HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HR 701 -- Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999
HR 798 -- Permanent Protection For America's Resources 2000 Act.
March 31, 1999
by Ray Kreig
201 Barrow Street #1
Anchorage Alaska 99501-2429
(907) 276-2025; fax 258-9614 email@example.com
Thank you Mr. Chairman, for ensuring that testimony from Alaskans is heard by the Committee on these two pieces of legislation, either of which, if enacted in their present form, will ultimately have profound and far reaching effects on people living and doing business in rural America and especially here in Alaska.
I am Ray Kreig. I came to Alaska in 1970 and I'm an inholder in four places: Kantishna in Denali National Park; Millers Camp in Yukon Charley National Preserve; Three Saints Bay in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge; and Treat on the Big Piney Creek National Scenic River in the Ozark National Forest, Arkansas. I am Chairman of the Kantishna Inholders Association and Chairman of the Arkansas Scenic Rivers Landowner Association. Today I am here testifying in an individual capacity.
Before proceeding Mr. Chairman, even though my time is limited and there are many important things which must be said within the five minutes allotted to witnesses, I want to recognize your three decade long career in service to the people of Alaska. You and your family's roots go deep in our state. You've served as a boat captain on the mighty rivers of our interior. You know the land. And you have used that knowledge to defend the lands, mining claims, businesses, and rights of rural Alaskans that have continued under siege since the D-2 struggles of the 1970's. I thank you.
ANILCA IMPLEMENTATION IS PROLOGUE TO LANDOWNERS FUTURE UNDER A LAND TRUST
President Carter declared national monuments across Alaska in 1979 and the conflict raged between those who wanted to lock up as much of the state as possible and those who had a more balanced perspective that included human habitation and economic activity as part of the landscape.
The Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act was a grand compromise. No party received everything that it wanted, but the deal crafted by Congress incorporated guarantees of access, and valid existing rights for communities, land owners and residents who were enveloped in the new conservation system units. The presence of these guarantees in ANILCA substantially calmed the passions and fears of those affected by the monument declarations.
But, Mr. Chairman, as you well know, the intent of Congress as codified in ANILCA was not followed. Since then you have seen how promises made to inholders of the conservation system units to preserve our existing rights of access and economic activity have been abridged, undermined, and disregarded by the federal government.
You have been a champion for Alaska's rural residents, and I think you know very well from this experience the difficulties of designing protections in legislation that will self execute properly, without unintended consequences, in the face of a well financed and determined bureaucracy working with special interest groups that do not agree with objectives embodied in an original legislative compromise.
Where I am going with this is that the private property protections in HR 701 are weak and will be ineffective in protecting land owners from these same special interests and agencies who really want Congress to give them the unchecked condemnation powers under HR 798. As long as you supply the trust fund money, the ultimate result will be the same as under HR 798.
The protection of valid existing rights in ANILCA was undermined -- in many cases by the very agencies charged with implementing the will of Congress. Let me mention just one example of many: Mining.
The right to produce one's claim was a valid existing right that Congress intended to continue in the new conservation system units. Within only seven years of passage of ANILCA, the National Park Service acquiesced to a friendly lawsuit filed by environmental organizations and mining in all of Alaska's national parks was shut down by injunction. The miners then suffered years of flagrant abuse as they were dragged through insincere and biased mining claim validity determinations and burdensome attempts to comply with ever increasing Park Service demands for more and more detailed mining plans of operations, all designed to exhaust the resources of claim holders and increase their risk and expense, ultimately driving many of them into bankruptcy (see Senator Murkowski's November 6, 1993 hearings, Mining Activities in Units of the National Park Service in Alaska).
Mr. Chairman, mining is just one example. There are many others: denial of access, the current controversy over snow machine access regulations, fishing in Glacier Bay, etc.
Mr. Chairman, in 1981 rural residents and users of the lands trusted in the fair administration and execution of the compromise crafted by Congress. Had they been able to look even the short time of ten years ahead at the unfairness and bias of implementation, things might not have quieted down at all!
It is this recent history of the disregard of the intent of Congress as expressed in a nationally agreed upon compromise that makes me fear and forecast that the weak land owner protections in HR 701 will easily be undermined and circumvented, and in the end will be ineffective. How the agencies will get around the prohibition on condemnation is well described, Mr. Chairman, in the letter sent to you on 2/8/99 by Frontiers of Freedom Policy Director Myron Ebell (attached).
If I were to react based solely on my own self interest, maybe I should support these bills, HR 701 and HR 798. As a property owner in four places presumably targeted by these two bills there would be a lot of money available. However, taking a longer view, I know that society will be far better off if less land is transferred from private to government ownership. I, like most inholders, want and plan to use or enjoy my property, not sell it to the government.
I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to government purchase of private lands when there is an adequately reasoned public purpose. However, a dedicated off-budget trust fund is created by both of these bills and that feature places private land acquisition by government at an unreasonably high level of national priority. I have reviewed the 1,600 pages of hearings held from 1988 to 1990 on the American Heritage Trust Act, which also proposed a dedicated off-budget trust fund for land acquisition. I am surprised that nowhere was there reference to a cost-benefit study that would help the American people to decide whether the expense, social costs, and dislocations to rural America are justified.
Government land acquisition in the political climate of the last 30 years is a one way street. Acquisition mistakes made are virtually impossible to repair. The cumulative effect of government land purchases, even when only truly willing sellers are involved, eventually will strangle and kill a community and local culture. When North Cascades National Park was created in 1968, the National Park Service and the environmental community wanted the Lake Chelan community of Stehekin inside the park. Congress said no and specifically directed that it was to be excluded and placed in a less restrictive national recreation area. To protect the community, lands were not to be acquired. In direct contravention of Congressional intent, only 13 years later, the National Park Service had acquired most of the real estate in Stehekin, and the town died.
The General Accounting Office audit ordered by Congress revealed that the National Park Service disagreed with the intent of Congress and the NPS went ahead and destroyed the community anyway. The GAO audit recommended that the Park Service be forced to divest the lands back to private owners, but this was not carried out. Today, Stehekin largely remains in government ownership.
Several basic questions become apparent after consideration of the debate over these bills:
1) What reason is there for net transfer of even one more acre of private land in Alaska to the federal government? In Alaska it should not even be a goal to have "No Net Loss of Private Land". Exclusive of native corporations, there is only one third of one percent of our state in private land as it is! We should be going in the other direction, conveying more federal land to private ownership.
2) A wise steward takes care of and protects what he has before buying even more land. Everyone agrees there is an unmet multi billion dollar maintenance backlog on government property and facilities already. Why can't LWCF funds be freed up to address this backlog? Why restrict use of the federal LWCF funds to land purchases?
POSITION ON BILLS
HR 798, is similar in concept to the massive land acquisition agenda of the American Heritage Trust Act of 10 years ago. Both are based on the unappropriated trust fund concept. I didn't believe this was good public policy in 1988 nor do I believe it is now. It should be rejected, as it was by Congress in 1990 after an outcry by Americans across the country.
HR 701 has the desirable feature of sharing the revenue from outer continental shelf leasing funds with affected coastal states and communities. If enacted and signed into law HR 701 will have properties of a grand congressional compromise similar to ANILCA. Also similar to ANILCA, there will be those powerful interest groups and agencies that will not be satisfied by this compromise and will actively start undermining it with confederates in the resource agencies the day after it is signed. The trust fund properties of its Title II will be an open invitation to abuse by those who wish to thwart and circumvent the will of Congress. The recent lessons from ANILCA history demonstrate that ways have not been perfected to effectively manage agencies that are dissatisfied with direction they receive from Congress. This will be especially so with funding not subject to annual appropriation and review.
For these reasons, HR 701 is fatally flawed and any benefits from the revenue sharing will not be worth the terrible cost to American values and society that will result from the land trust entitlement. In closing, I refer to Resolution S99-12 recently passed unanimously by the Organizational Convention of the California Republican Party. I cannot improve on their reasoning:
A RESOLUTION OF THE CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY (S99-12)
RESOLUTION OPPOSING S. 25 AND H.R. 701
Relating to the Expansion of the Federal Land Estate
WHEREAS, nearly forty seven percent of the state of California is already federal land and vast portions of the states in the West are federal holdings; and
WHEREAS, the expansion of the federal estate would serve to decrease local property tax bases, disrupt rural economies, further decrease our important natural resource-based industries, and interfere with the basic freedom of owning private property while doing little or nothing to improve the quality of the environment; and
WHEREAS, when certain specific purchases of lands by the federal government are justified they should be after the specific debate and approval of Congress; and
WHEREAS, the California Republican Party is the party of freedom, individual liberty, and private enterprise, and the expansion of the federal land estate is directly contrary to Republican ideals; now
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Republican Party strongly opposes any new initiative by Congress to create land trust funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund or any other revenue stream that is an entitlement program or serves the purpose of expanding the already vast amount of land holdings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Republican Party strongly urges other state and local governments to also oppose S. 25, H.R. 701, or any expansion of the federal estate or creation of a land trust fund. (2/28/99)
Mr. Chairman, I thank you.
KEY BACKGROUND SOURCES
U.S. Congress, House Resources Committee: www.house.gov/resources/ocs
American Land Rights Association website: www.landrights.org
American Heritage Trust Act of 1988 -- HOUSE -- May 17 and 19, 1988, Washington, DC; June 24, 1988, Atlanta, GA; June 24, 1988, Denver, CO; June 24, 1988, Philadelphia, PA -- 877 pages. GOV DOC NO: Y 4.In 8/14:100-62
American Heritage Trust Act of 1989 -- HOUSE -- Washington, DC, April 6, 1989 -- 315 pages. GOV DOC NO: Y 4.In 8/14:101-12
American Heritage Trust Act -- SENATE -- Washington, DC, April 25, 1990 -- 406 pages. GOV DOC NO: Y 4.En2:S.hrg.101-754
Mining Activities in Units of the National Park Service in Alaska -- SENATE -- Anchorage, AK, November 6, 1993 -- 124 pages. GOV DOC NO:
Trends in federal landownership and management -- HOUSE -- Washington, DC. March 2, 1995 -- 91 pages. GOV DOC NO: Y 4 R 31/3:104-3
Trends in federal landownership -- SENATE -- Washington, DC. February 6, 1996 -- 70 pages. GOV DOC NO: Y 4 EN2:S HRG.104-423
Feds Private Land Purchase Trust: a Bad Idea by Rick Kenyon. Reprinted in the Voice of the Times, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 1999 -- INCLUDED WITH THIS TESTIMONY, PAGES 15 TO 17.
American Land Rights Association Response to Misleading Information Issued by Congressional Committee Staffs on The Conservation And Reinvestment Act (HR 4717, 105th Congress and S 25, 106th Congress) -- INCLUDED WITH THIS TESTIMONY, PAGES 7 TO 10.
2/8/99 Letter to Chairman Don Young from Myron Ebell, National Policy Director, Frontiers of Freedom -- INCLUDED WITH THIS TESTIMONY, PAGES 10 TO 15.
[EXCHANGE BETWEEN CHAIRMAN YOUNG AND Mr. KREIG]
Mr. YOUNG: All right. That's a fair discussion. Mr. Kreig, I happen to agree with you 100 percent on the ANILCA. We wrote that bill as well as we could, and I voted against it; and I worked against it. It had 90 amendments adopted to it. We never intended for the agencies to go beyond the intent of the Congress. And I can assure you as we go through this bill we are going to try to tighten it so there is a definite goal, there is water, land, fish and wildlife conservation and promotion. And it's not to be used as a sledgehammer as very frankly Kantishna, Glacier Bay, aircraft, things that were never intended in ANILCA are now being reinterpreted 20 years later by the agencies incorrectly. And that's one of the responsibilities I have to face up to that we didn't write it tight enough. So I'm going to do everything I can to write it tight to make sure this works.
Mr. KREIG: Well, I think that far more effort had gone into ANILCA in trying to put forward a compromise that made it possible for economic activity to continue, but as long as the funding mechanism is there and the money is supplied, it's devilishly difficult to control a situation. And I just think that far more work has got to be done in this area. And it may be insurmountable (as long as that amount of unreviewed money is supplied every year) to try to come up with mechanisms to ensure that your intent is carried out.
Mr. YOUNG: One of the things, again - I will repeat what I'm
saying. The present system isn't working. And my goal is to get
the monies from offshore development, nonrenewable resources into
fish and wildlife conservation. That's the ultimate desire that I
have. And then of course, allowing the states to make decisions
on how they would like to spend the money on ballparks, whatever
they want to do. But my goal personally is to make sure that we
have species that will not endangered and that we have species
available for hunting, fishing, whatever it may be, and there is
no shortage. And I think we have to address that.
I've said all along that our society today is in probably greater jeopardy because of urban tyranny than anything else. I say that with respect to everybody in this room. The lack of knowledge about what this life is all about is created because there isn't the availability nor the abundance of actually experiencing wildlife. It's not there. And if we don't improve that, it becomes worse. People become insensitive. That's why they got away with ANILCA regulations. People were insensitive to its effect upon individuals and not understanding the intent of the law. I'm trying to write legislation to achieve that goal. It is difficult. But I do not shirk it because it's difficult, because I do think this has to be addressed. I just want you to know that.
Mr. KREIG: Mr. Chairman, if I may, I think you have stated that very well. There is a couple of questions that are very basic, though - why can't the LWCF funds be freed up to address the maintenance backlog to get more flexibility? Why are they restricted to the use of land purchases only?
Mr. YOUNG: I don't think my bill does that. And that's what we are going to work we are going to have maintenance in the bill, by the way. That's one of the things that's under H.R.. 798 or whatever it is. We are going to have a maintenance provision. We think that is crucial. It was never the intent for this bill to be the purchaser of a great body of land. I will say, though, you have some inholders that would like to sell their land, willing sellers, but there is no money available.
Mr. KREIG: If I might address that, Mr. Chairman, because there is this idea that there are a lot of hardships out there waiting to be purchased. The trust fund, we feel very strongly, is going to create many more new hardship cases than are ever bought out, and that the hardships that are there we feel that they are relatively rare the hardships that are there should be bought out through the normal appropriations process. You have got the Court of Claims. You have got....
Mr. YOUNG: It's not happening. It's not happening. That's
what I'm saying. And it's hard for us to appropriate dollars.
Again, it goes back to a Congress that does not see the justice
in appropriating monies to buy someone's private land, ergo they
have condemned it. That's why I'm trying to rectify that. It's a
matter of opinion, but I'm trying to solve a problem instead of
creating a problem. And that's why we have to make sure we write
it so we see that that happens.
Mr. Schoen, John, we want to work with you. The Audubon Society and I have fought over these years, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other side. But the main thing for everybody to understand is we are willing - and I want everybody to look at the possibility of drafting legislation that will solve most people's concerns, but ultimately achieve the goal which I've spoken of, and that is the preservation and conservation of species, and for the good of the society. And to me that's crucially important.
Mr. SCHOEN: If I may, we very much appreciate that. We appreciate your hard work, and we see this as a tremendous opportunity. We are willing to work quite actively...
Mr. YOUNG: I will tell you I have to be a little careful
being complimented about working with Mr. Miller very much. What
happens when they occur, everybody's eyebrow rises and they
wonder what kind of devilment are we up to. And the truth of the
matter is we are trying to achieve a goal. He has to give a
little. I may have to give a little. And we are going to try to
do this. But it's going to take a lot of participation of people
like Mr. Kreig, Ms. Childers, Ms. Bailey - all of you have to
participate in this program to solve one of the crucial things
facing society, and that's the lack of awareness about real life.
You cannot get your direction from that boob tube.
And the more we become urbanized, the more we are directed and the more we are actually brainwashed into thinking in certain directions. But if you have access to a fishing pole, you have access to a hunting weapon, you have access to viewing, you become a self thinker. You are not wedded to that what I call propaganda machine that it's becoming now because we are not aware of what life is all about. I'm from a rural area, and I think I still have my hand on the pulse pretty well as far as life goes. This nation as our society as known is in direct jeopardy because of the constant concentration of people and a lack of accessibility to open spaces and availability to participate in fish and wildlife.
I want to thank the panel. I appreciate you being here. And we will continue to work with everybody. I believe that's the last of my witnesses.
And with that we will adjourn this hearing. And it lasted two hours. I want you to understand that.
[Whereupon, at 12:50 p.m., the Committee was adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]