Return of the CARA Monster
by Tom DeWeese
14 May 2004
Congressman Don Young is back with yet another version of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act: the Get Outdoors Act.
It seems that some
elected officials will stoop to any low to force their schemes on the rest
of us. A case in point is Congressman Don Young (R-AK).
For the past five years Don Young has been trying to push through a bill
that would establish a massive funding process to lock away millions of acres
of private lands across the nation. Property rights advocates have fought
a courageous and thus far semi-successful battle to stop those efforts. But
Young keeps pushing.
First, in 1999 Young introduced the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA).
Opposition to the bill grew quickly as the details of the program became
known. The original CARA bill would have established a permanent $1.4 billion
annual trust fund that would guarantee huge amounts of money for land acquisition
and condemnation of private property in the name of protecting the environment.
Three times Representative Young and his allies, Representative Billy Tauzan
(R-La) and Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), tried to push, bully or sneak
CARA past their respective houses of Congress. By the end of 1999, Young
and Murkowski failed to even get their own committees to support the bill.
Almost half of the Republicans on the House Resources Committee (which Young
chaired) refused their support.
That didn’t stop Young, who once was a spokesman for private property rights
as he stood against radical environmentalists. Young reintroduced CARA in
March 2000. The spending and pork in the bill had soared to $3 billion annually
($45 billion over it’s proposed 15 year life) in an attempt to play on the
greed of other House members. Republican House leadership, uneasy with such
a huge spending bill, vowed not to support CARA unless a majority of Republicans
co-sponsored it. Young got his majority in May 2000 and CARA finally passed
Just as the fight shifted to the Senate, Young’s own state Republican Party
of Alaska announced its opposition to the bill. Month by month property rights
activists fought in the trenches of every possible hearing, secret meeting
or arm-twisting session in the Senate to stop the bill from passing that
The battle got intense and even dirty as CARA supporters tried to save the
controversial and unpopular bill. Supporters knew an honest, straight-up
vote would surely fail. So, as the congressional session came down to the
wire before adjournment, they tried a last minute effort to hide it in an
appropriations bill where it would automatically pass without debate or vote.
The effort failed and CARA was stopped a second time.
A last minute compromise over a lessor bill, dubbed “CARA Lite” was passed
instead. While “CARA Lite” appropriated $12 billion over six years for land
grabs, it did not contain the most dangerous part of CARA – the permanent
trust fund. Not satisfied with that victory, in the early congressional session
of 2001, Young again introduced the original CARA. Again CARA passed
the House Resources Committee and headed back down the road to passage. Again
However, in a dramatic, sneaky midnight play, just hours before Congress
adjourned for the Christmas holiday, Young again managed a behind closed
doors compromise to pass the American Wildlife Enhancement Act. Named “Son
of CARA” by opponents, the bill provided another $600 million in federal
funds to pack more private property under federal control. But again, the
“Son of CARA” did not have the permanent trust fund provision.
Congressman Young is determined to get that trust fund. So now he’s back
with yet another version of CARA. Once again Young has teamed up with California
Democrat George Miller to introduce the Get Outdoors Act (HR4100). Apparently
Young felt his act was getting old, so he’s changed the name.
He’s also changed his reasons as to why America needs to lock away millions
of acres of its landscape. The reason used to be the worn out and misleading
excuse of conservation and protection of the environment, but a clever guy
like Young can read the papers like the rest of us. And he knows that Americans
are now less interested in the environment and are more concerned with health
care; specifically OBESITY!
Believe it or not, Congressmen Young and Miller are trying to convince Congress
that locking away millions of acres of land will provide space for fat people
to “get outdoors” (get it) and solve the obesity problem.
As the bill was introduced at a news conference, Miller and Young came armed
with stacks of statistics on obesity to make their case. “Obesity is a public
health crisis of the first order, “ said Miller, “And the Get Outdoors Act
is a sensible way to help mitigate that public health crisis.” Young
and Miller comically try to justify this massive spending bill by saying,
“The $3.125 billion annual spending resulting from the Get Outdoors Act is
about 3% of the annual healthcare costs associated with obesity related illness.”
What they didn’t mention was the fact that the government already controls
millions of open space, which if obesity must be addressed in this manner,
could already be used without grabbing even more. They didn’t mention it
because their premise is absolutely stupid.
A good question to ask is how Young and Miller expect to get Americans away
from in front their televisions and computers to actually get them out doors?
Pass a law?
As Chuck Cushman of the American Land Rights Association points out, “they
could buy 15 million really good treadmills for that kind of money and really
help folks fighting obesity.” Even better, as Brian Kennedy, spokesman for
the House Resources Committee said, “It would cost the American taxpayer
less to get a membership at Gold’s Gym and actually work out than acquire
millions of acres of land in the name of health.”
But Young and Miller really seem to have their hearts set on confiscation
of private property instead. The two representatives were aided in their
absurd argument by Alan Front, senior vice president of the Trust for Public
Land, when he said, “Our open space is shrinking and our waist lines are
growing.” Cute sound bite, but it makes no sense whatsoever.
What does make sense is that Front and all of the usual land-grabbing suspects
were on hand to give support to the Get Outdoors Act (GO). Groups which never
cared a whit about obesity before are now backing the bill. They include
The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, the Izaak Walton League of
America, the National Parks and Conservation Association, National Wildlife
Federation, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and
several others who have been the leaders in pushing for federal land grabs.
Now suddenly they are backing a bill about fixing obesity.
What do these land grabbers know that Young and Miller aren’t telling the
rest of us? It’s obvious they know that the Get Outdoors Act is really CARA
hiding under a paper bag like the old Gong Show’s Unknown Comic, so you and
I don’t recognize it. Young says the Get Outdoors Act is not CARA.
Well, let’s just see, shall we? With GO, Representative Young finally would
get his permanent trust fund. Only this time, instead of a measly $45 billion,
the ante is increased to $58 billion over 18 years. Establishing the trust
fund would mean setting up a permanent entitlement like Social Security.
That means it would be funded automatically, no matter what happens to the
economy. It wouldn’t be affected by tax cutting policies. It couldn’t be
reduced. It would sit outside the federal budget like a big fat blob. Funding
the Get Outdoors Act would take precedence over military spending or medical
The GO Act claims that funding for the trust fund would come from offshore
drilling fees that the government collects from private companies. Young
claims that the money is already being collected and so the $45 billion would
not result in new taxes for Americans. That kind of accounting is typical
of someone who has been on Capitol Hill way too long. True, the money is
already being collected – and it’s already being spent to support other programs
– which aren’t going to go away just because Don Young has other ideas for
the money. To keep funding those programs government will have to raise taxes.
And what will the Get Outdoors Act actually do? It will provide billions
of dollars over 18 years to condemn private land and put it into the hands
of the government to be turned into wilderness. And don’t forget, every acre
of private land that is taken out of productive use reduces the tax roles
that will have to be made up by the remaining taxpayers.
It will pour millions of dollars into the coffers of environmental groups
that will use the money to promote more land control policies, sue individual
land owners and businesses.
The GO Act will encourage the designation of new United Nations Biosphere
Reserves and World Heritage Sites, threatening American Sovereignty over
our own land. Incredibly, Don Young was the author of the American Land Sovereignty
Protection Act that was designed to reign in UN Heritage Sites.
The bill will greatly enhance the chances for more roadless area lockups
that have been used to destroy the timber industry and in some cases shut
down whole communities. Once roads have been closed property owners have
found they have no way to get to their own house.
The Get Outdoors Act will allow environmental groups to actively look for
endangered species on private land. It provides $60 million a year to train
an army of investigators who will trespass on private land to locate and
police endangered species. Once found, the land will become unusable by the
private owners, effectively locking it away from private use.
The Get Outdoors act is a disaster to private property owners and to the
American economy. Young argues that there are protections for private property.
It’s a tired old lie. The “willing sellers provisions are always put into
such land grabs and everybody in Congress sits back satisfied that all is
well. Only they aren’t there to see the carnage that takes place to produce
a “willing seller.” It’s a little like watching a hot dog being made. You
don’t want to know.
Green groups armed with federal funds from bills like the GO Act, intimidate
and threaten property owners until they can’t take it any more. When they
finally give up and sell for 25 cents on the dollar they are called willing
sellers. Does anyone see these people trying to sell their land before the
greens and feds come marching in. Of course not. They aren’t willing sellers
– they are victims.
The Get Outdoors Act is CARA. It is a massive land grab. It is a massive
burden to tax payers. Its pretense of caring about obesity and public health
is a lie. Issues come and issues go, but Congressmen with hair-brained ideas
seem to plague us forever.
Tom DeWeese is publisher and editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA.
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