Dissenting Views on H.R. 701

Published May 1, 2000

“Despite the best intentions of the authors, H.R. 701 continues to fail on four critical points: 1) basic protections for private property owners; 2) fiscal responsibility of our current national parks and public lands; 3) rights for recreational access; 4) preserving the future of America’s farming communities.

“Under H.R. 701, private landowners who have taken the best care of their property are likely to be the first ones targeted for Land and Water Conservation Fund acquisition, since their land will have the highest values for wildlife. CARA penalizes sound private land management that promotes wildlife habitat, by increasing the land’s value, which leads to government agencies targeting those parcels for acquisition and additional regulations.

“As the government or a non-profit buys land in a small community, people are forced out of their homes. There is less business to keep a retail store running, a smaller congregation to keep a church’s doors open, and less reason to justify keeping a school or post office in the area. After a point, government land acquisition causes a community to lose critical mass, and it ceases to be a community.

“CARA places special emphasis on targeting inholders for acquisition. Inholders are owners of private property within and surrounded by government lands. They frequently provide the most accessible and sometimes the only supplies and campgrounds for visitors to national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. Many inholders have undeveloped property, use it for family recreation, and allow access through it to other parts of the park or forest.

“Even though there is greatly increased demand for recreation, in the last 25 years, the number of privately operated campgrounds has declined by more than 30%. This has deprived inholders of a source of income and tourists and visiting families access to their own federal lands. CARA, with its unprecedented funding and power of condemnation, is a direct threat to recreational access for all Americans.

“As authorizers, it is negligent to continue ignoring the $5 billion maintenance backlog in our existing national parks and other federal lands that has been identified by the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on Interior. Unfortunately, this is exactly what CARA does. This backlog includes maintaining trails, park benches, roads, public bathrooms and improved housing and administrative offices for land management agency employees. We believe that the federal government should be properly maintaining and managing what it already owns, before approving a trust fund that will finance massive new land acquisitions.”

Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID)
Barbara Cubin (R-WY)
John Doolittle (R-CA)
Jim Gibbons (R-NV)
John Peterson (R-PA)
George Radanovich (R-CA)
Mike Simpson (R-ID)
Bob Schaffer (R-CO)
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)