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Congressional Testimonies & Background material (updated 4/28/99)

House Resources Chairman Don Young (R-AK) introduced a bill before Congress adjourned that would make the present Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) into a $1.5 billion land acquisition trust fund restarting the massive private land acquisition offensive that occurred in the 70’s and 80’s. A major target of the existing Clinton/Gore managed LWCF is removing ranchers and other owners of private land in rural areas. The Young bill is a huge threat to private property ownership.

The Young Land Acquisition bill was introduced as a trial balloon at the end of the 105th Congress. It would create an off-budget, unappropriated land acquisition trust fund that would guarantee Federal agencies the money to attack landowners year after year. You will never be free of harassment by Federal land agents. The new trust fund would support huge land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy. These land trusts often operate in secret to buy private land with Federal tax dollars.

Because it would be off budget, the new land acquisition trust fund would not have to go through the normal appropriations process. Land acquisition funding would not have to compete with other priorities for Federal dollars. It would become a new entitlement for the Nature Conservancy and other green groups. You would lose the opportunity you now have to head off land acquisition by testifying before the appropriations committees of Congress.

The Young Trust Fund bill has 20 co-sponsors. Among them are Representatives Baker (R-LA), Tauzin (R-LA), Schaffer (R-CO), and Radanovich (R-CA). These are all generally friendly to private property owners. The rest of the co-sponsors do not support property rights.

Why are our supposed friends introducing such a dangerous bill? To please what we call the "hook and bullet" crowd, the fishermen and hunters. They want to buy more land for more wildlife refuges. American Land Rights has always supported the fishermen and hunters. But this huge trust fund is your enemy.

A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and supported by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK). The Murkowski-Landrieu bill was co-sponsored by Senators Cochran (D-MS), Sessions (R-AL), and Lott (R-MS). Again, because of space we only listed those who are usually friendly to private property owners.

The hunters and fishermen carry a lot of weight in Congress. The sponsors generally represent states on the ocean and are affected by offshore oil and gas development that supplies most of the money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). These bills are designed to give a lot of money to key coastal states like Mississippi, Louisiana and Alaska to compensate them for the impacts of oil drilling and encourage their support. But landowners (you) will be the ultimate victims.

A third bill may be the most dangerous. It is the Gephardt Land Acquisition Trust, another LWCF trust fund bill just introduced by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO). It guarantees nearly all the money to the LWCF with none for hunters and fishermen.

The Gephardt Land Acquisition Trust (our name for it) is likely to be pushed by the environmental groups, plus Vice-President Gore and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt are supportive. It would supply $900 million per year in guaranteed funds. $900 million equals the largest land acquisition year that ever occurred – 1979. That was the year landowners faced the worst attack of all. If it passes, the Gephardt Trust Fund will make every year as dangerous as 1979 for landowners.

red flag.gif (1659 bytes) President Clinton and VP Gore announced January 12th a $1 billion per year program for land acquisition. It is called the "Lands Legacy Initiative" and will ultimately help convert the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) into an unappropriated trust fund.

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In addition Gore just announced a massive $10 billion "Better America Bonds" program that would could force Congress to pay bond costs for additional billions over a 15 year period for land acquisition, local parks, rapid transit and other goals. This supports Gore’s "Partnership for America’s Resources" (PAR). It will likely use the LWCF as the funding vehicle. Gore is pandering to urban dwellers promising to improve their quality of life.


Bottom line - don’t let the snake out of the box. Call and write both your Senators and your Congressman today urging them to oppose these bills when they are reintroduced. Ask our friends in Congress to fight these new bills immediately to keep them from gaining support. Some of our friends have clearly not read the bills very carefully. Perhaps that is because the bills were introduced in the last few days of the last Congress. It is hard to imagine any other reason they could be co-sponsors.

You’re being tested. Certain Congressmen and Senators and their staff are betting that you have gone to sleep and they can sneak these bills past you without a fight. You must let them know quickly that they are wrong. All three bills are dangerous. Focus on making sure that any land acquisition money must go through the appropriations process each year. It is not right to set up a special off-budget trust fund to buy land at the expense of other important priorities.

Here is what you need to do to stop the Billion Dollar Trust Fund:

  1. Call your Senators to oppose the Billion Dollar Trust Fund at (202) 224-3121. If you call quickly you may be able to keep your Senator from co-sponsoring the new bill.
  2. Call your Representative to oppose the new bills at (202) 225-3121. Again, the more controversy you make quickly, the better chance your Representative will not sign on.
  3. Write your Congressman and Senators opposing the trust fund.
    Write: Honorable ___________ , US Senate, Washington DC 20510                 OR
  4. Honorable ___________, House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515.
    Ask them to write you explaining why they are supporting a new unappropriated trust fund. Ask for an explanation why they think the Nature Conservancy and other giant land trusts need a new entitlement when they receive hundreds of millions of dollars already.

  5. Join the "Keep Private Lands In Private Hands Coalition." Fax a note back or even just a copy of one page of this fax with your name, phone and fax on it saying, "sign me (us) up."
  6. Send a copy of this to at least five other people, your whole list if possible.
  7. Make photocopies of this alert and pass them out or mail them to your friends.



Congressional Testimonies & Background material (updated 4/28/99)

For More Information Contact:

American Land Rights Association
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