From: alra@governance.net
Subject: A Personal Message From Chuck Cushman, ALRA Executive Director

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 
E-mail: alra@landrights.org or alra@governance.net 
Web Address: http://www.landrights.org 
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003

A Personal Message From Chuck Cushman, ALRA Executive Director

House Resources Committee ESA Vote Likely In September

You Need To Let Your Congressman Know How You Feel – NOW!

Dear Friend and Ally:

The Resources Committee and possibly even the House of Representatives are likely to vote on the Pombo Endangered Species Act updates in middle to late September.

This is a remarkable time in history.  It is your chance to actually try to improve the Endangered Species Act.  No act has cost so much to communities,  landowners, farmers, ranchers and multiple-use advocates and yet done so little to achieve its original objectives.  In 31 years, only 10 species have been recovered out of nearly 1,300 listed Threatened and Endangered Species.
Below is an unformatted Testimony Questionnaire that you can send by e-mail.

To get a fully formatted copy, got to www.landrights.org, it will be right there on the home page.

*****Please Mail Your Testimony Questionnaire by Friday, September 12th.

A new ESA Reform bill will be released around the middle of September.  It should be improved over previous drafts.  There will likely be a mark-up session in the House Resources Committee shortly thereafter.  There’s a good chance there’ll be a vote on the floor toward the end of September.

Now is your last chance to tell Congress how you feel so your issues can be addressed in the new bill.  As you may know, an old first draft has been floating around on the Internet for weeks.  From our information, it bears little resemblance to new draft bill.  The new bill should be quite improved.

It’s very important that you review the enclosed Testimony Questionnaire carefully.  This is a new and different questionnaire than we have sent before.  Fill it out with your positions and mail it back to ALRA as fast as you can.  

It will be delivered to the Resources Committee staff and to your Congressman.  Please do not fail to get your Testimony to Congress.  No matter how you feel about certain issues, we view our role as making sure you get your position heard and paid attention to.

Let’s have a frank discussion about what is happening on the ESA in Washington DC.  The way we look at things, here are some essential questions you need to consider and let us know your opinion. 

From what you know about potential Presidential candidates for 2008, are any of them more likely to sign a bill to fix the Endangered Species Act than George Bush?  Our guess is that the answer is no.

From your perspective watching news reports, reading newsletters and papers, do you think Congress, after the election next year, is likely to get better for landowners, stay the same or get worse?   Most experts think the Republicans  position will suffer some losses.  We hope they are wrong. Will they gain seats give control back to the Democrats?  Who knows?  But from the standpoint of fixing the Endangered Species Act, it does not look like things will get better in Congress after the 2006 election.

So if we’re going to fix the Endangered Species Act, now appears to be the best time.  It may be the best time for a very long time.  But we have big problems.  

The Democrats are likely to line up in lockstep opposing any attempt to fix the ESA.  There may be some more thoughtful Democrats who are concerned about the damage the ESA has done to communities.  They’ll try to buck the House Leadership.

The big green groups will be pushing them not to allow one word in the ESA to be changed.  The greens know the ESA is the most powerful land use law in the country.  They don’t appear to care about recovering species.  Instead they want to tie up your property with red tape, regulations and takings of your land.

And there is another problem.    Some of our allies want to fix everything that is wrong with ESA in one bill.  They want it all now.  Frankly, so do we.  But that is generally not how Congress works.  And we believe it has no chance to happen now.

The greens and others who have been successful getting their agenda through Congress have come to learn that it is the incremental approach that works.  Going for everything usually gets you nothing.

Our work is protecting landowners and others.   We really do that.  We don’t just talk about it.  We don’t just hold conferences about it.  We don’t just write fancy papers about it.  We really save landowners, families and communities from Federal agencies.  We have a successful track record going back 33 years that is unmatched in this country.

We’d rather solve all the problems with the ESA and fix everything that is wrong with the lack of property rights protection right now.  Do it all now.  But frankly, that’s tilting at windmills.

It makes some people feel better and probably helps their funding to look like they are going to the wall for you to get everything we all want.  Then they tell their members and friends that they fought the good fight and lost everything.  But they feel true to their beliefs.  

It seems they would rather lose everything than win something.  In reality, they are supporting the status quo. Staying where we are.  That is the same position supported by the greens.  That is not a good choice.  The ESA must be fixed, even if it is several steps in the right direction.

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Resources Committee Chairman, wants to fix the ESA. He’s trying to put together a bill that will actually include property rights and save landowners.  But he’s got a problem.  The Republicans have a small majority in Congress.   And not all Republicans feel strongly about fixing the ESA.   In Congress there is always give and take.

It’s likely that no bill sponsor ever got everything he wanted passed through Congress.  There’s an old saying that there are two things you should never watch happening up close.  One is making sausage.   The other is writing and passing legislation.  It is a painful time consuming process.  

The result is that the people who win are those who are willing to take part of something rather than insisting on all or nothing.  All or nothing usually gets nothing.  No landowners would be saved. No property rights would be protected.

When the Endangered Species Act draft is released, there will be a lot to like.  There will be some private property protection.  Will it be enough?  No.  Are you going to fight the bill because it doesn’t go far enough?  Or are you going to say, “lets get what we can today and come back for more later.”

ALRA works to save landowners and others.  The Pombo bill will move in that direction.  It will help a lot of landowners.  It won’t save all of them.  It won’t make all the changes that should be made.  There is “0” chance that a bill that fixes everything wrong with the ESA will pass Congress. 

So what do you want to do?  We’d like to hear back.  Do you want to insist on everything?  Even if that kills any chance you have to passing a bill that will fix some things?  Please use your Testimony Questionnaire to give ALRA and your Congressman a piece of your mind.  Do you want to support getting part of something . . . . . or all or nothing?  The choice is yours.

     Whatever you decide, be sure to tell your Congressman by sending back your Testimony Questionnaire.  Call him or her at (202) 225-3121.  Any Member of Congress can be reached there.   When you call, ask for your Representative’s fax number and e-mail address.

*****Action Items:
-----1  Please return your Testimony Questionnaire today.   The deadline is Friday, September 12th but your concerns are more likely to make a difference by getting it in early    It’s critical that you get on the record with Congress.  Earlier is better.

-----2.  Print out a formatted version of the Testimony Questionnaire by going to www.landrights.org.    It will be right on the home page.

-----3.  Please e-mail or fax your Testimony Questionnaire back to American Land Rights.  We really want to know how you feel about the questions we’ve asked above, even if you do not agree with us.  That is ok.  Fax to (360) 687-2973.  E-mail to ccushman@landrights.org

-----4.  Ask three of your friends to fill out and send in the Testimony Questionnaire. 

      The Endangered Species Act has done little to recover species.  It has created a monster land use control device that strangles landowners in red tape and regulations.  There is no chance in Congress to repeal the ESA.  Instead it must be made to work and respect the needs of landowners.

Here is your Testimony Questionnaire:

*****Fax, E-mail and Mail Deadline Friday, Sept. 12th

*****Congressional Testimony Questionnaire

*****Endangered Species Act (ESA)

Honorable _______________________   (Write your Congressman’s name here)

US House of Representatives

Below are my concerns and testimony regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Please take note of my responses to the statements and include them in the record for any hearings scheduled before the House Resources Committee and votes taken regarding the ESA.  Please consider a photocopy of this document as valid as the original.  I have signed my name below.


Dear Landowner, Businessman, Farmer or Multiple-Use Advocate:

The House Resources Committee will be considering new legislation in September of 2005.  Congress could vote on the ESA shortly thereafter.  This may be your final chance to get your opinion into the Committee before it makes important decisions about the Endangered Species Act.   You can get your concerns in the hands of key Congressman by filling out this Testimony Questionnaire and writing your Representative’s name in the place above.  Be sure to sign the document at the bottom.   Please return it in the enclosed envelope.  It will be delivered to your Representative and to the Resources Committee.  It’s important that you mail this document by Friday, September 12th.  

Please fill out the enclosed Testimony Questionnaire and mail it back quickly.   The Endangered Species Act has not been successful at recovering species at risk over the past 31 years.  Only 10 out of 1300 species have been recovered.  With a success rate of less than one percent, the ESA is not effective at saving threatened and endangered species.  At the same time, the corresponding rules and regulations have, in many cases, strangled local economies, hurt businesses, farmers, landowners and Federal land users causing severe repercussions that impact everything from school funding to jobs to economic development — even hampering important environmental protections. 

Please note that many multiple-use and private property advocates AGREE with all the statements below but you don’t have to.  You may also edit the following statements.  These are supposed to be your comments.  

Please circle your answer – You may write additional comments by each question or in the comment section on the back.  Your personal comments make this document more valuable.


-----1.  Landowners and ranchers who lose property rights under the Endangered Species Act should be properly compensated.


-----2.  The updated act should reaffirm the "takings clause" of the Constitution that ensures citizens just compensation for the taking of private property.


-----3.  We need to update the ESA to use the best available science in decision-making, offer incentives to landowners to join in recovery efforts and involve local, state and tribal governments in the process.


-----4.  Voluntary incentives should be available to landowners to encourage and compensate them for maintaining habitat for endangered or threatened species.  


-----5.  I support an effort in Congress that will fix the ESA.  I understand it may take incrementally several bills over a year or two to reach this objective.  It makes sense that all the necessary changes are not likely to all pass in one piece of legislation.


-----6.  I don't want to lose all property rights improvements in the ESA by insisting on fixing everything in one bill.


-----7.  I want to support property rights advocates in Congress to get the best deal we can get for landowners, ranchers and farmers.   I do not support an all or nothing approach that could save no landowners.


-----8.  The Act must require a plan to recover species before the species is listed.  The ESA doesn’t require such a plan.  Listing species just hurts landowners unless there is plan in place to actually recover species and protect landowners.


-----9.  Landowners should be encouraged to participate in species recovery and should be compensated for their efforts. 


------10.  Species should be managed using "best available scientific information", habitat should be designated after a recovery plan is in place and there should be extensive coordination with local and state governments before listing a species.


------11.  Economic impacts and benefits should be considered before the designation of critical habitat so we do a better job of recovering species without endangering the livelihoods of American families.


-----12.  An updated bill should stress cooperation with state, local and tribal governments and allow states to manage some at-risk species before they become endangered or threatened.


-----13.  An updated bill should create incentives for individuals and local and state governments to help recover species. 


-----14.  The future of conservation lies in establishing an entirely new foundation for the conservation of endangered species - one based on the truism that if you want more of something you reward people for it, not punish them.  Incentives work better than penalties.  


-----15.  Protecting habitat should require an economic impact statement that accounts for the impact on landowners and communities.


(Your written comments in this space will make this document more valuable)


(If needed, use additional sheets or attach a personal letter)

To validate your comments please fill in completely (PRINT or TYPE) and be sure to sign.


E-Mail__________________________________ Fax ___________________ Phone __________________

Address________________________ Town______________________ State_______________ Zip______

Please do not fail to send this testimony questionnaire even if you receive it late.

Fax, E-mail and Mail Deadline Friday, Sept. 12th. 

Please forward this message to as many people as possible.  Thank you for your help in this critical effort.

Chuck Cushman
American Land Rights Association

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