Issue: H.R. 1957, Great American Outdoors Act. An Act to amend title 54, United States Code, to establish, fund, and provide for the use of amounts in a National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to address the maintenance backlog of the National Park Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Education, and to provide permanent, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and for other purposes.
Note: Prior to this vote, the Senate had amended an old House bill (H.R. 1957, Taxpayer First Act of 2019) as the vehicle for its Great American Outdoors Act [S. 3422, as introduced by Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) with 59 cosponsors.] Question: On Passage of the Bill (H.R. 1957 As Amended).
Result: Passed in Senate, 73 to 25, 2 not voting.
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Subsequently passed by the House without amendment (House Roll Call 155, 7-22-20). Became Public Law No. 116-152 (signed by the President, 8-4-20). GOP and Democrats scored.
Freedom First Society: As passed by the Senate, the Great American Outdoors Act would enable the federal government to purchase new lands in perpetuity. In some states, the Federal government already owns nearly two-thirds of the land. That’s outrageous.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would add $17.3 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade.
Much more seriously, this Act continues a decades-long, unconstitutional revolutionary drive to abolish totally the right of individuals to own property. Note: 25 Republican senators voted against this Act, but no 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.)
Congressional Research Service Summary for S. 3422 (which replaced H.R. 1957 thru amendment):
Introduced in Senate (03/09/2020)
Great American Outdoors Act
This bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.
For FY2021-FY2025, there shall be deposited into the fund an amount equal to 50% of all federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy on federal lands and waters. Deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year.
The fund must be used for priority deferred maintenance projects in specified systems that are administered by
- the National Park Service,
- the Forest Service,
- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
- the Bureau of Land Management, and
- the Bureau of Indian Education.
The Government Accountability Office must report on the effect of the fund in reducing the backlog of priority deferred maintenance projects for the specified agencies.
Additionally, the bill makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent. The President shall annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF. Congress may provide for alternate allocations using specified procedures.
Analysis: According to Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the bill’s sponsor: “The Great American Outdoors Act combines two pieces of legislation: the crown jewel of our conservation programs across the Nation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the Restore Our Parks Act. The Restore Our Parks Act focuses on the catching up with the maintenance backlog in our national park systems.”
Our primary focus will be on the Gardner “crown jewel,” the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which enables the Federal government to purchase land. The fund was originally established in 1965 and reauthorized last year by Congress (see Senate Vote 22 on S. 47, National Resources Management Act, officially titled as the “John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act”). President Trump signed the “National Resources Act” into law on 3-12-19.
The National Resources Act provided permanent authorization of the deposit provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which the Sierra Club claimed “may be the most important federal conservation program that you’ve never heard of.” This year’s Great American Outdoors Act would permanently fund the LWCF at $900 million per year.
What is not advertised, however, is the underlying subversive campaign that the Land and Water Conservation fund supports and the forces behind the campaign. To understand the campaign, we need to review a little history (a book could be written).
In 1848, Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto as a program for Communists and socialists. In it, he listed ten planks that were designed to transform the most advanced countries into Communist (totalitarian) States. The first plank calls for “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents in land to public purposes.”
But the Manifesto was even more explicit re the importance of targeting private property to the socialist/Communist movement. According to the Manifesto, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.”
That goal has been adopted by all varieties of collectivists: communists, socialists, fascists. The leaders of the most the most ruthless and bloody totalitarian regimes of the past century (e.g., Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot) implemented that program with a vengeance. In so doing, they liquidated millions.
Many great minds rejected that agenda and explained why the right to private property provides essential support for freedom. Justice Joseph Story, whom President James Madison appointed to the Supreme Court, argued: “That government can scarcely be deemed to be free when the rights of property are left solely dependent upon the will of a legislative body, without any restraint. The fundamental maxims of a free government seem to require that the rights of personal liberty and private property should be held sacred.”
More recently, in his 1944 classic The Road to Serfdom, economist Friedrich A. Hayek wrote: “What our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves.”
So it’s easy to see why would-be totalitarians target private property.
Radicals convene at Rio
It recent decades, socialists and Communists, with Establishment and Internationalist support, have championed that goal under the masquerade of environmentalism and conservation. (Recounting their various schemes to eviscerate property rights could easily fill books. So here we highlight just a few of the developments.)
We will start by looking at the UN’s 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Rio brought together socialist and Communist leaders (UN members) from around the world (plus U.S. Internationalists) to forge a totalitarian agenda under the pretext of saving the planet from environmental catastrophe. In particular, the Summit gave us Agenda 21, a massive environmental manifesto. We cite two of its statements:
- “All countries should undertake a comprehensive national inventory of their land resources in order to establish a system in which land will be classified according to its most appropriate uses….”
- “All countries should also develop national land-management plans to guide development.”
Agenda 21 was far from the only environmentalist “fruit” from Rio. The Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA) also crossed swords with the rights of property.
The Rio Earth Summit took place during the administration of George H.W. Bush (the senior), a former CFR director and Trilateral Commission member. His main representative at the Earth Summit was EPA Administrator William Reilly, also CFR. Previously, Reilly had served as executive director of a land-use task force chaired by Laurance S. Rockefeller. (Of course, the task force promoted land-use controls and expropriation.)
More examples of the attack
In 1991, Congress was considering the Northern Forest Lands Act. The Act would have empowered a Northern Forest Lands Council to exercise “greenlining authority” over 26 million acres in Northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. At stake were the homes, property and livelihood of one million people. Thankfully, the measure was scrapped as a result of strong informed grassroots opposition.
In November 1991, leading up to Rio, Reed Noss and Dave Foreman launched the Wildlands Project. Reed Noss was an environmental journalist and Dave Forman the leader of the radical Earth First! Their Wildlands Project was based on a brainchild of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the foundation-funded environmental lobbyist community. The Wildlands Project proposed “re-wilding” literally half of the U.S. land area.
In the January/February 1974 issue of The Center magazine, Tom McCall, governor of Oregon at the time, wrote approvingly: “The Rockefeller Task Force on Land Use … has said that, beginning now, development rights on private property must be regarded as being vested in the community and its well being rather than the fact of ownership.”
The Constitution does authorize Congress (Article 1, Section 8) to acquire land, with the consent of the state in which the land is located, “for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings.” But the Great American Outdoors Act passed by the Senate violates that provision by not requiring the consent of the state.
It is well also to recall the 9th and 10 amendments to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights. They affirm that rights not specifically delegated to the federal government are retained by the States or the people.
America’s Founding Fathers never intended for the federal government to become a gigantic landowner. Yet despite clear intent, the federal government is a major landholder in the 13 western states. And land grab schemes, for which there is no constitutional authorization, have targeted the other states.
On June 11, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) took the floor to denounce many of the features of the Great American Outdoors Act as well as the process for its consideration in the Senate. Here are some of Senator Lee’s remarks:
“Mr. President, it is telling that the bill we are considering this week called the Great American Outdoors Act was written behind closed doors and has now been hermetically sealed, walled off from amendments, by the people’s elected representatives. Forget the theatrics in Seattle; this bill is the real Capitol Hill autonomous zone. In its current form, this bill enables the Federal Government, if it is enacted, to purchase new lands in perpetuity, without accountability and without oversight or any measures to make sure that it can actually care for the land that it owns, perpetuating and worsening our already highly problematic Federal public lands policy….
“This is not the way the Senate is supposed to run. The point of this body, its whole reason for existence, is to take imperfect bills, bring them to the floor of the Senate, and then come together so that we can hone and fine-tune them, so that we can debate them and discuss them, so that we can identify their weak points and make them stronger–or at least less weak. The Senate is supposed to have an open debate and amendment process precisely so that we can raise concerns and we can find solutions and arrive at genuine, rather than forced, compromise and consensus. This week, I have been encouraged to discover just how many of my colleagues want to do just that. Many of my colleagues from different States and from both parties are filing amendments in response to this bill. Some of those amendments would significantly change it; others would present simply small tweaks to tighten up the language or to provide for better congressional oversight so that the American people are guaranteed that what it says in the law is going to reflect what happens on the ground. These amendments have already been written. They are waiting for consideration.
“Anyone watching C-SPAN 2 today will notice there is nothing else happening on the Senate floor — I mean, literally nothing else happening on the Senate floor. In fact, I would note for the record that there are exactly three Members of the Senate in the Chamber right now — two on the floor and one at the Presiding Officer’s desk. There is literally nothing else happening on the Senate floor. There is literally no other business with pressing deadlines pending before this body right now. The House of Representatives is adjourned and is apparently set to remain adjourned until June 30, so it is not as though we have any realistic deadline with the other side of the Capitol.
“The Senate, right now, would simply rather do nothing than vote on amendments that those of us from the West, Senators from the gulf coast and from various States around the country, would like to propose and have, in fact, proposed. I myself have proposed several. One of my amendments would require State legislative approval for any land acquisition proposed in that State so that [[Page S2917]] land acquisition would be something Washington does with the States rather than to the States. Many people don’t realize there is a big disparity among and between the States with regard to how much Federal land is owned. In every State east of Colorado, the Federal Government owns less than 15 percent. In every State Colorado and west, the Federal Government owns more than 15 percent. The average is more like 50 percent in the Western United States, and in many of those States, including my own, it is more like two-thirds of the land. In these States and particularly the rural communities and those rural communities in particular where there is the highest concentration of Federal land, there is also poverty —poverty that is not just correlated with or coincidental to the Federal land ownership, but it is causally connected to its widespread existence. Another of my amendments would require the Federal Government to dispose of current Federal lands before acquiring new ones, forcing land agencies to exercise fiscal responsibility and prioritize which lands they want to keep under their control….
“It is really easy for my colleagues from certain parts of the country–particularly those living east of the Rocky Mountains–to suggest that, you know, Federal land ownership is a great thing. First of all, a lot of people who say that do live east of the Rocky Mountains, and a lot of people who say that also incorrectly imagine that Federal public lands are more or less just national parks or declared wilderness areas. They are not. In my State, most of the Federal land is not a national park, is not a national recreation area, is not a declared wilderness area; it is just garden-variety BLM or Forest Service land that is chronically environmentally mismanaged, and that leads to chronic environmental and economic problems….
“After speaking with my colleagues all week, and, frankly, all of last week on these topics, I believe the consensus concerns about this bill are as follows: one, the inequity of natural resource revenue-sharing between the Federal Government and the States; two, the cost of the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund; three, the cost of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF; four, the implications of an ever-expanding Federal land ownership; and, five, transparency for the Land and Water Conservation Fund….
“The Senate has long called itself the world’s greatest deliberative body. These days, when it doesn’t debate, when it shuts out amendments from individual Members — keeping in mind that this is supposed to be one of the two fundamental rules of the Senate, where each Member has access to unlimited debate and unlimited amendments — when it does this, it is neither great nor deliberative. It is not living up to its name, to its history, to its traditions, to its capacity, nor to its constitutional purpose….
“We know that the Senate in the past has functioned in such a way as to allow every Member of this body to represent his or her State. We also know that can’t really happen in a way that our system has always contemplated unless every Senator has a chance to weigh in on and to propose improvements to each bill and not be shut out of a process. What we get when we jettison that is, instead, a process by which a small handful of individuals will write legislation, that legislation gets airdropped on to the Senate floor in a hermetically sealed Chamber, and then Members are told: You have to vote for this entire package or against this entire package. You have a simple binary choice: Take it all or leave it all. That isn’t fair. The American people deserve better….
“Mr. President, I would like to note now for the record that there are exactly two Senators remaining in the Senate Chamber. It is now 4:38 p.m. Now we are three again–now four. We have four Senators in the Chamber at 4:39 p.m. on a Thursday. This is not the end of the week, unless perhaps you are in the U.S. Senate. There is no reason why the Senate shouldn’t be convening and debating amendments right now in order to do this. There is no valid reason why Members who understand and appreciate the legitimate concerns that are the focus of this or any other piece of legislation ought not be able to raise concerns with that legislation and offer up amendments to improve the legislation in question, especially as is the case here. There are particular States, including my own, that would be disproportionately disadvantaged and harmed by this legislation. It is interesting to note that the Federal Government owns more of my State than in almost any other State, than it does in any of the States of any of the sponsors or prominent cosponsors of this legislation. Some of the cosponsors, in fact, are people who live in States where the Federal Government owns very little land….
“I regard each of the people behind this legislation as beloved friends and colleagues and as people who I deeply respect and trust and admire. They are people with whom I have agreed and cooperated with on countless instances on many wide-ranging topics. They are not wrong to want to pass legislation that they believe is correct. They are, however, grossly mistaken in believing that it is appropriate in this circumstance to shut out Members of this body who have a different point of view, to exclude them from the debate process. One could argue and some might argue in connection with this: Fine, let’s debate it. We are debating it right now. What is debate after all other than giving speeches in a legislative body? That is what we are doing, and that statement is true as far as it goes. Nevertheless, in order for that debate to have full meaning, we need to follow our own rules, and we need to allow Members, pursuant to our rules — and not just our rules, but also our precedents — our time-honored traditions and the spirit of comity that once inhabited and pervaded every corner of this room.
“It is that spirit of comity, those traditions, and those rules that really contemplate a much more collegial environment, one in which we don’t come to the floor with legislation and say: That is it. There is no more. That is it. This legislation was written as if on stone tablets. There is no more to be written. This book is sealed. You can’t have anything more to say. That is not how colleagues treat each other. That is how one would treat a subordinate, and frankly, I think it is insulting–not to me but to those I represent and to those represented by my colleagues doing it. What I find also offensive is the notion that it is so important somehow and so urgent to pass this legislation that we do so now, and that we not wait until next week to consider it. But it is apparently not important enough to allow individual Members to introduce amendments — even amendments crafted in good faith, amendments that wouldn’t do any structural damage to the bill, amendments that may or may not pass, but that haven’t been written by the principal authors and principal proponents of this legislation. This institution is better than that, and I thought we were. I think we owe each other more than that.
“Look, this isn’t always going to be the case in every single piece of legislation. There are a number of things that are passed by this body by unanimous consent. Others that come to the floor will receive an overwhelming vote one way or another and don’t necessarily, in every circumstance, trigger the need for amendments. Those are, in some cases, matters that are relatively noncontroversial. I see no reason for an open amendment process if we were, for example, to declare June 2020 to be National Sofa Care Awareness Month. I don’t think anybody is going to care that much about that legislation, certainly not enough to care deeply about filing amendments. In other cases, some legislation might have been adequately vetted through a process of committee action and public debate to the point where maybe no one really sees the need for additional amendment by the time it gets to the floor. But that is not always going to be the case. It should come as no surprise with a piece of legislation like this one, sweeping in its effect, adding to our already unaffordable mandatory spending, putting Federal land acquisition on an equal footing with programs like Social Security and Medicare by making it mandatory. Any time you trigger any of these alarm bells, it ought to send a signal that this is not an appropriate moment to expect that no Member from any State will have any different perspective. It is not right. Deep down they know it is not right. I have seen each of my most vocal proponents of this legislation on the receiving end of this very kind of strategy….
“I will note that other than the Presiding Officer, at 4:53 p.m. on a Thursday, I remain the only Member of the U.S. Senate within this Chamber–just the Presiding Officer and me. That is it. We could be voting now. We could have started voting hours ago. We could have started voting yesterday. We could have voted on all of these amendments. For all I know, all of the amendments that I am proposing could have been considered and voted down and they would have had their way. So what difference would it make? I am not certain whether they would all fail. It is not up to me for all to fail. Thirdly, even if they did all fail–every last one of them–at least then Members of this body would be able to face their constituents at the end of that process and be able to say: Look, I liked this legislation. Even though it had these problems, the reasons to support it outweighed those for opposing it. Or they would be able to say: Look, I tried to make it better. I failed. These problems remained. So I voted against it. That increases accountability, rather than decreasing. That is good. That is good for a constitutional republic like ours. It is essential for the U.S. Senate. It is how it is supposed to work.”
The following day, Senator Gardner followed a common practice by inserting letters of support for his proposed act in the Congressional Record. This excerpt is from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, dominated by corporate globalists:
“To the Members of the United States Senate: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce strongly supports S. 3422, the “Great American Outdoors Act,’” an important, bipartisan bill that would provide funding certainty for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the pressing maintenance and construction backlog on public lands.”