Freedom First Society

Issue: S. 47,  National Resources Management Act (officially titled as the “John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.” Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass (2/3 vote required).

Result: Passed, 363 to 62, 6 not voting.  (Passed Senate 2-12-19, Vote 22).  Became Public Law No. 116-9 (signed by the President, 3-12-19).

Freedom First Society:  S. 47 combines over 100 bills affecting “public” lands and waters around the country. Some are of minor impact, but others further unconstitutional federal power grabs in support of a subversive agenda.

That agenda is suggested by its “environmentalist” support:   “It is probably the most important environmental legislation in half a century….” (Save Our Canyons).   “The Land and Water Conservation Fund may be the most important federal conservation program that you’ve never heard of.” (Sierra Club). (See our further analysis below.)

We give blue check marks to the 62 GOP representatives who voted against this measure, which was unanimously supported by the voting Democrats.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary:  The Senate Republican Policy Committee [RPC] provided the following summary of S. 47 in a February 1, 2019 legislative notice:

Executive Summary: The bill contains program and project authorizations, land conveyances and exchanges, special land designations, boundary modifications, and new management direction affecting public lands and waters around the country. The single largest authorization generating significant interest is a permanent authorization of the deposit provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which primarily funds and supports acquisition of land by the federal government and a matching grant program to assist states in planning, acquiring lands, and developing facilities for outdoor recreation. Most LWCF funding comes from revenues generated from oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf.”  [Emphasis added.]

Analysis:  The Senate RPC report continued:

“While S. 47 is comprised of many different bills, permanently authorizing the expired deposit provisions of the LWCF [Land and Water Conservation Fund] is arguably its single most significant aspect. Originally established in 1965, the LWCF funds land acquisition for outdoor recreation; a grant program to states to plan and develop outdoor recreational facilities; and programs with related purposes such as the Forest Legacy program and the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund….

“Opponents of permanent reauthorization generally object to acquisition of more land by the federal government and the need to maintain the lands the federal government already owns.”

Land and Water Conservation Fund [LWCF]

While other parts of S.47 expose the federal government as pursuing a revolutionary course below the public radar screen, we will focus our primary objection here based on its permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

To understand the driving agenda behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund it is well to consider the forces that propelled it into existence in 1964.  In a June 1975 article for American Opinion magazine, author-researcher Gary Allen described the disturbing origins of this program and its goals:

“[T]he purpose of the [Rockefeller] Thirteen-Thirteen syndicate is to plan and lobby for more collectivist control over the states and the people. Probably only one American in a thousand is even aware of the existence of this powerful and important lobby complex. In the Congressional Hearings, however, the names of the Thirteen-Thirteen fronts pop up again and again as backers of land-control bills. Among these are the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the Council of State Governments, the National League of Cities, the National Conference of Mayors, and the National Association of Counties. All are Rockefeller-controlled enterprises.

“It was at the urging of these Rockefeller groups that Congress created the Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission in 1958. President Eisenhower, coincidentally, named Laurance S. Rockefeller chairman. On January 31, 1962, Rockefeller submitted a final report to President John F. Kennedy. It included these recommendations:

“Establishment of an over-all national recreation policy which would heavily emphasize coordination of federal, state, and private activity in the field of outdoor recreation;

“Creation of a federal bureau of Outdoor Recreation to serve as national coordinator of all such policy and planning;

Establishment by Congress of a Land and Water Conservation Fund to finance federal purchases of private land for outdoor recreational purposes, and to subsidize state planning and state purchases of private land for outdoor recreation.” [Emphasis added.]

“The Rockefeller proposals were soon implemented. Writing in The Review Of The News for June 12, 1974, [former FBI official and Constitution expert] Dan Smoot noted:

“In April, 1962, President Kennedy created, by executive action, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, and sent a message asking Congress to give the Bureau statutory authority and to authorize the other programs recommended by Rockefeller. In 1963, Congress by law ‘authorized’ the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, which Kennedy had already illegally set up; and in 1964, the Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.

“Propaganda about conservation and the need to establish ‘recreational areas’ easily deceived the public. After all, who wants to be against conservation and recreation?” [Emphasis added.]

However, as Allen pointed out land control is viewed by totalitarian planners as a route to people control:

“Modern land planning traces its origins back to Karl Marx. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, you will recall, Marx cited ten steps necessary to the establishment of Communism. Step One was ‘abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.’ Step Seven called for public use of land ‘in accordance with a common plan.’…

“But ours is not a Communist state. Here, by law and tradition, a man’s home is his castle; his lands and properties his to do with as he chooses. Under our American Constitution, the right of the people to own and control property has been a historic check upon government power. Where the government owns or controls the land and the buildings on the land, the people may make no use of real property without government permits. Their property rights in their homes, farms, and businesses are thus abolished. Which is why land control is people control. Thus, land-use planning legislation proposing a common plan for the United States, as determined by federal, state, or local bureaucrats, would effectively accomplish the same results as the Soviet Constitution.

“All of this is not only admitted by the advocates of federal land-use regulation, but they boast of it. Russell Train, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) [and member of the Establishment’s Council on Foreign Relations], was quoted by the New York Times of September 3, 1973, as observing: ‘In my opinion there is no way to avoid integral planning of land use with transportation, housing utilities, farm policy and so on.’ The very next day another ‘high federal official’ was cited by the Times as exploring the need for federal land control. He was quoted as saying: ‘It would be a miracle if 50 states, operating independently, gave us the exact distribution of farmland, industry, power plants, forests, and public beaches, not to mention population, that would best serve the overall national interest.’

“That is collectivist doubletalk, and Karl Marx couldn’t have put it better. The catch is, of course, that under federal land control the bureaucrats and their Establishment bosses will determine what is in the ‘national interest,’ just as they have with bussing, and racist Affirmative Action programs, and the thousand other little tyrannies to which we are being subjected. Control of land, as we said, is people control. Karl Marx knew that. Lenin knew that. Hitler knew that. And the Establishment Insiders using government to take control of America know it too. To control the people every totalitarian system must control not only its physical territory but the essential environment — and that means central land-use planning and control.”

Program Endorsements

Not surprisingly, “environmentalist” groups applaud the significance of the Land and Water Conservation  Fund in the S. 47 package.   For example, in its online national magazine for February 27, the Left-wing Sierra Club reported:

“On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Natural Resources Management Act, the lands conservation bill that combines more than 100 pieces of legislation protecting 3-million-plus acres of land. The bill, which the Senate overwhelmingly passed two weeks ago, also classifies hundreds of miles of US rivers as wild, scenic, or recreational, and creates three new national monuments.

“The act is the culmination of four years of effort and a rare example of broad bipartisan deal-making. For environmentalists, and anyone who cares about public land, there’s a lot to be excited about….

“2) The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been permanently reauthorized.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund may be the most important federal conservation program that you’ve never heard of. Established in 1964, it uses fees from offshore drilling to pay for onshore conservation programs. Since expiring in 2014, it’s been temporarily funded every few years. Last September, it expired again and was still waiting to be renewed. The popular bipartisan program has helped to preserve and protect outdoor spaces in all 50 states, allocating funds for everything from the park where your kid plays soccer to remote, untrammeled wilderness.” [Emphasis added.]

And on March 14, the environmentalist “Save Our” exclaimed:

“For a few weeks we’ve been celebrating the passage of the Natural Resources Management Act of 2019, and we expect to be celebrating its provisions for many years to come.  It is probably the most important environmental legislation in half a century….

“Many of the act’s creations are quite minor, in our opinion… But let’s start with some of the most important provisions of S.47.

“First, nationally, is the restoration of the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund. Also nationally, there is the Get Kids Outdoors piece, providing free access to fourth graders and their sponsors to National Parks….

“Nationally, there will be many pieces of new and expanded Wildernesses, totaling another 2/3 million acres, along with equivalent acreage of Recreation and Conservation Areas, largely withdrawn from mineral development.” [Emphasis added.]

Support in Congress

Against the background Allen provides in his 1975 article, the eagerness of politicians to tout the recreational benefits of their S. 47 largesse takes on disturbing significance.  We’ll look at and comment on some of the House endorsements in the Congressional Record for 2-26-19.  [For Senator comments, please see our scoring of Senate Vote 22 on S. 47, 2-12-19.]

Keep in mind that congressional “debates” these days largely consist of statements intended to further the campaigns of the measure’s supporters.  Opponents rarely are given (or seek) the opportunity to voice objections. Almost all representatives have decided their position in advance of the “debates” and often only show up on the House floor after there is a demand for a recorded vote.

From the Congressional Record (2-26-19) [Emphasis added]: 

Rep. Rob Bishop (R–Utah), Ranking Member of the Committee on National Resources:  “Mr. Speaker, when I became chairman of this committee, I vowed never  to do this kind of a package. I thought that each bill deserved to be  debated and to be moved as a standalone.   Basically, we in the House did that. Unfortunately, the Senate did  not, which is why there are at least 63 House-passed bills in this  package, 62 of which were passed on suspension, that have been sitting in the Senate, languishing for up to a year and a half.”

Freedom First Society:  Mr. Bishop is correct that “each bill deserved to be debated and to be moved as a standalone.”  One obvious conclusion is that Congress has enabled the federal government to grow beyond what it is able to manage.  But the Senate’s action doesn’t justify compromise here, just to get something done, particularly when huge poison pills are included in the package

Worthy of note: Senator Mike Lee (Mr. Bishop’s Republican colleague from Utah) took a different position on S. 47.  In a February 11th article for the Deseret News, titled “This bill is not the right move for Utah lands,” Senator Lee makes these points:

  • The bill fails to reform federal land acquisition programs, and reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which has not been implemented consistent with the original intention of the fund [FFS: ???].
  • The bill adds new restrictions on land already under federal control and protection.
  • The bill creates another 1.3 million acres of Wilderness in the West, over half [642,000 acres] in Utah.
  • Wilderness designation limits far more activities than required to actually protect the land. 

Representative Raul Grijalva (D–Arizona), Chair of the Committee on National Resources: “I am particularly proud that this package will permanently authorize  the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that supports  recreation access and conservation in all 50 States.   LWCF works for the people at no direct cost to the taxpayer. It  enhances Americans’ enjoyment of public lands across this Nation. It is  time to guarantee the future of this very important program.   In addition to LWCF, the package would add over 1 million acres of  wilderness, designate new national monuments, and expand three national  parks, to name a few of the over 100 provisions.

Freedom First Society:  “No direct cost, perhaps.  But how about indirect cost?  There is no free lunch.   Why should offshore royalties from offshore oil and gas  leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf pay for this?  (The royalties could be used for something else.) And what about the tremendous burden on the federal government, including Congress, to administer the Fund?  Moreover, in the earlier debate over the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, which became public law (see House Roll Call 87), Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee touted the $435 million appropriated to the fund.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Michigan), widow of the last Rep. John Dingell Jr.:  “The outstanding provisions in this bill will enshrine and safeguard  our Nation’s conservation legacy for decades to come. This begins with  permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It  should never have expired. Permanent reauthorization of LWCF will mean  this program and its important work can continue unimpeded for future generations. Almost 20 years ago, John Dingell led the first effort to permanently reauthorize it with his friends Don Young, George Miller, Billy Tauzin, and Chris John, a geographically and diverse group of leaders  who happened to like the outdoors and, yes, hunting and fishing…..

“Since 1965, LWCS has  provided over $3.9 billion for over 40,000 projects in every county  across this country, with every $1 invested returning $4 in economic  value.”

Freedom First Society:  How could Congress manage “over 40,000 projects in every county across this country”?  Our answer: It couldn’t.   America’s Founders never authorized the Federal Government to get involved in such local matters.  They limited the Federal Government’s authority and responsibility to a few essential areas with a Constitution.  Unfortunately, Americans are no longer demanding that Congress respect constitutional safeguard for our liberties on Congress.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R–SC):  “Mr. Speaker, as the former chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s  Caucus and an avid outdoorsman, I rise today in support of S. 47, the  Natural Resources Management Act.   But let’s be clear. Where does most of the funding come from to fund  the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

“The Land and Water Conservation  Fund is overwhelmingly funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas  leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. It is funded mostly from money  energy companies that produce fossil fuels pay the Federal Government.  Even though we are going to overwhelmingly, even with bipartisan  support, permanently reauthorize a program that has enjoyed success  since 1964, it will remain in jeopardy. Why? Because many of the  Democrats supporting this have also supported this asinine, illogical,  and scientifically unfounded proposal called the Green New Deal. A  shift under the Green New Deal away from oil and gas to complete  dependence on renewables, and you can kiss this fund good-bye.   How will they propose to pay for the Land and Water Conversation  Fund? I can assure you it won’t be from royalties generated by  renewable energy. It will be from higher taxes.”

Freedom First Society:  We applaud Rep. Duncan’s opposition to the Green New Deal.  However, America’s problem is far more than the revolutionary Left.  The much bigger problem is with Republicans who implement the Establishment’s programs while appearing to defend conservative values. Many like to deflect attention from their record by focusing attention on open socialists.

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