By Diane Alden
The NewsMax Years No. 6
In recent Senate hearings Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Colorado Representatives Jim Hansen of Utah and Mike McInnis joined forces to expose how Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Department of the Interior policies have little consideration or respect for the citizens or property owners of their respective states. Their testimony indicates that the government is not sincerely interested in allowing the general public to use public lands for recreation or much of anything else.
In an attempt to convince Eastern congressional representatives of the calamitous nature of this “War on the West,” Senator Campbell told the congress: “Well, the Secretary of Interior has talked about coming down into the Four Corners area and taking hundreds of thousands of acres for a monument. He [Babbitt] said, and I will summarize, ‘Down in the Four Corners of Colorado there is some beautiful land that we ought to put in a monument; and the congressional delegation does not agree with me, but I, Bruce Babbitt, am going to do it anyway. I am going to do it irrespective of what the local people say.’”
Senator Campbell and the representatives of other Western states know of what they speak. The history of federal land bureaucracies, especially under Bruce Babbitt, has been brutally antihuman, anti-private property, and anti-state sovereignty.
The uncaring public doesn’t realize what is going on because the media isn’t doing its job. And, according to Representative McInnis, “Places where the American public has been going up into the mountains of Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, holding reunions, fishing, hunting, camping, bird watching, enjoying themselves, just getting out, just getting away from everybody…and loving every minute of it…those folks are going to be without; they are going to find a great big sign there that says, ‘this road closed.’”
Dog and Pony Show
While government agencies hold countless town hall meetings to find out what the public thinks, the agencies set the agenda and ignore locals, while listening to outsiders. Currently, the meetings are for something called the “Lands Legacy” program, namely another big government raid on private property and amassing lands the size of small countries for their own collectivist purposes.
The federal government’s entire dog and pony show indicates utter contempt for the people who live in the area to be affected by road closures, grazing “reforms,” recreational restrictions, land grabbing, or implementation of sterile and puritanical environmental policies.
A case in point is the recent flap in Jarbidge, Nevada. Through administrative and regulatory legerdemain a road used by locals for a hundred years was put off-limits, except to hikers and backpackers. The county and local individuals were heavily fined for attempting to clear the road and keep it open to the public.
Another example involves the Timbashe Indian tribe in Death Valley. Having lived in the area for nearly a thousand years, the nomadic Timbashe returned to their winter homes several years ago to find them bulldozed by the BLM.
Fought every step of the way by Bruce Babbitt and the BLM, the Shoshone in Nevada continue a battle to retain their right to graze livestock on public lands. The Shoshone Dann sisters are attempting to keep their herd of 750 horses intact and grazing on what used to be Indian land.
Countless ranchers, miners and loggers chronicle stories of deception and abuse by the federal government. Promises made and not kept, allegations, administrative strangulation and being bled to death by a thousand cuts of senseless bureaucratic harassment and cruelty — all of it couched in junk science and eco-mumbo jumbo.
When natural resource users seek justice, they must first run the gamut of administrative appeals, which may take years, in the very bureaucracies that are giving them a hard time. When the case is “ripe” and is allowed into court, all too often it goes to an administrative court like the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco. Notoriously leftist and sympathetic to environmental and government arguments, it does very little to offer relief to private property owners or to those who have traditionally used public lands. For that reason, justice is hard to come by in Babbitt’s world.
God is Green
In 1964, when the Wilderness Act was under consideration, one of its proponents, Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, said that perhaps at the most 30 million acres would be set aside for public enjoyment as park and wilderness. At present over 100 million acres are under some kind of government control, and that is merely in the lower 48 states. In Alaska another 100 million acres are held by the government.
In the words of journalist Tim Findley, “The self-righteous believe God is Green.” The absolutely commendable idea of conservation has been taken to the extreme, hijacked by a quasi-religious movement and a government that invariably takes every good and noble concept to its most ludicrous monomaniacal limit.
While nearly half the acreage in the West is now under the control of the federal government, independent scientific studies affirm that the government makes a very poor steward of the lands in its control.
In numerous cases the land becomes subject to degradation and takeover by non-native plant species. Independent studies on range management indicate that where there is livestock, there is also wildlife — in abundance. Wildlife suffers when “greens” want to play God and turn it back to some prehistoric condition that never existed. There is no realization that nature is chaotic. There is no balance of nature and never has been.
But this isn’t about rational environmental behavior or policy; it’s about power and pulling regulatory strings like some berserk cosmic puppeteer run amuck.
The wild critters government introduces into an area usually result in uncontrolled breeding, as in the case of elk near Yellowstone and white-tailed deer almost anywhere. Without culling, overgrazing and injury to riparian areas occurs, along with the destruction of trees, plants, and the habitat of other creatures.
Nonetheless, propelled by elitist foundations such as the Pew Charitable Trust and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, to name a few, the billion-dollar environmental movement continues to push the government to create more regulations and acquire more land it can’t care for properly.
That Wascally Babbitt: Scarlet Letter, “S” is for Scandal
As with many in the Clinton administration, Babbitt has been involved in numerous scandals. As an example, the $400,000 Indian casino campaign contribution imbroglio. Recently, the special prosecutor from Janet Reno’s Justice Department said there was not enough evidence in that case to indict Babbitt.
But Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, investigating the same scandal, indicated there might be indictments regardless of what Reno did. However, after months of continual and predictable stonewalling by the Justice Department, his committee ran out of funding to see the investigation to its conclusion.
Another ongoing inquiry deals with the misuse of funds generated by excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. These taxes generate over $400 million each year. But recent allegations of misuse show these funds were not used for the purpose intended, which was to benefit individual state conservation projects.
According to the National Wilderness Institute’s Rob Gordon: “They [Babbitt's Fish and Wildlife Service] have looted tax dollars from these funds and spent them on inflated administrative costs, expensive furniture, inappropriate travel, human resources and who knows what else. This was money that was supposed to go to the states for wildlife management, biological studies and habitat improvement — real conservation.” Barry Hill, of the General Accounting Office, who also testified at the hearing, called the service’s actions a “shell game.”
Additionally, the largest class-action lawsuit ever brought by Indians was brought against Babbitt and former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin. They were held in contempt by a judge for “egregious misconduct” because they failed to hand over documents to the Indians’ counsel in the case. Babbitt’s response to the mishandling of 300,000 Indian trust accounts worth $500 million was a promise to solve the problem by instituting new accounting procedures by 2001.
With a lot of help from his friends, Babbitt’s wish list for increased governmental control over lands in the United States continues apace. Just a few weeks ago, President Clinton declared that all road building and commercial use on 40 million acres of “public land” is over. The next day, George Frampton, recently appointed Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality expanded that amount by formally stating that 50 to 55 million acres of areas without roads would be protected.
On October 15, 1999, in another questionable “deal,” Secretary Babbitt announced a second agreement to give up federal coal leases in the Escalante National Monument in Utah. Currently, PacifiCorp holds the coal lease and will receive $5.5 million in return for relinquishing its interest in the monument. The scandal in the deal is that the whole area has one of the largest clean-burning coal deposits in the United States. Just before the 1996 election, under the Antiquities Act, Clinton turned the entire 1.7 million acres into a monument.
Good deal? Perhaps for the coal-producing Indonesian Riady family, one of the largest contributors to the 1996 Clinton reelection campaign. Not so good for those who have a fondness for the Constitution, or for the people of Utah.
Playing God in the 90s
Are Bruce Babbitt and the environmental movement concerned about the environment or the accumulation of power? Their words expose their intentions and classify the nature of their “War on the West” and everyone else in the United States.
Peter Berle, President of the Audubon Society, said: “We reject the idea of property rights.” Michael McCloskey, Chairman of the Sierra Club, maintains: “Trees and rocks have rights to their own freedom.” Kieran Suckling, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity: “A loach minnow is more important than, say, Betty and Jim’s ranch — a thousand times more important.
Bruce Babbitt and extremists in the environmental movement are the worst kind of self-righteous demagogues. They are not as concerned about nature and how it works as they are about power and control in order to implement their vision of the world. Typically, they hide behind the Almighty, government regulatory power and a rigid puritanical view of the environment to get their way. Playing God, they destroy human beings and seriously damage the Constitution, while doing the environment no long-term favors.
(First published in NewsMax.com on November 22, 1999)
The Moral Liberal Senior Editor, Diane Alden, was one of NewsMax.com’s most popular and outspoken pundits ( 1999–2008), and before that, a wonk for The Nevada Policy Institute. A former DJ in Georgia, Diane of late has been a weekly guest on the East Coast hit program, The Marc Bernier Show. Diane is loved for her quick sense of humor, creative vocabulary, independence of mind, and her penetrating analysis of a wide range of political, economic, and cultural issues.