G. Ray Arnett
December 18, 1999
The Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Caucus Members:
I am writing today on three subjects of great importance - 1) the protection of private property rights, 2) the conservation of our nation's natural resources, and 3) the preservation of sport hunting, sport fishing and sport trapping. My good and longtime friends with the Alaska congressional delegation have been strong proponents of these issues for decades. Unfortunately, today I must state my opposition to Representative Don Young's proposed legislation, The Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999 (CARA), HR-701 and its Senate counterpart S.25.
My credentials in the area of sportsmen's activities and natural resource conservation stretch back 50 years. They include 18 years on the board of directors, National Wildlife Federation, and three years as NWF president; and serving on the National Rifle Association of America board of directors before being elected to NRA Executive Vice President in 1985. I was Director, California Department of Fish and Game under Governor Reagan (1969-1975) before coming to Washington in 1980 to serve President Reagan again, this time as Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks (1981-1985).
Despite the best intentions of its authors, CARA fails on all counts. It spells disaster for property owners. Overzealous regulators, joined by environmental pressure groups and other extremists, will make folly of the "willing seller" clause by harassing owners of properties targeted for acquisition and distracting potential buyers. Very few families and small businesses in particular, have the financial and emotional ability to stay over and extended period, government agencies and foundation-funded, richly financed pressure groups. It is not possible to negotiate as a "willing seller" when government is the only buyer.
With the enormous riches of funds provided by CARA, agencies will have an unprecedented incentive to engage in the "willing seller" charade. Every owner of a ranch, farm, woodlot, or game preserve will be at risk of being targeted by government agencies working in tandem with environmental, anti hunting, animal rights pressure groups. Ironically, since they hold the most desirable properties, private landowners who have been the most diligent caretakers of their holdings will be on top of the land grab list for government takeover.
CARA is destined to be a disaster for one of its intended beneficiaries, the sporting community of hunters and fishermen who are the true and best conservationists in America. The unprecedented flood of money provided by CARA will enable buying and turning over to the government, private lands currently historically and currently used for hunting and fishing. This will subject the property's sporting use to the whim of public opinion, and a bureaucracy increasingly hostile to sport hunting, fishing, trapping, and gun ownership.
A harsh example of my concern is what transpired in New York earlier this year with the largest land purchase in that state's history. For over one hundred years, Champion International Timber Company and previous private owners had leased out 139,000 acres of its holdings for recreation, including sport hunting and fishing. When the state of New York purchased the land, the state's first "management" action was to eliminate hunting access and drastically limit other recreation uses. Included with these mandates was ordering the destruction of 298 hunting cottages used each year by nearly 3,000 sportsmen.
Animal rights extremists have already taken aim at the Pittman-Robertson fund in an effort to deny access for hunting and fishing. The Animal Protection Institute is an umbrella coalition of 38 of the largest of these anti sportsmen groups. One of their goals within API's effort to abolish hunting is to "change the constituency of power within our wildlife management agencies and the funding sources that maintain these government agencies."
CARA fits perfectly into the plans of API, since it will provide a revenue source outside of sportsmen-paid excise taxes to fund Pittman-Robertson. There is no question that animal rights activists will target for acquisition, fish and game clubs, leases, and other private land where the taking of renewable wildlife resources is permitted. Once the land is purchased and under government control, these well-funded, anti sportsmen groups will lobby for the elimination of any consumptive use of wildlife resources.
I commend the House Resource Committee for its series of hearings exposing abuses in the Pittman-Robertson fund, and its publicizing whistle blowers who have spoken out against U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service actions. Unfortunately the arrogance of FWS and its refusal to acknowledge mistakes serves as a further reason not to hand over to that troubled agency billions of dollars that would be available should CARA be passed into law.
I urge Sportsmen's Caucus Members to prevent the passage of CARA. No trust fund, period. CARA (HR-701) is bad proposed legislation with serious flaws that can not be made acceptable with minor amendments here and there. At best, this rearranging of the Titanic's deckchairs, so to speak, may result in outwardly making a rotten apple appear to be palatable, but the apple is still rotten.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns.
( signature )
G. Ray Arnett
Mr. Jay McAninch, President, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation