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Testimony by Chuck Cushman, Coordinator

Keep Private Lands in Private Hands Coalition

Executive Director
American Land Rights Association
(Formerly the National Inholders Association)

House Resources Committee
US House of Representatives
Honorable Don Young, Chairman
Honorable Jim Hansen, Presiding

June 12, 1999
Salt Lake City, Utah

Conservation and Reinvestment Act (HR-701)
Permanent Protection for America's Resources 2000 Act
Clinton/Gore Lands Legacy Initiative

We regret that we were denied the opportunity to testify in person at the hearing in Salt Lake as were many other organizations that requested to testify. We will share our concerns about HR-701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999, HR-798 and the Clinton/Gore Lands Legacy Initiative. We have considerable personal on the ground experience with how the Land and Water Conservation Fund really works, and the policies and practices of the Federal land agencies as they carry out their land acquisition programs. If HR-701 or any of these other bills and initiatives become law it will make land acquisition in America far more threatening to the future of America.

We compliment Chairman Don Young on his most distinguished career in Congress and the good he has done for multiple use and conservation in general. We feel, however, that HR-701 is a misguided response to a demand by several powerful special interest groups for a new entitlement and subsidy giving them a disproportionate share of our country's natural resources and an automatic yearly hand in the Federal treasury.

I am Charles S. Cushman, Coordinator of the Keep Private Lands in Private Hands Coalition and Executive Director of the American Land Rights Association. My father was a ranger for the National Park Service and I served the Park Service in the second Student Conservation Corps in Olympic National Park in 1959. I also served as a volunteer with the Audubon Society at what is now known as Channel Islands National Park. My son worked for the Park Service in the living history center in Wawona, Yosemite National Park and I served as a member of the National Park System Advisory Board from 1981 to 1984. I have personally visited most Park Service areas where land acquisition has taken place in recent years as well as many other Federal areas.

The Keep Private Lands in Private Hands Coalition oppose HR-701, HR-798 and the Lands Legacy Initiative. It has over 600 organizations supporting it including the following:

Citizens for a Sound Economy National Taxpayers Union
Americans For Tax Reform Montanans for Multiple-Use
Independent Forest Products Association Grassroots ESA Coalition
National Tax Limitation Committee U. S. Taxpayers Alliance
Alliance for America Communities for a Great Northwest
National Wilderness Institute Black Hills Women In Timber - SD
American Agri-Women Property Owners Standing Together - VT
Defenders of Property Rights Citizens for Private Property Rights - CA
Pennsylvania Landowners Association Fairness to Land Owners Committee - FLOC
Private Landowners of Wisconsin Vermont Forest Products Association
Riverside Farm Bureau - CA Montana Mining Association
Schohrie Farm Bureau - NY Illinois Agri-Women
Republican Party of Riverside County - CA NM Woolgrowers Action Committee
Women Involved In Farm Economics - WIFE East Mojave Property Owners (CA)
Stop Taking Our Property - IN Bootheel Heritage Association -TX
Niobrara Basin Dev. Association - NE Fire Island Nat. Seashore Adv. Board - NY
Small Property Owners Association California Outdoor Recreation League
American Policy Center People for the USA - Dent County, MO
Mt. St. Helen Trackriders - WA People for the USA - Lander Valley, WY
Multiple Use Association - ME/NH Keep Maine Free
Associated Industries of Vermont Washington County Alliance -- ME
Frontiers of Freedom Blue Ribbon Coalition
American Land Rights Association - WA Western Mining Council - CA
Citizens For Constitutional Property Rights - FL Chamber of Commerce, Wrangell - AK
People for the Constitution - NV Arizona Trail Riders
Public Lands for the People - CA Alaska Wildlife Conservation Assoc.
Competitive Enterprise Institute - DC New Mexico Cattle Growers
New Mexico Public Lands Council New Mexico Woolgrowers
Environmental Conservation Organization Maine Conservation Rights Institute
Frontiers of Freedom - WY League of Private Property Voters
Property Rights Foundation of America - NY Texas Wildlife Association
Alabama Family Alliance Nat. Assoc. of Reversionary Property Owners - WA
NY Blue Line Council Idaho Cattle Association
Property Rights Alliance - WA Curry County Oregon Project
Klamath All. for Resources and Environment - CA Vermont Cabinet Makers
Eastern Oregon Mining Association Clallam County - WA
Citizens for Private Property Rights - MO Adirondack Solidarity Alliance
Keep ME Posted - ME Unorganized Territories United, Maine
Maine Property Rights Alliance, Columbia Basin Environ. Council - WA
NW Council of Governments - WA People for the USA - Beaverhead - MT
Riverside & Landowners Protection Coalition - TX Pennsylvania Landowners Association,
Clearwater Resource Coalition - MT Rhode Island Wiseuse,
Montana Women Involved In Farm Economics Pennsylvania Forest Industry Association
Take Back Kentucky North Shore Association - MI
High Desert Multiple-Use Coalition - CA Wind River Multiple Use Advocates - WY
People for the USA - Rio Virgin -- UT Family Water Alliance - CA
American Agriculture Movement, Inc. Take Back Arkansas
Common Sense for Maine Forests Citizens Against Refuge Proposal - OH
Washington Contract Loggers Association Hill Country Heritage Association - TX
Exotic Wildlife Association - TX Kankakee River Prop. Rts.Task Force - IN
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise Davis Mountains Trans-Pecos Herit. - TX
Northeast Regional Forest Foundation - VT Trans Texas Heritage Association ,

The American Land Rights Association, formerly the National Inholders Association, represents private landowners throughout the United States. Of special interest are those people owning private land or other interests within Federal boundaries or who are affected by Federal statute such as the Endangered Species Act and various Wetlands regulations. ALRA has over 18,000 members in 50 states and over 200 Federally managed areas. There are an estimated 1.2 million inholders nationwide. Many of these live in communities in National Forests who have now idea they are now threatened by a massive increase in land acquisition caused by HR-701.

Inholders are landowners in National Parks, refuges, forests and other Federal areas, recreation residence cabin owners and other special use permittees in National Forests, ranchers in areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, small miners on Federal lands, all kinds of inholders in and adjacent to FWS Wildlife Refuges and many other types of rights holders. They are also people who are impacted by the management, regulation of and access to Federal areas.

The American Land Rights Association also works to support continued multiple-use and productive contributions from our Federal lands. Recreationists, miners, hunters, sportsmen, ranchers, landowners, permittees, handicapped, elderly, and many others are encouraged to cooperate to support access and multiple-use on our Federal lands and to oppose selfish single-use designations that limit access to millions of American families.

American Land Rights, National Inholders Association as it was called then, made a fateful decision in 1980 with the proposal by former Senator Alan Cranston to make Big Sur, California into a National Park. The idea of opposing parks was foreign to my personal beliefs but in the two years since our association was formed in 1978, we had been unable to stem the tide of abuses against landowners inside Federally managed areas. We had reduced them and stopped some when we heard about them in time, but overall, the wave continued.

We made a conscious decision that since we could not get the Park Service, and to a lesser extent other agencies, to stop abusing inholders inside Federal areas, we would begin to fight to keep people from becoming inholders. It was not an anti park decision. It was a pro people decision. Simply put, if we couldn't get the Federal Government to take care of the inholders they already had, we would try not to let them have any more inholders.

HR-701 clearly justifies our decision. If HR-701 passes, any families we had allowed to become inholders would now be subject to being aggressively eliminated over time. HR-701 is actually anti-conservation because it says that if people do a good job of taking care of nice places, they will be rewarded by being thrown out of those places.

"Those That Fail to Remember History Are Bound To Repeat It"

To date little has been done by the Congress or the Federal agencies to respond to the following reports by the General Accounting Office critical of land acquisition policies and practices carried out by those agencies. In large measure, the response by Congress has been to give the Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management less money to buy land. That greatly reduced the problem. More money will start the problems all over again. We're reminded of the Clinton campaign motto in 1992, "It's the Economy Stupid." In the case of land acquisition, "It's the Money Stupid." The scope and harm caused by land acquisition is simply a function of how much money the Federal agencies get and the type of oversight they receive. HR-701 over time will increase the money and reduce the oversight. The result will be severe economic and cultural damage to rural America.

Today there is largely a new generation of Members of Congress and staff who do not remember the horror stories of the 60's, 70's and 80's and even the 90's. Most Members of Congress don't remember the days when every Member of Congress had to become a management consultant to the Park Service because the agency was unable to solve its conflicts. The current situation at Saddleback Mountain Ski Area in Maine is a perfect example. For over twenty years the landowner has been unable to get the Park Service to resolve the route of the Appalachian Trail. Without Congressional intervention, there is no hope.

The owner of the ski area has been prevented from upgrading and expanding his potentially world class facility because the Park Service has continually refused to settle on a trail route. If the Park Service can't get it right on less than three miles of trail, why should the public in Maine or anywhere else trust them with billions of additional dollars for land acquisition.

It is critical that the House hold regional oversight hearings so that it can get a better sense of the land acquisition abuses of the past. If the Resources Committee does not want to face up to the history of land acquisition, then individual Congressmen should take the initiative and hold their own hearings in their own districts.

Some will say that the GAO reports listed below are dated. They are the most current reports on a problem that was greatly reduced with the reduction in funding. Since Congress is considering greatly expanded and guaranteeing the funding, these reports must be examined carefully to try to make sure any potential legislation does not cause a repeat of the same mistakes.

General Accounting Office (GAO) Reports About Land Acquisition

The Federal Drive To Acquire Private Lands Should Be Reassessed" (CED-80-14) (December 14, 1979).

"Federal Land Acquisition and Management Practice" (CED-81-135) (Sep. 11, 1981).

"Lands In The Lake Chelan National Recreation Area Should Be Returned To Private Ownership" (CED-81-10) (Jan. 22, 1981).

"The National Park Service Should Improve Its Land Acquisition and Management At Fire Island" (CED-81-78) (May 8, 1981).

"Federal Protection of Wild and Scenic Rivers Has Been Slow and Costly" (CED-78-96) (May 22, 1978).

"Federal Land Acquisitions By Condemnation ‚ Opportunities To Reduce Delays and Costs" (CED-80-54) (May 14-, 1980).

"Limited Progress Made In Documenting and Mitigating Threats To Parks" (RCED-87-36) (February 1987).

"New Rules for Protecting Land In The National Park System ‚ Consistent Compliance Needed" (RCED-86-16) (October 16, 1985).

PBS Frontline Documentary, "For The Good Of All"

The committee should watch the hour long documentary, Public Television's "Frontline' about the Cuyahoga Valley NRA in Ohio which aired on June 6, 1983. It could have been filmed in areas managed by the Park Service, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. The only difference between when this film was made and today is money. You give the Park Service the money, and in five years, you'll get another film.

This tragic film documents the broken promises by the Congress and the Park Service in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area between Akron and Cleveland, Ohio. Only 29 homes were to be taken for the park. The law even promised the use of easements. Yet the number of homes purchased was well over 300, the small community was destroyed, churches and schools closed, their tax base eroded by unnecessary land acquisition. Cuyahoga Valley could have been a success without much land acquisition.

Willing Seller - A Myth

"John Jones is a willing seller. He didn't want to sell and held out as long as he could. First the Park Service came in and purchased the, homes, farms and timberlands of his neighbors who did want to sell. There will always be some. Then the agency began to search out those families who were in some kind of financial distress such as from a death, divorce, loss of job and other reason.

"Jones watched as his community was checker boarded by the Park Service. He remembered being told when the park was created that he would not be forced out. But now the agency was targeting local businesses and the county itself. Many small businesses were purchased and put out of business. The Park Service purchased the holdings of several large timberland companies. Smaller timber owners began to sell as they saw that the logging infrastructure might eventually not be there. The mill eventually had to close because it could not get enough wood. Like a natural ecosystem, the economic ecosystem, of a community is very fragile.

"As more timberland was purchased, more homes and farms began to disappear. Many residents wanted to hold out but with fewer jobs in the county, the value of their homes and property began to go down. As the Park Service purchased them, they lay empty for months or even years because the agency said they did not have the funds to clear them out. They became havens for vandals and drug houses.

"The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts began to circle like buzzards. They would buy from financially distressed landowners, then turn the land over to the Federal government. Time after time this happened, quietly, secretly arid silently they helped undercut the community.

"As properties were taken off the tax rolls, the schools and county services bean to suffer. Several closed making longer trips to school necessary for families. The school district didn't have the money for the necessary busses. Roads began to close. As the Park Service purchased large areas, the agency put up chains across the roads. Some of these roads had been used for years by neighbors as access points to the river or to go camping, wood cutting or berry picking. Usually we knew another way but over time, all the access was closed off.

"Churches, clubs and other community services began to close. The library was in trouble. The hours were cut for it and other county services. There had been several markets in town and three gas stations. There is only one of each now and it looks like the store will close. That means an 80 mile drive to Millersville for groceries. Over time, other essential services and stores began to disappear.

"When the park was created they promised tourism. I don't know where it is. We gave up a lot of good jobs for this park and the tourists don't come. Several motels and restaurants were built in anticipation of the visitors. All but one restaurant is closed, and it cut its hours back. We have two motels still open but they are struggling.

"We have a very nice ski area but a Park Service trail runs through it. The agency has harassed the owners so often that they're close to giving up. They can’t get any kind of commitment from the Park Service as to a final trail location so they can't invest in modernizing and expanding the ski area. There sure are a lot of people in town who would benefit if the ski area was allowed to meet its potential. We thought the Park Service supported recreation. Now it seems the opposite is true. We heard from people out West that the Park Service and the environmental groups were becoming anti-recreation. It couldn't be true we said. It looks like we were wrong. They seem to be against skiing and snowmobiling. It doesn't make sense.

"The county had no choice but to raise our taxes. The tax base for the county was shrinking almost daily. We had one local bank and several bank branches. Now there is only one branch open as part of the market, but it may go away too. The banks have not made loans in our town for several years now because the future is unstable. They won't make loans to loggers, equipment suppliers, or small businessmen because of threat from the Feds. No new houses have been built in some time. The theater closed and the cable television company is considering shutting down. It feels like a ghost town.

"Some of my neighbors are determined to stay and suffer the consequences and severe hardships of living within a now nearly all Federal enclave. I love my town. I was born and raised here, went away to college and came back. It looks like that even though I stood up to those Federal land acquisition agents, there will soon be nothing left to stand up for. I never thought I'd be a willing seller. But I am now."

The "willing buyer, willing seller procedure of acquiring land touted by park officials is "meaningless" and a more proactive method is generally used," said William Kriz, Chief of Land Acquisition in an article in the Concord Journal in 1988.

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