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Letter to Candidate Josh Feldman

Dear Josh Feldman,

It brought me no pleasure of any sort when I became the plaintiff in a court challenge against your Republican ballot petitions for the local Magistrate job here in Uptown Harrisburg several days ago.

The magistrate seat is currently held by Judge Barb Pianka, and she is seeking re-election. You are a declared candidate seeking to unseat Pianka, as you have a right to do as an American citizen. In fact, as an aside, I am glad you are running, in the sense that I think more people ought to run for all elected offices. Additionally, I am totally opposed to the current ballot petition process, because it artificially and unfairly favors incumbents and establishment political parties and their political machines, which works against individual citizens and against the collective interest of We The People, the citizenry.

America needs fewer career politicians, fewer elected officials who are simply owned by special interests who use government for their own personal/ private enrichment, and we need more solid citizens who view elected office as a temporary public service to their fellow citizens, not as a taxpayer-funded career.

So, in that broad, philosophical sense, I support your run for office.

And, I must accept and work with the specific ballot petition process as it is now, not as I wish it were (not).

Josh, you are challenging a judge whom I and many others in this area hold in good regard. Judge Pianka has not only done a good job, she has also not done the bad things that normally earn a sitting official a strong challenge. For example, no one has accused Judge Pianka of taking bribes, falling asleep in the court room, abusing people in her court room, malpractice, erratic behavior, or other typically disqualifying actions. Had she done any of that, you would probably have my emphatic support, or at least my tacit support, depending on other candidates in the race.

Uptown Harrisburg is an oasis, and Midtown Harrisburg is becoming an oasis through continued investment and re-development. By oasis I mean these places are locations with bona fide residential taxpayers, businesses, relatively low crime, and a good quality of life, as opposed to a greater proportion of the city proper. Judge Barb Pianka is to a fair degree responsible for this status, because of her measured judicial approach in this district. So losing Judge Pianka could lead to a loss of stability and quality of life in these areas. Too many of us have homes and investments here to justify risking a change with a new, unproven magistrate.

Thus, I support Judge Pianka and will continue to support her until she develops a fatal flaw or faces a superior candidate. Neither of those conditions are in play now.

I am a Republican plaintiff complaining about your Republican (cross-filed) ballot petitions because as I have come to understand, those petitions are deeply flawed. I signed as a plaintiff with that understanding. If, in the course of the unfolding legal proceeding, your petitions are determined to be not faulty and are acceptable, then I will do the two following things: First, I will issue you a public apology. Though I am acting as plaintiff in good faith, I believe in taking responsibility for my mistakes. Second, I will contribute $250.00 toward your legal fees incurred while defending your petitions.

After all of this is settled one way or another, Josh, I hope that you will become more active in the city’s political and cultural landscape. Hopefully this first foray of yours is not your last. State representative Patty Kim has become far too comfortable, too partisan, too passive, and remains unproductive; we would all do well to see a change in that seat. Or perhaps city council would be a place to try out your political interests.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and good luck in all things but your pursuit of unseating Judge Pianka.

 

Josh First

Citizen

 

Amidst Obama’s Scorched Earth Exit, Trump Dept. of Interior Pick a Huge Bright Spot

As one might expect of a spoiled, petulant, over-indulged man-child, Barack Hussein Obama is not following traditional presidential transitions.

Instead of spending his time talking about the greatness of America, its promise, its successes, its opportunity, and peacefully transferring power to his successor, Obama has gone on a wild spree of destruction and mayhem across America and in the international community.  Aided and abetted by the mainstream media, which share his anti-Western Civilization agenda, Obama has not been held accountable.

“Monkey-wrenching” might be the right term for this bizarre display of poor-loser behavior.

Dozens of useless but expensive new regulations with no basis in reason or science are being rammed through the executive branch. Same for executive orders. Nearly a thousand violent federal prisoners are being released, having obtained clemency from Obama; these scary men will surely bring unlimited suffering and horrors to American citizens over the next couple years. Like the Guantanamo Bay jihadists released by Obama for the AWOL traitor Bo Bergdahl.

Internationally, Obama has abandoned Ukraine to Russia, Iraq to Iran, Syria to Russia and ISIS, and Israel to its insane neighbors plus all of the anti-Jewish bigots around the world. Failing to veto a bizarre attack on the Jewish state at the useless United Nations last week, the Obama administration left the tiny island of democracy to its own devices while empowering the most radical, evil, violent anti-Western foes attacking Israel today, and America tomorrow.

This destructive scorched earth retreat from a failed eight years is the best that Obama can do. It just highlights his hatred for Western Civilization, Christianity, Jews, hard working normal American tax-paying citizens, goodness.

But you know what? Donald Trump is giving us hope every day for all of the great and positive things his administration will begin doing in three weeks.

My favorite two choices by the incoming Trump Administration are the selection of outsiders at EPA and the Department of Interior.

At EPA, Scott Pruitt is the right guy to take the fight over fake “climate change” directly to the religious fanatics promoting it.

I know EPA well.

It is where I started my career after graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and where I spent exactly seven years vainly trying to figure out liberalism and bureaucratic obstructionism. Oh I did some amazing jobs at EPA, and I had a big impact. But I grew tired of the liberal culture there among the staff. I grew tired of policy battles initiated by unaccountable bureaucrats at war with capitalism (yes, this is a straight up true fact from my own amazing experiences at EPA).

For me, changing EPA’s name to Department of Environmental Health would signal the correct staff culture change and professional alignment. “EPA” connotes a certain outsider status and identity, which suits radicals and gives cover to bomb-throwers in the taxpayer-funded ranks.

At Interior, Congressman Ryan Zinke is a perfect fit, and actually pretty inspiring from what I have read about him.

Zinke is a former Navy SEAL. Need anyone say more….a selfless, patriotic hero, basically. Thumbs up.

But Zinke is also a conservative conservationist, a rarity in my experience.

He’s a hunter. Thumbs up.

Way too many Republicans and conservatives actually oppose environmental protection and wildlife conservation, because in a certain simplistic view, these things get in the way of unbridled, maximal development. And if a bunch of Marxist econuts say one thing, then the truth must automatically be the exact opposite (not…why do conservatives always allow the Left to define the green battlefield?).

It is embarrassing, no, make that humiliating, to hear some Republicans slavering over the opportunity to liquidate public lands. This is proof that the Left does not have a total lock on policy insanity.

America’s public lands are a beautiful treasure, a dowry, a gold mine of recreational opportunity and personal exploration, a huge temple in which to worship God from desolate mountain tops to silent, tranquil remote valleys. I am blessed to have been able to really explore many, many national and state parks and forests from Maine to California over my 52 years, and God willing, I have plans for a lot more exploration of new places across America the Beautiful.

Camping, hiking, fishing, trapping, hunting in far-flung wilderness places are all favorite activities for me and for tens of millions of other Americans.

Being from Montana, Zinke innately understands the personal connection  healthy-minded Americans have to their scenic public lands.

Yes, it is true that public lands are a big government footprint in some places. But they are also one of the very few things that government seems to be able to do pretty well. Though I would suggest eliminating the Bureau of Land Management, as its original charter has long since expired and its staff culture sucks. And I would also look into creative ways to resolve some of the longstanding conflicts over natural resource management and extractive activities on public lands. And multiple use policies require some fine tuning. Like allowing hunting and trapping in the remote areas of most national parks.

I speak from experience here, too, having directly worked with the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and staff from other federal resource agencies.

Not all of these challenges, or problems (yes, they are problems when they threaten to destroy entire pristine watersheds) require an either-or decision or black-and-white policy view. A lot of nuance can be brought to bear. Zinke seems like the guy to do that, which is incredibly refreshing.

See? The clean fresh breeze is blowing out the stench already. Despite the evil darkness of the Obama years, the penetrating shining light of the incoming leaders lightens and cheers my heart, gives me hope from the change.

Zinke and Pruitt cannot be confirmed soon enough.

Let’s make America great again.

Our Future Belongs to the Young

After spending years running for office and fighting many political battles on behalf of the common citizen, I was excited to run for State Senate in 2015-2016. It was supposed to be “our time.”

Enter Andrew Lewis, a young guy newly back in the area after a ten year period of service in the US Army.

Some already know the story: In late November hunting season I fell, injured my left knee, and headed in to surgery.

Competing against wealthy land developer John DiSanto was going to be a battle royale I nonetheless felt confident of winning. But with Andrew undermining our campaign base in rural, wonderful Perry County, and with him making up for a lack of money with an abundance of energy and hard work in the door to door arena, it made sense to cut my losses and see if Andrew could get my own agenda done.

After all, I did not relish the prospect of a 33/33/33 result decided by a couple hundred votes in the end.  Our family time and money was worth more at home than on that uncertain kind of a campaign trail.

Andrew had already adopted a great deal of our campaign platform, and when he agreed to term limits and not taking unconstitutional perquisites, I endorsed him.

Here we are, a day out from Election Day.

I am asking you to vote for Andrew Lewis in the Pennsylvania State Senate 15th District race.

Andrew Lewis is a young conservative who represents the future of American leadership.

John DiSanto is a fine man I’ve enjoyed getting to know on the campaign trail, but he has two liabilities: First, his business by its nature has left a trail of unhappy people. That’s not a great selling point in an election where the same people’s votes are needed.

Second, John’s toughness may be an asset in the land development field, but it’s not a great skill set in politics. John’s performance during and after debates demonstrates he is uncomfortable being challenged. If he easily gets testy among a friendly Republican forum, how’s he going to come off in a death match with sitting senator Rob Teplitz?

The 15th senate district should be in traditional American hands, and Andrew has the charm, background, and articulate policy interest necessary to demonstrate to citizens of all political leanings that he has their interests at heart first and foremost.

Please vote for Andrew Lewis on Tuesday.

What if concerned citizens blocked the FCC vote tomorrow?

What if concerned citizens went to the FCC headquarters and blocked the five members from meeting there and holding a quorum?

What if the American citizenry decided that they had had enough of Obama’s lawlessness, and they determined the only way to keep the FCC from taking over the Internet was to #OccupyFCC?

What happens when the FCC takes over the Internet, the FEC begins regulating what is posted on the Internet, and the government continues to dispense “waivers” to its regulations like it has with ObamaCare, except that in the case of the Internet the establishment legacy media are allowed to continue on in their partisan way, and everyone else must obey or be severely punished?

Will armed citizens storm the FCC building and take it over, or destroy the hard drives controlling the Internet, to get their freedom back?

These are dangerous times indeed.  A lawless takeover of America is rapidly occurring on many fronts, with government coercion and control behind all of it.  Americans in the past have not responded well to this sort of power grab.  And by bringing in a tidal wave of illegal aliens to vote themselves more of our hard-earned tax money, well, that is the recipe for war.  In fact, there are historic precedents for this throughout human history, where alien nations used surreptitious control from behind the throne to take over a competing nation they could not vanquish through warfare.

Obama did not love the America he became president of in 2008, there is no question about that.  He is seeking to fundamentally transform America into something else, completely deviating from its founding principles, the principles that made our nation great and a beacon of freedom and hope.

To be fair, Obama is being aided by the weakest group of elected officials in our nation’s history.  The Republicans in Congress are obsessed with their own personal power and prestige, their long careers, not with staying true to our Constitution, or to good government, or freedom of speech.

To quote many of my good friends, this situation is “unsustainable.”

PA Office of Open Records – the battle for control

Erik Arneson is never going to win awards for public relations savvy, but he does deserve to hold on to the job of director of the Office of Open Records he was appointed to by outgoing governor Tom Corbett back in December, 2014.

Incoming governor Tom Wolf immediately “fired” Arneson and sought to put someone else in his role.

Arneson and the PA senate Republicans sued Wolf, claiming that the job holds a six-year term and that’s it.  It is not a political appointment to serve at the whim of whichever governor is in office at the time.  To do so would place the office squarely in the middle of politics it is supposed to be above.

Showing up to his January lawsuit press event in a Green Bay Packers-marked ski cap and satin jacket, Arneson alienated every Steelers and Eagles fan around, not to mention us PSU Nittany Lions fanatics.  Plus, he did not look real professional, either, dressed up like he was going to a November football game, and not into a high stakes legal battle.

Maybe his rumpled look and out-of-synch team clothing choice represent a kind of idiot-savant mentality, which I would find refreshing.  You know, a guy who is so focused on doing his job so utterly professionally that he walks around with his zipper open, his hair touseled, his head involved in important things, not mundanities.

More likely is that Arneson has spent so long in the ultra-insulated world of the professional party functionary system (Republicans and Democrats alike have this alternate dimension), that he is unaware that his appearance in public matters to the public.   He may not even care.  Accountability in that party functionary world is non-existent, and professionalism is not always what taxpayers would or should expect from the people they pay.

But the fact is that Arneson was duly appointed to a six-year term, which itself strongly indicates an independent position above the whims of politics, such as incoming new governors wishing to make government in their image.

Nearly all of Pennsylvania’s commissions and boards involve six or even eight year terms; some are four years, but they tend to be the ones where the governor alone makes the selection.  At least that is my sense of things, having been involved in the selection process for the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission.  Both of those commissions had eight-year terms until last year, when they were changed to six years, which is still sufficient time for a board member to ride out political changes that might corrupt their otherwise professional and detached judgment.

For those people complaining about Arneson’s politically partisan credentials, ahem, we did not hear your voice when the first occupant of the office was selected, Terri Mutchler.

Terri Mutchler is a very nice person whom I knew a bit when we were students at Penn State, way back in the 1980s.  She was professional and diligent, way back then, and again during her tenure as the first director of the Office of Open Records.  And in that new role she feuded just enough with then-Governor Rendell to lend credibility to her claim of being above partisanship.

But recently Mutchler has come forward and admitted that she was a tool, literally, for partisan politics in past jobs, even in one of her most sensitive jobs as a senior reporter and news editor.  [those of us already long ago jaded by the mainstream media are unsurprised by her admission; we just wish current political activists posing as news reporters at NBC CBS ABC NPR NYT etc. would be as honest]

In other words, Mutchler was a nakedly partisan Democrat, perhaps like Arneson would be a partisan Republican.

But if you don’t like Arneson for this reason now, where were you for the same reason back then, when Mutchler was appointed?  Critics of Arneson cannot have it both ways – happy to have Mutchler’s partisan role back then, but opposed to Arneson’s presumed partisan role now.  That is inconsistent, and therefore undeserving of respect.

Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of good government,and if there are two words that define what Americans expect from their government, it is good government: Professional, a-political, non-partisan.

So, Arneson must stay on, despite his frumpy appearance, his poor taste in football teams, his deafness to Lion Country’s football preferences, and despite the nakedly partisan calls for him to step aside for a Wolf Administration selection.

But I will say this: His beard, that damned scraggly beard, it looks incredibly unprofessional and unkempt; if he keeps that for one more day, then he does deserve to be fired immediately.  And tie your shoes, Erik, dammit.

What is in a political “party”?

The Communist Party.

The Democrat Party.

The Republican Party.

What is the difference between these three and many other active political parties?

Their party agenda is what defines them.

Their cause, their unifying principles, their policies and political platforms, these are the things that separate political parties from one another.

All political parties have their own structure, their functionaries, their own bureaucracies, lawyers, and bosses.  All have become self-interested organisms, influenced by a constellation of special interest groups.  At a certain point, the party exists simply for its own benefit.

But what happens when these parties begin to bleed into one another, when they begin to blend across their boundaries and blur their boundaries?  When they lose their distinctive appeal?

When political parties lose their way, do they lose their reason for being?

Although my own Republican Party has pledged overall to serve the taxpayers, plenty of fellow Republicans hold personal and official positions contrary to the interests of taxpayers, voters, and citizens.  Their positions are subtle, often only visible in the important background decisions they make.

Many times in recent history, the Republican Party has been used as a weapon to silence voices of political activists who sought to return the brand to its more basic principles and its more elementary purpose, which would naturally be defined as the cause of liberty.

It is my own hope and the hope of many other dedicated citizens that the Republican Party, also known as the establishment, will stay out of any upcoming elections around Central Pennsylvania.

It is one thing for a candidate to ask, say, State Rep. Ron Marsico for his individual support, or to ask individual party committee members for their support.  It is entirely another thing for the Dauphin County Republican Committee to endorse a candidate so that the Pennsylvania Republican Party can spend money to challenge a Republican candidate’s nomination ballots, because he (or she) is too independent-minded.  Or too “conservative.”  Or not enough in the pocket of some party boss.

My experience tells me that this controlling, anti-freedom behavior has happened so often that many political activists are inclined to become political Independents, which means that the Republican base, the most passionate Republican voters, become driven away from the party and become less interested in its success.  We saw this with the past election, where former governor Tom Corbett had little street game.  The people with the most passion were not going to do door-to-door for Corbett.

Even more worrisome is if the one-time Republican becomes an Independent candidate, or mounts a write-in campaign.  Sure, these efforts may hurt the Republican Party’s nominee, but if the party didn’t want that independent-minded candidate in the first place, what right does anyone have to expect him to stay loyal to them?

Put another way, if some political boss doesn’t want a certain candidate to get elected, then what expectation does that political boss have of earning the support of the candidate he opposed?

Put another way, if you don’t want John to get elected, then why would John want you or your ally to get elected?

Do the Democrats have this problem?  Sure.  But that political party has become overrun with foreign policy extremism and anti-capitalism.  Wealth redistribution is completely contrary to American founding principles, but it is nevertheless now a core of the Democrat Party.

That is sad, because at one time, the Democrats just wanted more opportunity for everyone.  Now they want to take from one person and give to another person, which is theft.

But I am not a Democrat, so this is not my political problem.

My problem is with so-called Republicans who actually share a lot in common with liberal Democrats, but who stay in the Republican Party.

There are different ways a Republican can share values with a liberal.  For example, a Republican staffer who believes in the supremacy of  bureaucracy….despite bureaucracy being the enemy of freedom and individual liberty.  Working from within the party, these functionaries stamp their own flavor on policy and principle alike, often softening edges and blurring lines, giving the voters fewer choices, more government intervention, and ultimately less liberty.

The same could be said for certain “Republican” lobbyists, whose connections to money, political funding, cause them to promote bad policies such as Common Core, which strikes deep at the heart of liberty.  They would rather ally with liberals than support a conservative Republican candidate.  People like this have great influence in the Republican Party.  They influence its agenda, and the kind of decisions the apparatus supports.

If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.  I myself will stand for liberty, freedom, and opportunity for everyone.  If that puts me and others like me at odds with some political party, then that says everything a voter needs to know about that party: It does not have your interests at heart.

I am a Republican because I hold old-fashioned, traditional American values, the kind of values that created America and kept her great for so long.  I will vote for and support only those candidates who hold similar values.  Regardless of what a party spokeswoman may say, a Republican Party that has no conservativism in it isn’t really a Republican Party any longer, is it?

Don’t howl too loudly, Wolf Pack

If the Tom Corbett administration was marked by poor communications, unaccountable senior staff running amok in the name of their boss, a hands-off management style by the chief executive, and a general lack of charisma, there’s a good indication that the Tom Wolf administration is headed the exact same way for similar reasons.

And they might experience the same one-term result that marked Corbett.

Maybe Katie McGinty will run a right and responsive ship. Maybe John Hanger will avoid sharp conflicts with the Republican legislature.  Those will be advantages over the Corbett administration. But the missing outside voices from across the aisle are an indication that an insular culture is already taking place. From insularity springs all kinds of foolish mistakes.

There will be time enough for natural disagreement. But unless the Wolf Administration wants to go down fighting from the beginning, and thus get saddled with a deadly four years of failure, they’d better start thinking hard how to navigate the minefield, to give and to take, to lead.

Bad guys are on the run around Harrisburg

Toldja so.

Last year, several critical essays I wrote about PA AG Kathleen Kane were widely published, long before other people felt safe enough, I guess, to jump on the band wagon.

Kane’s incompetence and corrupt behavior were evident within a few months of her arrival in the PA Attorney General seat.  She only got worse and worse, and was on a downhill slide to the point where she has now been indicted by a grand jury.  Imagine that.

I feel vindicated.  Sadly.

Harrisburg’s top cop may go to jail, or be fined, disbarred, and barred from holding public office.  It says a lot about politics, that her Breck Girl smile and slow-motion hair tosses were enough for  her to get elected.

For the record, I believe that if Pennsylvania absolutely must have a Democrat AG, then Katie McGinty would be the right person.  McGinty is every bit as liberal and political as Kane, but Katie is also way too smart to let it show or implement it so egregiously.  So, we’d end up with a partisan professional and not the corrupt political hack we have now.  That’d be an improvement.

An even better improvement would be Ed Marsico as AG.  Ed Marsico is the stellar DA for Dauphin County, and he is so a-political that the Republican establishment has passed him over in the past.  Can you imagine, an AG who simply does the job of prosecuting bad guys?  How refreshing that would be.

On to Harrisburg City, my home town and my family’s home since at least 1745.  It’s a place I care about a lot.  We moved here from Washington, DC, to enjoy the high quality of life, easy commute, and low cost of living.  I love living in Harrisburg.

Yes, the city has problems.  OK, that is true and I think people are genuinely working to solve them, even as many of the same people have worked to exacerbate them because they stood to make money from them (think: Public Parking).  But that is another story.

Here’s a story that is just now unfolding: Harrisburg has decided to hold on to its illegal anti-gun laws.  Harrisburg City remains happily and blatantly in violation of two state laws barring any PA municipality from passing gun laws.  The city has been served notice that they may get sued over this, a costly loss because the city will have to pay money damages and legal fees to the winner.

And of course, the gun laws they have do zero to punish criminals or limit crime.  They are designed to punish law-abiding citizens and turn them into criminals, because the zealot prohibitionist crusaders pushing these laws are against guns per se.

Late last Friday night a deranged man attempted to forcefully enter my home through the front door.  He was banging away at it, working over the handle hard, and shouting at us.

My wife and kids cowered on the kitchen floor, with Viv talking with a surly 911 dispatcher (who actually yelled at me over the phone); our guests were in the basement.

I stood with a pistol pointed at the door, waiting for the guy to come barging through.  Every warning I shouted to him through the door elicited a curse-filled response and harder efforts to get through.

Even I was scared.  Someone trying that hard to break into your home is going to do damage once he gets inside.

Ten minutes later the Harrisburg police arrived and caught him, two doors up the street.  They were professional and friendly to us taxpayers, and they used force to capture the crazy man because he was violent.  I watched him fight with them and try to kick their police dog, Bo.  He had some white powder drugs on him and acted like he was insane.  Case in point here: Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Without my gun, immediately accessible, our family was a sitting duck for this guy.

We were lucky that he did not come through a ground floor window.  Sure, I would have shot and killed him had he entered our home, but who needs that?  And what about the other citizens who are neither armed nor prepared or able to defend themselves effectively against intruders?

Let’s ask the obvious question: What about “when seconds count the police are only minutes away” do you not understand, Mayor Eric Papenfuse?

Why are your illegal, ineffective gun laws more important than the safety of my family?

What makes people on the Left so cocksure about their illegal behavior? It must have something to do with the tradition of Leftist protests always being “right,” a mentality that undergirds everything they do.

We will see you in court, Mayor Papenfuse, because you may not inflict your illegal laws on the safety of my body.

Tom Wolf & Republican legislature should agree on this, if nothing else

A version of the following essay was published by the Patriot News at the following URL: http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2014/12/if_they_can_agree_on_nothing_e.html#incart_river

Conservation: An Area Where Democrat Tom Wolf and the Republican Legislature Should Agree
By Josh First

Land and water conservation are not luxuries, they are necessities in a world of growing demand for natural resources. As America’s population grows, the natural resources that sustain us, feed, us, cloth us, nurture us, warm us, and yes, even make toilet paper (and who can do without that), must be produced in ever greater supply.

Some of these resources are at static levels, like clean water, while others, like trees, are renewable. All are gifts that God commands us to manage wisely in Genesis.

Pennsylvania is facing some challenges in this regard, however, as the Susquehanna River shows serious signs of strain, and our world-famous forests face a devastating onslaught of invasive pests and diseases.

John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, has been advocating for officially declaring the Susquehanna River an “impaired waterway” for years. The data Arway draws upon support his concerns: Dissolved oxygen so low that few animals can live in the water, one of three inter-sex (hermaphroditic) smallmouth bass populations in the country, a bass population with insufficient young to keep the species alive, the remaining bass covered in tumors and pfiesteria lesions, invasive rusty crayfish pushing out the tastier native crayfish, among many other factors. Once-abundant mayfly hatches are now non-existent.

Fishermen used to travel to Harrisburg from around the country to fish for smallmouth bass; not any more.

This past September a friend and I hunted geese out in the river, wading in our shorts. We saw none of the usual turtles, water snakes, birds, or fish that once teemed there, and the water smelled…odd. One day later, a small scratch on my leg had became infected with MRSA, and I spent four days hooked up to increasingly stronger antibiotics at Osteopathic Hospital.

In November, we canoed out to islands and hunted ducks flying south. Except that over the past ten years there are fewer and fewer ducks now flying south along the Susquehanna River. We speculate that there is nothing in it for them to feed upon, and migrating ducks must have turned their attention to more sustaining routes.

The river almost seems….dead.

Feeding the waterways are Pennsylvania’s forests, the envy of forest products producers around the world. Our state’s award-winning public lands and their surrounding mature private forestlands sustainably and renewably produce a greater volume of the widest variety of valuable hardwoods than any other state in America.

Our forest economy isn’t just about timber production, however, as hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation themselves represent large economic sectors. Our robust black bear and wild turkey populations draw hunters from around the world, but these popular species depend almost entirely on acorns from oak trees; without acorns, they would hardly exist.

The oak forests at the core of our world-famous hunting and valuable timber were once considered under the gun from overabundant deer herds, but with that problem now resolved they face an adversary that could turn them into the 21st century version of the American chestnut – sudden oak death disease.

Recall that the American chestnut, like the now-extinct passenger pigeon, once carpeted the entire east coast with unimaginably abundant white flowers and nutritious nuts that fed wildlife and humans alike, and its wood was a more available version of cypress – strong, rot-resistant, straight grained, easy to work. And then, like the once unimaginably vast swarms of passenger pigeons that had blackened the day sky until they also suddenly disappeared, the mighty chestnut was wiped out in a few short years, 100 years ago, by an imported disease.

Our oaks, ash trees, and walnut trees seem to be facing a similar doomsday right now.

Thousand cankers, emerald ash borer, lanternfly, ailanthus, mile-a-minute weed, Japanese honeysuckle, Asian bittersweet vine, and many, many other non-native invasive plants, bugs, and diseases now threaten our valuable native forests on a scale unimagined just a few years ago.

Ironically, the edges of our state and federal highways appear to be the greatest means of spreading these pests.

Today, Pennsylvania has a true balance of power between Democrat governor-elect Tom Wolf, and an overwhelmingly Republican legislature. There isn’t much policy that these two equal forces are going to agree on. But if there is one area that they should easily find common ground, it is land and water conservation.

Something is seriously wrong with the Susquehanna River, and something is about to be seriously wrong with our forests.

Whether a crushing regulatory response is the appropriate way to address these issues, or not, let’s hope that Pennsylvania state government can help fix these problems before they become catastrophes future history books write about.

Josh First is a businessman in Harrisburg