(BATTLE GROUND, WA) ----- Today American Land Rights announced a $200,000 mail and fax campaign to alert rural landowners and inholders nationwide that they have been targeted by HR 701, The Conservation and Reinvestment Act introduced by Don Young (R-AK) and HR 798 (Americas Resources 2000 Act) introduced by George Miller (D-CA). These bills will convert the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) into a guaranteed trust fund that will no longer have to compete in the appropriations process each year for funds. They will automatically have a higher funding priority than AIDS research, hospitals, schools, and many other social priorities.
HR 701 and HR 798 would divert Offshore Oil and Gas receipts now flowing into the Federal treasury to reduce taxes into a dedicated, off-budget entitlement to meet the land acquisition goals of the environmental groups, land trusts and Federal land agencies.
"Once the Trust Fund is signed into law, no landowner will be safe," said Chuck Cushman, ALRA director. "The Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM will once again become the extreme tyrants of the past. They are only good neighbors when they dont have enough money to force their will.
"The new trust fund would provide an entitlement for land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and Conservation Fund. These land trusts operate in secret with no public accountability or congressional oversight to buy private land with Federal tax dollars (LWCFund).
"We lost tens of thousands of people to the Federal agencies and land trusts in the 70s. Homes, farms, ranches, and futures were bought up by the (LWCF) during the Nixon, Fort and Carter Administrations. Now Young and Miller want to make the LWCF into a dedicated off budget land acquisition trust fund. No congressional oversight. No controls. No future for inholders, farmers and landowners.
"Rural America will gradually become economically crippled as the Trust Fund checkerboards private property, divides and conquers communities, destroys local businesses, wipes out jobs, eliminates the tax base and forces families to relocate to the cities. Farms will be forced to sell (willingly of course) in great number. Local government will gradually lose the capacity to provide services. Vital communities will become islands of willing sellers twisting in the wind," Cushman continued.
"Representative Young said he has tried to build "protections" for landowners into HR 701. It is unlikely that his "protections" can survive the legislative process with the Democrats and Eastern Republicans opposed. His "protections" are no protection at all. Young says his bill will only buy land in Congressionally designated areas. To us, that means he is specifically "targeting" inholders. He also thinks hell make us feel better by saying hell buy out our rural friends in the East.
"Young says the bill only applies to `willing sellers. The reality is that means it takes the government land agencies 15 years to achieve the goals they could achieve in 5 years with condemnation. They have ways to make a landowner sell. It is highly unlikely this provision will survive anyway. There will be condemnation."Unfortunately, neither of these bills supplies any money to the Federal agencies to take care of or rehabilitate our National Parks and other important protected areas. All the money goes to expand the Federal estate. The General Accounting Office has time after time said that our parks are decaying at an alarming rate and staff housing is appalling. We believe any funding should go to taking care of what we already own," Cushman concluded.