Land grab bill sneaks through

Land grab bill sneaks through

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor

The U.S. House closed its lame duck session last Friday, but not before one last nasty trick on American taxpayers. Nearly all the congressmen had gone back to their home districts, yet there was “unanimous consent” on S.B. 990.

Sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, R-New Hampshire and Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, this bill was brought to a vote at 2:35 a.m.

At the end of 2001, according to AllSouthwest News Service, four days before Christmas, the Senate passed S.B. 990 at 11:45 p.m. with only three senators present. Again, there was no hearing, no debate and no vote—just unanimous consent.

The bill is known as the Condemnation and Relocation Act. All Southwest News terms the latest version “Son of CARA.”

The news service says the measure will worsen the Endangered Species Act; allow seizure of private property (much like quick take); give cash to environmental extremists and animal rights groups; and distribute $25 million to foreign countries for land acquisition.

This year, the two legislative chambers approved different versions of the same bill. The Senate must vote on the newly passed House version to give it final approval.

Why are the two sponsors trying to ram this bill through at the last possible minute? AllSouthwest News says both are leaving Congress this year and they have slipped provisions into the legislation that are not taxpayer-friendly.

On page 19, Sen. Smith included $9 million in grants to his home state for the Trust for Public Land to buy property that will cost $7 million, leaving a $2 million profit for a non-profit land trust.

Rep. Hansen, on page 49 of the bill, allocates $13 million for the James V. Hansen Shoshone Trail and on page 52 he includes $11 million for the Bear River Visitor Center, which also will be named after him.

In addition, the bill adds a new category to the Endangered Species Act called “species at risk.” “It provides up to $150 million a year to environmental groups, with no restriction on animal rights organizations drawing funds, to enforce this new category.

It provides $50 million annually to the states for “cooperative conservation” plans that include property acquisition but puts no limits on condemnation powers.

There’s also $50 million for shrubland and grassland conservation with environmental organizations eligible for the money. Grass and shrubs are defined as just that—grass and shrubs and areas “historically dominated” by grass and shrubs as well as stating areas that, if restored to grassland or shrubland, would have the potential to be habitat for endangered species, threatened species or species at risk. That’s almost every bit of this country outside desert areas.

AllSouthwest News is asking its readers to contact their senators and urge them to request a hold on this measure.

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