A California congressman well-known for his strong advocacy of property rights and access to federal lands has been named to the top post of a major committee that handles legislation dealing with environmental and land use-related matters.

The Republican leadership yesterday appointed Rep. Richard Pombo, 42, as chairman of the House Committee on Resources, taking over the post from Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who retired at the end of the last session.

Rep. Richard Pombo

The Resources Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues vitally important to private property rights and use of federal lands, including Interior Department agencies like the National Parks Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and legislation involving the Endangered Species Act, water, timber, mining and fisheries management.

In his discussions with the House Republican Steering Committee, which selected him for the post, Pombo stressed his expertise on resource issues, willingness to reach across party lines to find common-sense solutions and an unparalleled record of visiting congressional districts throughout the country to learn more about local resource issues.

“As the incoming chairman, I will work with all of my colleagues on the Resources Committee to enact legislation of which we can all be proud,” said Pombo in a news release. “There are too many areas of agreement for us to get bogged down in partisan battles.”

Joseph Farah, editor of WorldNetDaily, hailed the news of Pombo’s appointment. He and the congressman co-authored “This Land is Our Land,” a 1996 book explaining “How to End the War on Private Property.”

“Usually I have nothing but bad news to report out of Washington,” said Farah. “But the news that Richard Pombo has been named chairman of the House Resources Committee is great news for those of us who still understand how foundational property rights are to every other freedom we enjoy in America. This is why Pombo, a rancher, went to Washington in the first place, and he has been working to protect the property rights of all Americans ever since.”

“It’s an incredible honor,” said Mike Hardiman, lobbyist on Capitol Hill for the American Land Rights Association, a grass-roots group based in Battle Ground, Wash.

Hardiman told WorldNetDaily, “It’s almost unheard of for a congressman so young to be appointed to a chairmanship like this, especially when you consider he hasn’t been in Congress all that long. Members wait decades for an appointment like this, but he’s really earned it.”

Pombo was first elected in 1992 to represent the people of California’s rural San Joaquin Valley in Congress. His voting record shows that he has indeed been working to protect property rights.

100 percent for property rights

Each year since 1997, the American Land Rights Association’s League of Private Property Voters has posted its Congressional Vote Index, a scorecard showing how every senator and representative voted on from eight to 12 key bills involving property rights, land use and environmental matters. Of the seven contenders for Hansen’s post, Pombo is the only one to score a perfect 100 percent: Year after year, session after session, Pombo voted for property rights every time and never missed a roll call.

Joel Hefley of Colorado, a second contender for the job of committee chair, scored 100 percent in 1997 and ’98, but in 2000 he slipped to 80 percent, then to 70 percent in 2001, and this year scored 67 percent.

The same with a third serious contentender, John Duncan, a Tennessee congressman who had been encouraged to seek the post by outgoing chairman Hansen. Because so much federal land is in the Western states, the Resources Committee chairmanship has traditionally gone to someone from west of the Mississippi. But Hansen reportedly thought having a southerner for the job might be a good idea.

“Jim Hansen has told me several times he thinks it would be a real plus if someone from the East who supported Western issues would chair the committee,” Duncan told the Denver Post. “He thinks it would impress people that someone from the Eastern United States agrees with the people in the West.”

Like Hefley, Duncan scored 100 percent in 1997 and ’98. Then he slipped to 91 percent, 93 percent, 70 percent, and this year 75 percent.

Hardiman in a news release described the reaction among the property rights movement as “jubilant,” and with a few phone calls put together a collection of remarks from some of its leaders and activists across the country.

“Richard Pombo is straight from the grass roots,” said Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association. “He has been there for us time and time again in Congress, from adding common sense to the Endangered Species Act to stopping attempted land grab legislation to promoting multiple use of federal lands. With Richard Pombo as chairman, everyone will be heard from and the grass roots will have a seat at the table.”

G.B. Oliver, president of the Paragon Foundation in Alamogordo, N.M., in effect seconded Farah’s and Cushman’s remarks.

“This is the most exciting news that private land owners and resource producers have had in 10 years,” he said. “We know first-hand from experiences that range from Klamath Falls, Ore., to Dade County, Fla., that Mr. Pombo stands for the rights of small-property owners.”

The Paragon Foundation was a sponsor of last summer’s “Sawgrass Rebellion,” which featured multi-state convoys rolling across America to Collier and Dade counties in southern Florida, focusing on property rights. WorldNetDaily columnist Henry Lamb, executive vice president of Eco-Logic Foundation in Tennessee, also had high praise for the rancher-turned-congressman.

“Richard Pombo understands how far the federal government has over-reached into the lives of the average American, with no benefit for people or the environment, just the bureaucracy. I believe he will work toward restoring a balance. He has earned the chairmanship and deserves the opportunity,” Lamb said.

“We have a long history of working with Richard Pombo, and are delighted that he is chairman,” said Clark Collins, of the Blue Ribbon Coalition headquartered in Pocatello, Idaho. “This is great news for advocates of recreational access to our nation’s public lands.”

Long-time property-rights activist Carol LaGrasse, president of Property Rights Foundation of America, in Stony Creek, N.Y., commented, “Rep. Pombo has proven his awareness of issues that property owners face across the country, East and West. He has stood up for farmers in the Midwest, forest owners in the Northeast and ranchers in the far West.”

As part of his congressional responsibilities Pombo chairs the Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture and is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He also heads the Western Caucus, a group of 55 members of Congress who work to create a unified voice on such issues as Endangered Species Act reform, water rights, private property rights and other issues affecting congressional districts in the West. He has been rewarded by several organizations for his activism in reducing government regulations, taxation and spending, including the United States Business and Industrial Council, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Chamber of Commerce.

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