’ve found in the hearings we’ve held that the states aren’t looking to
acquire land,” she said. “The states have massive infrastructure problems.
In very few cases do they have the ability to take care of what they have.
Imagine a small community that has a park in the center. That community
doesn’t want to expand the park, it wants to fix what it has so it’s usable
by the community.”
But critics point out that when funding is available there is ample evidence
to indicate that it will be used for land acquisition — and an example can
be found in Sen. Murkowski’s bailiwick.
Ray Kreig — chairman of the Kantishna Inholders Association — who owns
property in four federal areas (three in Alaska and one in Arkansas), cited
the scandal that erupted surfaced two years ago that the money paid by Exxon
Corp. into the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust was used by the trustees to
cheat Native Americans out of nearly a million acres of their land.
“Exxon had to pay $900 million as a punishment for the oil spill, and the
money was put into a trust,” Kreig explained. “The money was to go to
research into improving fisheries technology and conservation of the spill
area. Instead, the trustees spent about 40 percent of the total fund to buy
land — about 700,000 acres.”
The Anchorage Times of October 29, 1997,
described the “shameful blight on Prince William Sound — the massive
transfer of land ownership that occurred when agents of government used oil
company settlement money to purchase vast tracts of Native-owned real
estate.” The Times likened the transaction to the deal cut by those early
English settlers who bought Manhattan Island from the Indians for $24 worth
of beads and blankets.
“Sen. Murkowski is calling for an audit because he objected to spending the
money on land, but his bill, S 25, encourages the very same thing. He is
speaking out of both sides of his mouth,” said Kreig.
What about the “safeguards” in the bills to protect property owners?
“Any federal land purchase is restricted to those areas authorized by an act
of Congress. It has to be within existing Forest Service, National Park or
BLM land,” said Kreisher. “It must be an inholding within an already defined
federal area. Second, the federal agencies can’t use condemnation. The
seller has to be a willing seller.”
Opponents of the bill feel the protections are insufficient, since Congress
can simply redraw boundary lines to bring properties into federal
jurisdiction that were not before. A park can be created, a buffer zone
added later — each revision resulting in the creation of new groups of
“If the Congress approves a change in a park boundary and expands it, yes,
that land could become subject to acquisition,” said Mike Henry, of the
House Resources Committee.
As for willing sellers, “The bottom line is you’re a willing seller unless
you sue the government,” said David Howard, co-editor of
News. “That’s how they define the term
among themselves, but not in public. They’ll regulate you out of existence.
Or they’ll close off the roads and you can’t get to your place. Here in the
Adirondacks (where Howard lives) a plan has surfaced to outlaw all septic
systems except very elaborate ones which cost $15,000 or more. If that goes
through — a whole class of ‘willing sellers’ will be created though nobody
wants to leave.”
WorldNetDaily tried to obtain figures on how much land is likely to be
purchased. What are the acquisition goals of the four major federal land
agencies — National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest
Service, and Fish and Wildlife, which between them control over 660 million
acres? The bills give no indication.
“No one has asked that question,” said Tina Kreisher. “It would depend on
what the appropriations would buy and who is doing the targeting; the states
get so much, the feds get so much — you have to look at what revenue stream
you’re talking about and what they’re allowed to purchase with the funds. So
your question is simply too broad to fit into our categories.”
“There aren’t any goals,” said James Streeter, policy director at the
National Wilderness Institute, a public policy
group in Washington. “The agencies are working with the environmental
interests — and they want it all. In fact if you look at things like the
Wildlands Project, you can see that their appetite is unlimited. Buffalo
Commons, wildlife corridors — those are ideas that are out there. So if you
want an idea of goals, for the biggest goal I say look at the Wildlands
Project. The people who put that together — they’re
talking about massive relocations of people, the concentration of people
into the suburbs and removing humans from the rest of the continent. That’s
R. J. Smith of CEI said he raised the issue of government land holding at a
committee hearing for S 25 and was “astounded” that no one realized that at
least 42 percent of the land of the United States is owned by government,
state and federal.
“Sen. Landrieu was thrown by this,” Smith recalled. “She asked everyone else
on the panel if they thought 42 percent was too much. The big star on the
panel I was on was Theodore Roosevelt IV. He said, ‘No, no. There’s no
figure that’s too much. We have to protect whatever is necessary to protect.
Smith, who attended several hearings on the bills, was also surprised at the
ad-hoc alliance between Republicans and Democrats.
“One thing that was interesting is that these were all Republican-run
hearings, yet they were like the most radical Democratic hearings because
there were practically no conservatives or people from the property rights
groups or think tanks in the audience. They had been filled with the staff
from The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, the Conservation
Fund — the whole crowd of radical greens who want total land use control
and total control of all private land.
“Don Young’s staff and Murkowski’s staff — they were walking in the
audience, talking to these leftists like they were best buddies. It was like
one of those science fiction movies where you go out on a space ship and
come back and find out that while you’re been gone the whole world has
reversed – Republicans had turned into Democrats.”
However, not all Republicans have run over to the Democratic camp, and Young
‘s HR 701 is stalled in the House Resources Committee, which he chairs,
because so far he doesn’t have the votes to get it out and moved to the
floor of the house.
Idaho Republican Helen Chenoweth — who heads the Subcommittee on
Forests and Forests Health — is one of the opponents on the committee and
has been “leading the fight” against HR 701 in the House, according to Keith
Rupp, Chenoweth’s chief of staff.
“The congresswoman has strong concerns in general with the concept of the
federal government and governments at all levels taking land out of private
hands and putting it under government control,” said Rupp. “In some states
that’s not a big deal, but in many of the western states over half the state
is owned by the federal government — in Idaho for instance, it’s 63
Rupp said Chenoweth has particular concerns about the federal government’s
land owning agencies expanding efforts to deny the public access to public
lands. The U.S. Forest Service, for example, has undertaken an extensive
plan to “deconstruct” roads. If HR 701 were enacted — that much more land
would be placed off-limits to the public.
“The roads are used not only by loggers but by hikers, hunters, campers;
snowmobilers use them in the winter,” said Rupp — pointing to what the
Forest Service had done in Idaho’s Targhee National Forest, where the
service had unilaterally decided to close 400 miles of roads.
“To stop people from using the roads they’ve dug things called ‘tank traps,’
essentially very steep pits, 12 feet to 15 feet deep, with the dirt piled on
the far side of the pit,” said Rupp. “It’s not just one or two — there was
one quarter mile stretch where they put in 12 of these things.”
Although S 25 and HR 701 are stalled, Democrats in Congress have a few bills
of their own that would free up the oil and gas royalties money for land
acquisition and similar projects.
George Miller, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the Resources Committee,
and California Sen. Barbara Boxer have co-authored the Resources 2000 Act —
which they describe as “the most sweeping commitment to the protection of
America’s public land, marine and wildlife resources in over a decade.”
Miller’s HR 798 and Boxer’s S
446 would split the
entire off-budget yearly allocation of $900 million to the LWCF on a 50-50
basis between the federal government and the states, with the states’ half
of the money on a matching grant basis. The remaining (estimated) $1.4
billion a year from the stateside share of the offshore oil revenues would
be streamed into several funds for conservation related projects.
With HR 701 on hold, Young’s staff is busy working out a compromise with
Miller so a bill can be moved out of committee with or without Republican
Said Greg Thom with Young’s office, “Right now the chairman (of the
House Resources Committee) and Mr. Miller are the members that are
interested in the Conservation and Reinvestment Act and Mr. Miller’s Resources 2000. About six are sitting down to work out a compromise deal. We’ve put
it aside until after the break, but in the meantime, while they’re gone, we’
re trying to work out differences and hammer out a deal.”
Thom said Young’s staff was “trying to keep the willing seller language to
make sure land is not taken from people against their will.”
But David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public
Policy Research in Washington, D.C., said he
regards the negotiations as “a bad move” because Republicans “are not
skilled at the game.”
“Republicans tend to be out-negotiated,” he said. “What I suspect will
happen with all this land acquisition included in HR 701, at the end of the
process the land acquisition program will still be in there, and
condemnation (of property) will be allowed, but what Don Young wants (i.e.,
recreation facilities for cities and states, multiple-use of the federal
areas) won’t be there. He’ll be outmaneuvered.”
For more information: Click here for information
CARA and what S 25 and HR 701 would do.
The American Land Rights Association has a section of their website devoted to interviews,
articles and testimony and news about HR 701, S 25 and related bills.