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Posts Tagged → land

Court testimony proves criticism of Corbett natural gas policy is partisan, unfair

If you have been following the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit against the Commonwealth, over its natural gas policies on public lands, then you’ve no doubt been reading the testimony of former political appointees from the Pa Gov. Ed Rendell administration.

The lawsuit is being ably reported in the Patriot News.

Former DCNR secretaries DiBerardinis and Quigley have testified that their boss, Governor Ed Rendell, was the one who dropped the natural gas extraction bomb on the State Forests in his gluttonous rush to gain as much money as he could to fund his wild history-making over-spending.

I won’t bother to repeat their testimony here, but it is not pleasant.  They are not covering up for their former boss.  Instead, they are laying it all out there, describing how the public interest was subverted by greed and political malfeasance.  These are two good men, devoted to the public interest.  Kudos to them.

Here’s the thing: Rendell is a Democrat.

Here’s the thing: Then, and now, Rendell was not roundly criticized for his public land gas drilling policies by the very environmental groups who represent themselves to the public to be non-partisan, fair-minded, honest brokers on environmental policy and issues.

Instead, in extreme contrast, since even before his first day in office, Governor Tom Corbett has been vilified, excoriated, badmouthed, cussed, maligned, and blamed for everything that is wrong, and right, with the public policies he inherited from the Rendell Administration.

And this gets to the point here: A lot of the heat that is created around environmental policy issues is accompanied by very little light.  That is because most environmental issues are innately politicized, and partisan, before a valuable discussion about their merits can be had, in the public interest.

In other words, the by-now old narrative goes like this: Republicans always stink on green issues, and Democrats are always blameless little innocent blinking-eyed babes on environmental issues, even when they are wearing the red devil suit and sticking Satan’s trident deep into the public’s back.

In the interest of good policy, this partisanship must end.  The mainstream media, run by liberals, is only too happy to carry on this unfair, inaccurate narrative.  But conservatives can overcome that if only they will cease ceding the battlefield to the partisan groups who roam it at will.

Instead of cavalierly writing off everyone who cares about environmental quality as an “environmental whacko,” which is the standard conservative reaction, and it is wrong, recognize that environmental quality is important, but what is also important is how one goes about achieving that goal.  This critical policy nuance seems to be lost on most conservatives.

Also, call out the Statists/ Socialists who mis-use environmental policy as a means to achieve their larger Marxist goals of wealth redistribution.  These people are not ‘environmental whackos’, they are anti-American socialists who have hijacked an important issue and commandeered it to suit their larger purposes.

Want to win?  Want good government?  Want fair coverage of political issues?  Then fight back!  Meet these folks on their own battlefield, and defeat them using good policy that is grounded in science and public-interest goals.  The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund lawsuit court room testimony is an excellent place to begin this fight.  It is loaded with ammunition in the interest of honesty, accuracy, and fairness.

 

For You, Land Dedication this Sunday

This Sunday at 1:00, in Clark’s Valley, Dauphin County, a wonderful ceremony will be held to dedicate a mile-long stretch of Clark’s Creek to the public.  Sold by Flemish Down LLC at a bargain sale price to the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, the pretty property was then flipped to the PA Fish & Boat Commission so that the public can fish and hunt on it until the next glacier comes through.

I had a hand in it.

I remain confused by fellow Americans who see land conservation as some sort of sinister plot, a “land grab,” and other negative epithets.  These same people have no problem with open land being converted to concrete, a permanent alteration of an otherwise functioning system that spews clean air and water without anyone lifting a finger.  If converting to concrete is good, and maintaining as a functional system supporting human life is bad, then I have to say that logic and reason are not behind the opposition.  These are mutually exclusive perspectives.

Put another way, if open land is bad, and developed land is good, from where do we get our food, water, and air?  Is land really only good and valuable if it has been developed?  Can humans replicate the free air- and water-producing services of open land?  No?

Other benefits of this land protection include stable stream banks, wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, public recreation, and so on.  Thanks to the generous Blum + Cameron family, the public now has a quiet place to picnic, fish, hike, and look at.  Last year we documented dozens of native wildflowers there, and to me, they alone are reason enough to keep this property open; I have yet to meet a human (common, easy to find) who looks or smells as good as a pink lady slipper, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, or bluett (all uncommon, hard to find).

What should happen in Arizona

The federal government is over-reacting, as usual, tossing cows off of long-time federal grazing land in Arizona, as it is now magically no good for grazing.

Apparently desert tortoises never got along with huge buffalo, which look and weigh a lot like cattle…but wait…the tortoises did get along with the buffalo.  So it is tough to see what the US government needs to do this for.

It is certainly another Obama attack on self-reliant rural Americans.

It is certainly another opportunity for hopped-up federal agents to play cowboy with American citizens in their gunsights.  They set up “First Amendment Zones” that are ridiculous to see, and they are arresting people trying to document how many valuable cattle (beef is at an all-time high now) the government stormtroopers are taking away.

It is a bad situation, like Ruby Ridge and Waco were unnecessarily bad situations.

You know what should happen? A posse of militia should go out there and throw the federal agents off the land.  Have an armed stand-off.  Show this heavy-handed government that we, the people, are not going to take it any more.

This sounds radical to you?  Well, then, the Boston Tea Party, Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill were “radical,” too.

C’este la revolution. C’este America.

It’s official: Sunday hunting in VA

Two weeks ago the Virginia state House passed a Sunday hunting bill out of a committee that had bottled up similar bills for decades before. It was a surprising statement that it actually got through committee.  Then it passed the full state House, which surprised even its most ardent sponsors.

Well, today the Virginia state Senate passed the companion bill.  It allows hunting on private land on Sunday, a private property rights win if there ever was one. If you pay property taxes, say on a remote mountainside property, and you are deprived of 14.2% of your full use of that property for some vague reason, you might get frustrated.  It is your property.  You can shoot 1,000 bullets at a target on Sunday, but you cannot shoot just one at a squirrel.  Laws like this are by their definition arbitrary, the bane of democracy.

Virginia’s governor says he will sign the bill into law.

Welcome to the modern era, Virginia! We are envious of you.

Kudos to Kathy Davis of PA-based Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (www.huntsunday.org), who has devoted the past two years of her life to this issue, and who helped a great deal with getting the Virginia law passed and the lawsuit filed there.  The lawsuit compelled the state legislature to act, before a judge ruled against the state and the entire state was opened up.  While I would like to see public land open for Sunday hunting, I am satisfied with private land as a start to implementing it state-wide.  This really is an issue of the most basic American rights.

Last day of Great American Outdoor Show

If you have not yet gone to the new Great American Outdoor Show, today’s the day.

Even if you’re not a hunter, there’s still much to see and do. The Farm Show complex is enormous and every hall is packed. RVs, campers, boats, fishing everything, mapping, GPS technology, clothing. Etc.

One thing I noticed last week was a booth full of furs also selling turtle shells. Whether or not these shells are from wild native turtles, illegal, or from some farmed non-native species, it disturbed me to see them. Turtles take a good ten years to reach maturity, when they can begin breeding. Their nests are subject to raids by raccoons, skunks, snakes, possums, and bears. ATVs and dirt bikes often are ridden over the soft soils turtles choose to lay their eggs.  Collectors grab them for illegal sales, dads take them home for their kids to see, etc.

You get the picture. Turtles don’t have it easy.

If there’s one thing missing from the GAOS, it’s an emphasis on land, water, and wildlife conservation. Plenty of emphasis on the taking part, not much on the conserving part. Maybe that’ll change at next year’s show.

Wile-y Coyote, knows the way

On my way out the door this morning, a call came in: “I think you have a coyote,” he said.

Knowing how wiley those coyotes are, I was skeptical and hopeful.

Surely enough, when I arrived the sets were undisturbed, and a second call went like this: “Yeah, we figured out he was mousing, you know – pouncing on mice under the snow,” and then eating them with great pleasure.

So what had appeared like one behavior was in fact something else, entirely.  The coyote had not been trapped, but rather had merrily and quite freely zig zagged his way across the snowy field, chasing tasty mouse morsels.  Human perception has misunderstood things of far greater consequence before, and will again, but the symbolism was instructive.

Once again I am surprised to see how entrenched most people are in a single perspective, as if their own living place, their own community, their own home, their own food, whatever surrounds them, is in fact (and must, must be) a true reference point for everyone else.  As if rural citizens relate to land the same as city slicker flatlanders, whose use for open land is a place to casually watch for deer as they serenely drive to their next appointment.  As if the flatlanders exist for the sole benefit of the rural folks….

How often do we hear activists and religious leaders invoke “peace,” as though what they are doing will actually bring peace, or that they would even know what someone else would call peace.  The take-away for me today was how entrenched in self most individual people are, and how they often (mistakenly) believe that their world view is dominant, “normal,” and correct.  And I’d say that this applies across the board, to all people, and most assuredly to me.

Federal assault on land conservation continues…no surprise

Gathering enormous momentum over the past four years is an all-out assault on land conservation by the federal government. Led by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), charitable donations of land and land development value across America have been subject to incredible scrutiny and disdainful investigators who repeatedly assert that the donations of real property literally have zero value.

Private citizens defending their generous charitable contributions often spend tens of thousands of dollars. When they win in court, the IRS agents just walk away and start again with someone else.

The investigations and audits by the IRS have spawned hundreds of lawsuits by charitable donors who feel rooked, first by having donated real property value said to be worth nothing, and then by having their own government turn against their generosity.

The donors are Americans of every walk of life, from urban elites with rural second properties, to poor dirt farmers trying to preserve the home farm and their way of life. Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and every little local land trust in between Bangor, Maine, and Santa Barbara, California is subject to this onslaught and Gestapo tactics.

It is difficult to accept that protecting America’s inspiring landscape through private donations to registered charities is such a problem that the IRS must expend hundreds of millions of dollars on it every year. And yet the agency’s juggernaut rolls on. We aren’t talking about junk cars worth $300 in parts being claimed for $3,000. Rather, the donations run from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, carefully appraised by certified real estate appraisers.

Tax courts have repeatedly taken dim views of the investigations’ impetus and the IRS’s conclusions, often rebuking the government’s cases from the basic claims all the way through its reasoning, evidence, and methodology. It hasn’t stopped the IRS.

Why, one might ask, is this happening, even gathering steam, during the reign of such a perfect presidential administration? You know, the one which gets constant kudos, plaudits, and free passes from the usual array of environmental advocacy groups that during the Bush administration didn’t miss a second of the constant drum beat against their (alleged, supposed, manufactured, and yes, often real) faults and failures…Not that those environmental advocacy groups could ever, ever be accused of being partisan….

Here is one theory: Barack Obama hates private wealth, he hates private property, and he hates the idea that wealthy people can donate real estate value and be big heroes for it. Land conservation is very much the realm of wealthy blue bloods, big Republican foundations, land-rich-cash-poor ranchers and farmers who haven’t voted for a Democrat in oh, a few decades, and plenty of gun owners and outdoorsmen. In other words, land conservationists are mostly comprised of the very people Obama calls “enemies.”

Land conservation is underwritten and mostly run from stem to stern by the people most symbolic of America’s traditional modes of success: Land and natural resources. These are the people most at odds with Obama’s views of economics, wealth, and supposed historic injustices. So we can expect this assault on land conservation to continue. And we can expect the nakedly partisan advocacy groups who pretend to be neutral on natural resource conservation to continue to give this administration a 100% pass.