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Happy New Year!

By Henry Lamb
web posted January 3, 2005

The new year will likely be much happier than it would have been had the November election results been different. But a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican administration provide no guarantee that public policy will be influenced by either common sense, or by red-state voters.

The people who elected the current Congressional majority and the administration should gear up to hold government's feet to the fire to see that badly needed reforms in public policy are actually made. Among the new year's resolutions, should be a firm resolve to insist that elected officials address these issues:

ESA reform: The 1973 Endangered Species Act has failed. Miserably. It has caused the needless expenditure of billions of dollars which has actually degraded the environment, while saving only a pitiful handful of the 1200 species identified for protection. What's worse, the law has been misused as a way to block development, prevent utilization of energy resources, and extinguish private property rights.

The new year should see drastic reform of this law. Specifically, the third-party lawsuit provision should be removed. Only affected parties who can demonstrate standing should be allowed to file suit; and energy resources should be excluded from ESA jurisdiction. Reform should also honor private property rights, providing for just compensation when property rights are infringed by regulation, or waiver of restrictive regulations if compensation cannot be paid. If private land truly must not be used by the owner, in order to protect a species for the "public," then the public, not the individual landowner, should pay the cost.

Ecosystem management: This Clinton-era policy specifically defines humans as a "biological resource," of no greater value than any other bug, beetle, or weed. Implementation of this policy is driving ranchers off their land and other people from their homes in order to expand habitat for more bugs, beetles and weeds. This President and Congress should restate the Ecosystem management policy to restore human life as the supreme value in every ecosystem, and consider human needs first in all management policies.

Government land acquisition: Government acquisition of private property for anything besides "...other needful buildings," as defined by the Constitution, must not only be stopped, the practice must be reversed. Governments own at least 42% of the total land area already, and are buying up more and more open space every year. Congress and the President should adopt a policy of "no net loss of private property." Grants to surrogate organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy for land acquisition, should be prohibited. If the United States is to be an "ownership" society, as the President so often proclaims, it must begin with the ownership of land. Ownership has meaning only if the owner has free use of his property without prohibitive government regulation.

Government grants to advocacy groups: Untold millions of tax dollars are given each year to non-government organizations, that do nothing more than churn out propaganda to advance their particular agenda. Government grants should be limited to service-delivery organizations that provide food, shelter and health services to the needy, and to selected, bona fide, research institutions.

International Treaties: No treaty negotiated or implemented through the United Nations process should be ratified. Specifically, the Kyoto Protocol, the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity, nor any of the as-of-yet-unratified U.N. treaties should be ratified. U.S. involvement in existing environmental treaties should be reconsidered. Should agreements with other nations be desirable, they should be negotiated on a bi-lateral basis, exclusive of any involvement with a global implementation body such as the U.N.

U.N. withdrawal: High on the priority list of the 109th Congress should be the discovery of ways to disentangle from the United Nations. Sixty years of experience with this institution have revealed and repeatedly demonstrated the conceptual flaws responsible for its failures. It has become a burden, and a barrier to new ideas that are necessary to chart a new course for international relations in the 21st century.

These concerns represent a good starting point for a new administration and Congress in the New Year. They are way down the pecking order, behind such issues as social security reform, tax reform, immigration reform, homeland security, and a host of others. That's why it is important that red-state activists gear up, and work through local organizations, and with local and state officials. It will take a monumental effort to get these important issues on the legislative agenda, even with a Republican majority everywhere.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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