The United States Senate has not addressed the single biggest threat faced by the military. I am referring to green extremists who, over time, have persuaded past administrations and members of the United States Congress to allow them to tie up millions of acres of land on our military bases – to the point where our armed services are hamstrung, woefully under trained and unprepared to meet an enemy.

As for coordinated live-fire training where sailors, Marines and aviators practice critical skills that could keep them alive in the midst of a battle when bombs are falling and troops are landing, forget it! For all practical purposes, it doesn’t exist.

It wasn’t as if Congress actively passed laws that put our military under the control of the green extremists, it was more a case of benign neglect. Over the years, radical environmental groups have used friendly judges who have ruled that the military training areas are now subject to the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Resources and Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and on and on.

Most congressmen and senators had no idea that a day would come when such legislation would be used to hog-tie our military, but that day is here! The important thing to remember is this: Congress made those laws and Congress can re-write them to specifically exempt our military bases. However, this requires positive action. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4546) that contained two provisions that would roll back some of this nonsense.

The first was an amendment to the Endangered Species Act. It would prohibit designation of what is referred to as “critical habitat” for threatened and endangered species on military installations if – and this is a big if – the military already has a species management plan in place with federal and state authorities.

The second provision grants authority to the secretary of Interior to issue permits to the military, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, for the “accidental removal of migratory birds during military readiness activities.”

These two measures were anemic, to say the least, and didn’t deal with all the other laws that systematically have been used by the green extremists to keep the military from training, but, nonetheless, it was an important first step.

Unfortunately, the Senate Armed Services Committee marked up its own version of the Defense Authorization Act (S. 2514) without these provisions. On May 2, Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., wrote a letter to Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and asked him not to free our military bases from these environmental restrictions – asserting that the matter should be left to his Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., who sits on the Armed Services Committee and is the ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, then managed to extract a public promise from Chairman Jeffords to quickly hold a fair and impartial hearing before the Defense Authorization Bill comes up on the Senate floor.

It now appears that Chairman Jeffords may have been disingenuous when he made that promise. The Defense Authorization Act should come up before the June 28 recess and Jeffords has not set a date for the hearing. Is Jeffords simply a lapdog for the radical environmental movement, bought and paid for by the green extremists? Without that hearing, senators, who are serious about protecting the lives of our sons and daughters in uniform, will be at a disadvantage when it comes time to offer amendments on the floor.

Furthermore, there is a real danger that other green extremist lackeys in the Upper Chamber will try to pass a motion to instruct members, who eventually conference with the House on the bill, not to accept the House rollbacks because the Senate has not properly studied the matter. Have Jeffords and Levin conspired to create this Catch-22?

Sen. Jeffords needs to be reminded that he publicly promised to quickly hold a hearing on this life-and-death issue before the full Senate considers the Defense Authorization Bill. The Committee phone number is (202) 224-8832. In addition, call Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and demand that this hearing be held before consideration of the Defense Authorization bill. Urge your two senators to refuse a vote on the bill until this happens.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines need your support.

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