Testimony of Michael Hardiman
American Land Rights Association
Environment and Public Works Committee
Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Regarding S. 25, S. 2123 and S. 2181, legislation creating a trust fund from a portion of Outer Continental Shelf revenue.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for inviting me to testify today.

I represent the American Land Rights Association. ALRA is a twenty-three year old nationwide grassroots organization that advocates private property rights and recreational and commercial access to federal lands. Our membership includes small property owners and federal permitees in all fifty states.

Personally, I am an inholder of private property located in California that is surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management. I purchased the parcel eleven years ago, anticipating that access to government owned land would continue to be cut off by the Desert Protection Act and other laws. That prediction has certainly held true. I use the property for recreational purposes such as camping and as a base camp for rock climbing and hiking.

On a per capita basis, S. 2123 is a remarkable cash cow for two states, Louisiana and Alaska. The average state benefits less than $11 per person, per year from CARA. Louisiana benefits $71 per capita, more than six times the average, and Alaska rakes in $266 per capita annually, or twenty-four times what the average state receives.

These two states may have legitimate claims to the funds. However, I implore the Senate to avoid the creation of a $45 billion, fifteen year land acquisition trust fund in order to satisfy those claims. It will provide the power and money for government agents to kick people like me off my land.

Overzealous regulators, joined by environmental pressure groups, both have a front row seat on the CARA grant money gravy train. They will make folly of the "willing seller" clause by harassing owners of properties targeted for acquisition and discouraging other potential buyers. It is not possible to negotiate as a "willing seller" when government is the only buyer.

Every owner of a ranch, woodlot, or game preserve will be at risk of being targeted by government agencies working in tandem with environmental, anti-hunting and animal rights pressure groups. Ironically, since they hold the most desirable properties, private landowners who have been the most diligent caretakers of their holdings will be on top of the land grab list for government takeover.

The umbrella group that is coordinating the campaign in support of CARA is an outfit called Americans for Heritage and Recreation. Proudly displayed on their website are their Guiding Principles which include this statement regarding property rights protections:

"AHR adamantly opposes any restrictions on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, especially those that limit acquisition to federal inholdings or adjacent lands, employ arbitrary geographic restrictions on the use of funds, require new authorizations, or prevent condemnation."

The differences between S. 25 and S. 2123 kowtow to AHR's demands. I will quote here a transcript of Senator Murkowski discussing land acquisition on Alaska Public Radio on May 9, just two weeks ago.

Murkowski: "This is the Senate Bill 25. It has to be within units established by an act of Congress. It has to be two thirds of the money spent east of the 100th meridian, which is primarily east of the Mississippi, and the purchases of over $5 million require Congressional approval. So we've got some safeguards in here that are responsible."

Caller: "Is the Senator willing to filibuster if those property protections are stripped out?"

Murkowski: "Well, I'll be happy to respond to the caller based on what kind of a debate we get in and whether this bill ultimately moves or not."

Those protections are in fact not included in S. 2123.

Furthermore, in accordance with AHR's wishes, amendments to prohibit use of CARA funds for condemnation of private property were rejected by the bill's sponsors both in committee and on the floor on the House side.

There are some hoops that the government is required to jump through on the federal side of Title 2, which is Land and Water Conservation Fund. But those minimal protections in S. 2123 apply to only $450 million out of nearly $3 billion per year that is disbursed.

S. 2181, Senator Bingaman's bill, is honest. It is a straightforward wish list from the most extreme elements of the environmental movement.

On the other hand, S. 2123 and its companion legislation H.R. 701 is a fraud. It is a political sell out of land owners in exchange for huge piles of cash for Louisiana and Alaska. In per capita terms, nickels and dimes are handed out to other states to buy them off. It is a tragic and unprecedented attack on private property ownership in the United States.

Attached to my testimony are additional statements opposing CARA from the Gun Owners of America, from a former Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Sixty-Plus seniors association and others.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, Mr. Chairman.