If there is any backbone at all in Congress, there should be a rush to
repeal the Antiquities Act. President Clinton continues to use it to thumb
his nose at Congress, and ignore the Constitution. Our founders had a reason
for specifying that Congress — not the president — manage federal lands.
That reason is to ensure that the consent of the governed empower land
The consent of the governed is of little concern to the president, and of
even less concern to Bruce Babbitt, secretary of the Department of Interior.
Clinton is concerned about his “legacy,” and about appeasing the enviros who
are deserting the Gore candidacy. Babbitt is concerned about making all the
enviro-hay he can while the he still holds the power of his office.
Two questions arise that must be addressed: Should the land identified
in the president’s new “monument” designations be set aside as wilderness?
If so, should the set-aside be accomplished by presidential decree?
Setting land aside as “federal” land, goes to the very heart of what
America is all about. Are we a land of the free, or are we a land where
people must get permission from their government to tread on the land? Until
1964, the federal government was content to designate National Parks as
places where citizens could go enjoy the great outdoors. The Wilderness
Society, after a 30-year campaign to nationalize all forests, finally
succeeded in getting Congress to pass The Wilderness Act of 1964, which set
aside 9 million acres as wilderness.
At the time, Hubert Humphrey said that the designation was to show
posterity what their forefathers had to conquer to create the nation.
Since 1964, more than 100-million acres have been designated as wilderness.
Clinton’s “Land Legacy” initiative proposes to set aside at least 40 million
more acres as wilderness by closing existing roads on federal lands. With
the stroke of a pen, he set aside 1.8 million acres in Utah and is now
setting aside more than a million acres in Arizona and California.
Don’t be fooled by the goody-two-shoes claim that he is “protecting” the
land for future generations. He is locking up the land to ensure that
future generations can have no benefit from it. Wilderness designation not
only prevents logging and mining; it prevents family outings, hunting, and
even walking freely through the so-called “public” land.
To even look at the “public” land, people (the owners) must first get
permission from the government. If permission is granted, the procedure for
looking at the land is stipulated by the government, and enforced by
gun-toting Babbitt-operatives. To see the Grand Canyon, the owners will have
to see it the way Bruce and Bill think you ought to see it: park miles away
and ride their enviro-friendly rail car on a guided tour. Woe be unto an
owner who accidentally drops a chewing-gum wrapper. Most of the locked-up
land will simply no longer be available to the owners.
Land, and the resources it contains, is the prosperity future generations
will require. Land lock-ups deny future generations their birthright, and
force all of us into further submission to the will of self-appointed
protectors of the planet.
If land is to be taken out of productive use, it should be for good
reason, agreed to by the elected representatives of the people. Both the
practice and the procedure of this administration is an abomination to
freedom-loving Americans. Land, and its resources, are the property of
individual citizens, and should not be taken by the government by decree.
The land owned by government is owned for the benefit of all the people, not
just for the benefit of owls, bears, and wolves. Neither Bruce nor Bill have
the right to deny us, or future generations, the benefit of our land. They
have the power, however.
Congress needs to remove that power. Clinton ordered the Department of
Agriculture to promulgate rules for closing forest roads in order to
effectively deny the owners access to their property. Congress must not
allow appointed bureaucrats, even at the direction of the president, to
usurp their Constitutional responsibility to manage federal lands.
Congress needs to repeal the Antiquities Act, which is Clinton’s favorite
target for presidential abuse. Babbitt has admitted that the lands targeted
for the Arizona and California lock-up are not threatened, but he has
recommended them for lock-up anyway, to ensure that they will not be
threatened in the future. With such a criteria, is any land in America safe
from the greedy clutches of this radically green bunch of bureaucrats?
This last year of Clinton’s reign will see more sweeping exercise of
dictatorial power, especially as Gore’s poll-numbers continue to falter.
Unless Congress exercises its power to stop the Clinton-Babbitt land grab,
we’ll see this scenario repeated time and time again.
Our land does not need to be protected from the people, its rightful
owners; it needs to be protected from the government.
Congress, where is your backbone?