Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monuments to Unemployment


As Americans confront the economic hardship of double digit unemployment and economic stagnation, they are looking to their national leaders with growing distrust. And why shouldn’t they? Leaders in Washington have shown a disregard for the economic health of our country, pursuing policies that destroys jobs, lowers economic growth and bankrupts the U.S. government.

President Obama may soon worsen economic conditions—particularly in rural America. According to a leaked Department of Interior (DOI) memo, the President is currently considering the establishment of 14 new National Monuments in 9 states. These designations will have a devastating impact on surrounding communities because a monument designation forces out people dependent on public lands for their economic survival.

Without logging, mining, drilling, and other resource management activities, communities in and around these new monuments lose their jobs. Economic collapse comes astonishingly fast as the infrastructure needed to extract, process and transport resources vanishes almost overnight. Meanwhile, our nation becomes increasingly dependent on foreign energy sources, timber, and even food.

The ability of Presidents to act unilaterally and restrict access to public lands is rooted in the Antiquities Act of 1906. The century old law was enacted in response to fears of the destruction and theft of U.S. archaeological sites and treasures; since then, it has been used on a much grander scale by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Today, there are 71 National Monuments located in 26 states, covering some 136 million acres.

Many of these monuments warrant protective status. Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona, for example, represents one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America, while the Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico protects the prehistoric remains of an ancestral Pueblo society. The protection of these sites and others like them was in accordance with the intent of the Antiquities Act, which authorized the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands with “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

However, various White House Administrations have interpreted the law as providing the President much broader powers—a view upheld by the courts. This has made the Antiquities Act an irresistible tool of radical environmentalists and their allies seeking to restrict access to public lands. Environmental politics was behind, for example, President Clinton’s establishment of 19 new monuments – including designations in California – that decimated the state’s timber industry. California lost 84 wood product mills and factories, representing more than 54,000 jobs. Sierra Forest Products and the small community of Dinuba were among the casualties as Sierra and Sequoia National Park timber production plummeted from 183 million board feet per year to only 10 million.

These “political” monument designations are clearly not in keeping with the spirit or intent of the Antiquities Act. For this reason, I have introduced legislation – the National Monuments Designation Transparency and Accountability Act – that requires all new monuments to be approved by Congress within two years of their establishment. Without Congressional approval, a monument designation made under the reformed Antiquities Act would terminate as would any restrictions placed upon its uses.

To restore meaningful oversight and transparency, consultation with local communities and the public will be required prior to future designations. My bill will also require that within a year of a new monument designation, the Department of Interior produce a report on its economic impact, in addition to the impact on our nation’s energy security.

The changes I have outlined are intended to prevent use of the Antiquities Act for political purposes. My bill will not eliminate existing National Monument designations, nor will it prevent the President from acting to protect national treasures or important historic sites in the future. Instead, the reforms I propose will force the President to justify his actions before the American people. Without reform, rural America remains at risk of politically motivated land restrictions that not only undermine our economy but increase our nation’s dependence on importation of goods that can and should be produced here.

Many organizations associated with public lands and rural America support the reforms I have outlined. To date, endorsements have come from: American Sheep Industry Association, Arizona Wool Growers Association, California Forestry Association, California Wool Growers Association, Colorado Wool Growers Association, Idaho Wool Growers Association, Independent Oil Producers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, National Association of Counties, Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, Nevada Wool Growers Association, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Federal Lands Council, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, Oregon Sheep Growers Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Sheep & Goat Raisers Association, Utah Cattlemen’s Association, Utah Wool Growers Association, Washington State Sheep Producers, and Wyoming Wool Growers Association.

If you or your organization would like to be added as supporters of the National Monument Designation Transparency and Accountability Act, please contact my office.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden of Eden Without A Garden


Recently, U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled that the science used to block Delta water deliveries to farmers and rural communities was flawed and incomplete. The judge’s order, which increases water flows to our communities, is a significant victory for farmers. But is it time to celebrate?

Some in our community, including political leaders, have grasped this decision as evidence that San Joaquin Valley residents can win their water back, despite inaction by Congress. The truth, however, is that Judge Wanger’s decision will not provide water supply certainty to valley farmers or residents. That’s because the judge’s decisions are made within the confines of bad laws sent down to him by Congress – laws that have been expanded, exploited and transformed by the left in order to gain control of our nation’s vast resources. For this reason, it’s not a matter of if but when the courts will be forced to restrict pumping activity again.

San Joaquin Valley farmers have delivered a bounty to our nation and the world. This bounty has come from hard working family farmers who cultivate the bulk of our nation’s fruit and vegetables using the most advanced cultural techniques available. Many of the more than 300 crops produced in California are grown exclusively in our state and are recognized around the world for their quality. However, without reliable water supplies there would not be enough food produced from San Joaquin Valley farms to feed Californians, let alone the world. Despite this fact, legislators continue to enact laws like the San Joaquin River Settlement that reduce our water supplies and dry up farmland.

It is no secret that environmental activists and their patrons in the Democratic Party want to transform our region into marshland and desert. These radicals are seeking the restoration of the natural landscape of the San Joaquin Valley and admit that such an effort would require abandoning at least 1.3 million acres of farmland. A key element of this plan involves the incremental diversion of the water supplies needed by farmers and rural communities. These diversions are made in the name of the environment but lack the scientific grounding to demonstrate any meaningful environmental benefit.

Pressure from suffering farmers and residents, which has gained significant national exposure over the past year, did not compel Congress to legislate relief to end the government-imposed drought. However, as a token to valley leaders, Democrats funded a Delta water study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Water groups, farming organizations and Democratic lawmakers sold this new study to the public as the precursor for change in how Delta water is managed. These hopes, however, ignore the presence of environmental radicals and activists that populate government and pollute policy.

We have already witnessed clear political bias at the NAS. A prominent scientist, Dr. Patricia Glibert, was recently removed from the NAS committee studying the Delta because her research didn’t support the claim that water exports are harming the environment. Dr. Glibert’s research suggests that urban wastewater pollution and high ammonia concentrations are to blame for species decline in the Delta – a fact long argued by San Joaquin Valley water users. However, environmentalists and their Democratic friends in Congress reject this possibility because it would interfere with their campaign to end Delta water exports.

The consequence of Dr. Gilbert’s removal is significant. It stacks the deck against an honest evaluation of the science used to attack valley farmers and allows activists to manipulate the outcome. Indeed, Dr. Gilbert’s removal resulted in the resignation of another prominent researcher, Michael McGuire, who explained that he couldn’t contribute to the final NAS report if all views were not considered.

The NAS is being exploited to justify suffering in the San Joaquin Valley – with no real discussion of the facts. The silencing of Dr. Gilbert would be laughable if we were describing a study commissioned by the former Soviet Union, but we are talking about U.S. National Academy of Science.

What does all of this mean? San Joaquin Valley residents will remain in the cross hairs of radicals for the foreseeable future. It is unfortunate that the views of these radicals are not more widely scrutinized by the press – particularly in our region, the western front in the battle against radical environmentalists. Instead, organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders and Wildlife, and EarthFirst are free to conduct their anti-capitalist, anti-development campaign behind what amounts to an environmental Iron Curtain. Those of us who try to expose the truth often find ourselves with few allies. Instead, we are often mocked and ridiculed; or worse subject to epithets in an attempt to change the subject and destroy us personally.

Ongoing efforts to block water deliveries to our region and points further south are clearly part of a nightmarish master plan to control California’s basic natural resources and prevent them from being used in economic development. With this power, the radical environmentalists can achieve their goal of transforming the San Joaquin Valley into a Godless green utopia; that is, a Garden of Eden without a garden.

It is time for Californians and, in particular, San Joaquin Valley residents, to take a stand. We must all recognize that donations to radical environmental groups help finance the assault on our communities. These groups infest our schools with propaganda and hijack local governments with green causes based on junk science.

San Joaquin Valley residents, including our region’s hard working family farmers, are not enemies of the environment. Far from destroying nature, the great water projects of the 20th Century enhanced our environment by creating a greenbelt suited to growing crops that feed the world. Our rich agricultural heritage can be kept alive but only if politicians are held accountable for their actions not their words.