Fly-in for Freedom rallies free-market environmentalists

Published August 1, 2001

Environmental protection does not require violating private property rights or heavy-handed federal government intrusion, concluded participants in the Alliance for America’s Eleventh Annual Fly-In for Freedom. The Fly-In, held May 19-23 in Washington, DC, enabled participants to share ideas, success stories, and recommendations for a balanced enjoyment of the nation’s environmental resources.

Alliance for America President Dale Anderson opened the conference expressing appreciation to The Heartland Institute and North American Motorized Recreation Coalition for their cosponsorship of the Fly-In. Anderson then spoke of the importance of preserving the bond between recreational and economic interests in the utilization and enjoyment of our natural environment. Balanced enjoyment is the key to successful environmental policy, observed Anderson as he underscored the theme of this year’s Fly-In theme, “Access for All.”

Wide-ranging interests share common bonds

Susie Mason of the Women’s Mining Coalition led the opening session on “Meeting Society’s Resource and Recreational Requirements” by giving an historical overview of the common bonds between mineral, agricultural, timber, and recreational interests.

Mason noted that when the federal government offered citizens affordable land if they would go west, make a claim, and use the land, “They weren’t offered land with a three-to-five year revocable license. The government knew there were vital minerals there that needed to be extracted. There was risk and reward in moving.” Moreover, to the extent private citizens have often been denied the use of public lands, “We must remember it’s public land, not government land,” Mason urged.

Ann Carpenter, a minerals exploration geologist and past president of the Women’s Mining Coalition, pointed out that America currently imports 60 percent of the raw materials used in the production of goods and services. “We should decrease dependency on foreign minerals while boosting employment at home,” advised Carpenter. “We can have sound environmental policy and extract the minerals. They must be interwoven, not separated.”

Anti-market voices skew debate

John Rishel, a staffer for the House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources, warned that our dependence on foreign oil is at an all-time high. He noted that America has abundant energy resources but anti-market environmentalists have removed some of the most productive reserves from the open market. Anti-market environmentalists have successfully used large PR firms to mislead the American public on the true nature of our environmental choices, asserted Rishel.

Paula Easley, an Alaska public policy consultant, continued Rishel’s theme of how anti-market liberals have shaped America’s environmental debate. Key to understanding the anti-market lobby, she said, is to realize that scare tactics and calling for more government help fill their coffers with public dollars.

In misrepresenting the environmental issues regarding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the anti-market environmentalists have been particularly deceitful, asserted Easley. “ANWR has proven to be one of their biggest money-makers yet.”

Easley pointed out that a large body of peer-reviewed science show drilling in ANWR presents few if any adverse environmental consequences. Nevertheless, the national media continues to give anti-market environmentalists a free pass on their unsubstantiated claims of environmental doom and gloom.

“Why on Earth should we have to account for our knowledge when they never have to account for their ignorance?” asked Easley.

Freedom protects the environment

Jay Lehr, The Heartland Institute’s science director and former managing editor of Environment & Climate News, presented the luncheon address: “Freedom vs. the Environment: A False Choice.” Lehr documented how freedom and environmental health are consistently linked through human history. Freedom is not only necessary for the uplifting of human conditions, he said, but for preserving a healthy environment as well.

Lehr professed he is “a bleeding heart liberal” who nevertheless recognizes that free markets are necessary for uplifting the downtrodden and successfully managing the environment. He noted that he assisted willingly in the writing of every piece of environmental legislation between 1967 and 1983 except the Endangered Species Act and the “wetlands” portion of the Clean Water Act. The Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act’s wetlands provisions, through their economic counter-incentives and their excessive encroachments on citizens’ rights, represent “the two most damaging pieces of environmental legislation ever passed,” asserted Lehr.

States’ rights under attack

In a breakout session titled “What Has Happened to Our Federalist System,” Jim Tenney and Bill Howell of Frontiers for Freedom traced the ever-growing national government’s encroachment on the states’ rights doctrine. Particularly noteworthy is the national government’s claims of sovereignty over rights-of-way on public lands, asserted Tenney and Howell. The national government increasingly places liens on private property and asserts authority over state and local roads.

Tenney and Howell’s observations were particularly timely as President Bush announced just a few days before, as part of his national energy program, an intention to give the national government greater power to take private property for energy transmission lines.

Supporting states’ rights is essential to preserving a balanced approach to environmental stewardship, urged Tenney and Howell, because the greatest assaults on free-market environmentalism are launched from Washington, DC.

“The last thing the ‘environmental’ community wants to see is a return to state sovereignty as enumerated originally,” Tenney said. If states more aggressively exercised the right to weigh their citizens’ interests against the anti-market lobby in Washington, the results would reflect a healthy environmental balance that would deter the anti-market measures of national lobbyist groups.

Resolutions adopted

Fly-In attendees approved three resolutions calling for changes in federal policies. One called for financial restitution for citizens deprived of the use of their property by the Endangered Species Act.

Al King, of Klamath County, Oregon, spoke in favor of the resolution. “Farmers, ranchers, foresters, ski operators, and others bear all the burden from the ESA, but the federal agencies that make the decisions get off scot-free. Federal agencies have used the ESA to ruin land values and to even take property from landowners. When a federal agency causes these losses because of the ESA, the federal government should be required to repay the full financial loss to the owner.”

King was speaking from experience. The federal government recently diverted waters from Klamath County farmers for the protection of endangered sucker fish. Drought-stricken farmers face financial ruin as a result of the federal government’s action. (See “Klamath Falls bucket brigade protests water shutoff,” Environment & Climate News, July 2001.)

The Fly-In approved a second resolution to allow island and coastal nations to continue their ancient tradition of whale hunting without “threat of economic sanction or censure” so long as the hunted whales are not threatened or endangered.

A final resolution called for amending the Marine Mammal Preservation Act to allow the Inuits of Arctic Canada to continue their ancient cultural practice of harvesting seals that exist in large populations.

United we stand

One of the predominant themes of the Fly-In was the political power of a united rural America. Speakers noted it was the rural vote that gave George W. Bush his victory in the 2000 Presidential election.

Rural Americans are particularly attuned to issues affecting a balanced approach to environmental resources because rural Americans are the year-round stewards of such locations. Party affiliation is less important to rural Americans, observed Bruce Vincent of Communities for a Great Northwest, than candidates’ recognition that heavy-handed environmental policies unduly harm the year-round residents of the affected areas.

“We don’t care what party they’re from as long as they stand with us,” stressed Vincent.

For more information . . .

on the Fly-In for Freedom, visit the Alliance for America’s Web site at