April 7, 2009

We must stop collaborating with environmentalists


Idaho Statesman

Land ownership was the compelling force that brought people to America in the first place, and the first purpose of the founding fathers was to protect the "unalienable rights" of an individual to own and control the use of private property.

The 1873 Timber Culture Act and the 1877 Desert Land Law both provided for free transfer of government land to private ownership. For the first 150 years, the objective of American land policy clearly was to get government land into private ownership. However, the distribution of government land to private ownership ended with the 1934 Taylor Grazing Act. Subsequently, radical environmentalists were the driving force behind the 1964 Wilderness Act. In 1976, The Federal Land Policy and Management Act officially set "public domain" lands in concrete. Since the '70s, federal land policy has shifted 180 degrees, making free enterprise and private property rights an obstacle to be overcome rather than a value to be protected.

Enter the massive 2009 omnibus public lands bill just passed by Congress. The Owyhee Canyonlands portion designates a whopping 517,000 acres of new Idaho wilderness and releases a paltry 199,000 acres of wilderness study areas. It also places 316 miles of Idaho rivers under federal control in a state already 63 percent federally owned. Why not just give Idaho back to the federal government and get it over with?

Idaho is a natural resource state, not a tourist mecca or a federal preserve. Idaho's congressionals should concentrate their efforts on restoring Idaho's natural resource industries, and stop "collaborating" with the environmental pantheists who destroyed Idaho's rural economy.

While the Idaho delegation, the environmentalists and the media are exchanging high fives over their latest wilderness victory, attention needs to be drawn to federal legislation known as the Clean Water Restoration Act, which in all likelihood will resurface in the new congressional session.

It will give the United States "all water subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams) mud flats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds ..." and the rainwater your grandma used to save in a wooden barrel.

Who knows? If this legislation moves forward, at least grandma's rain barrel might survive the takeover with a little collaboration, consensus and compromise!

Lenore Hardy Barrett, a Challis Republican, is an Idaho House member.