Preserving the Environment and Liberty
January 31, 1996 — US House of Representatives, Washington DC
Mr. Speaker, it is a rare individual who does not want an effective environmental policy. Sometimes these policies, or the remedies thereof, have been called extreme, just like we heard from my friends on the other side of the aisle. I am one of the freshman Members, but I find it interesting that a party who has lost its vision can use only one word to define the other party and that is the word “extreme.” I beg of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to come up with alternative programs that will benefit the American people.
I just have to say Mr. Speaker, this was not a planned part of my speech, but I do want to say that it is private individuals who risk and who invest to employ Americans. I join the gentle-woman from Ohio [Mrs. Kaptur], a woman I admire greatly, about the fact that we do want to keep American jobs here in America, I do agree with her there. But, you now, we either have one of two employers: Either you, the taxpayers, are employing individuals through government, or we have private businesses employing people. I prefer private entrepreneurs in employing people and downsizing government.
Mr. Speaker, it is a rare individual who doesn’t want an effective environmental policy. We all want to promote the wise use of America’s natural resources, but the driving force behind our current policies have little to do with sound science, foresight, or reason. Instead, environmental politics are driven by a kind of emotional spiritualism that threatens the very foundation of our society, by eroding basic principles of our Constitution.
Mr. Speaker, if there is one quote I could center my remarks around today, I think it would be a personal statement made by Thomas Jefferson, who probably was the world’s greatest articulator of man’s heavenly endowed individual rights and liberties. Jefferson wrote in 1776:
“I may grow rich by an art I am compelled to follow, I may recover health my medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgement; but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve and abhor.”
Mr. Speaker, the very first clause of the very first amendment to our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and yet there is increasing evidence of a government sponsored religion in America. This religion, a cloudy mixture of new age mysticism, Native American folklore, and primitive Earth worship, (Pantheism) is being promoted and enforced by the Clinton administration in violation of our great rights and freedoms.
Proponents of this new-environmentalism are the first to recognize its religious nature. Just to name a few: Sierra club Director David Brower announced “We are a kind of religion.” Scientist James Lovelock, author of the bestseller “Gaia,” admits that “Gaia is a religious as well as a scientific concept.” Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, proclaimed that “it is not in God’s house that I feel his presence most — it is in His outdoors.” According to columnist Alston Chase, nearly all environmental leaders have conceded that environmentalism is a religious movement.
The trouble is that these sentiments are not just expressed by leaders n the environmental movement, but frequently, by government leaders who influence and promulgate the regulations we live under. When Vice President Al Gore was invited to speak at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, he sermonized that “God is not separate from the earth.” Espousal of this environmental religions by political leaders and regulators carries profound constitutional implications.
I recently came across the transcript of a speech delivered by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt on November 11 to a joint meeting of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and the American association for the Advancement of Science. It was entitled “Between the flood and the rainbow: Our Covenant to protect the Whole of Creation.” In this speech, Babbitt explains how he became disillusioned with Christianity because the commandment that man should have dominion “over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth” conflicted with his view of nature’s supremacy. “I always had a nagging instinct,” he explained, “That the vast landscape was somehow sacred, and holy, and connected to me in a sense that my catechism ignored.” Babbitt explains how a young Hopi friend taught him “that the blue mountain was, truly a sacred place,” and he became “acutely aware of a vacancy, a poverty amidst [his] own religious tradition.”
To fill this vacancy he adopted the new environmentalism, and he has every intention of regulating and enforcing his dream of utopia into reality.
You may ask, what is the harm of public officials maintaining deeply held beliefs The problem, Mr. Speaker comes wen those deeply held beliefs become the driving force for policy which that nonbelievers face persecution. Mr. Babbitt has made it clear that environmentalism — the religion — is driving this Nation’s regulatory scheme. This is a violation of the establishment clause of the Constitution. It smothers our values and threatens our liberties.
James Madison wrote his great “Memorial and Remonstrance” against a Virginia tax for the support of an established church. In it, he eloquently argued that a true religion did not need the support of law; that no person, either believer or nonbeliever, should be taxed to support a religious institution of any kind; that the best interest of a society required that the minds of men always be wholly free; and that cruel persecution were there inevitable result of government-established religions.
Madison was right. The backbone of America — workers, small businessmen, and property owners — are becoming victims of this new-environmentalism.
Businesses like Stibnite Mine in my district, whose mining operation was shut down for two years waiting for the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether they could haul supplies on a Forest Service road.
People like the Yantis family in my district, who were told by the National Marine Fisheries Service that they should just give up their right to irrigate for a fish that is not instream now, but could be one day .
People like a Minnesota farmer who had two 1-acre glacial potholes on his property. To make farming around them easier, the farmer filled one and expanded the other two acres. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers objected, and the Federal Government ordered him to dig out the pothole he had filled and fined him $45,000.
Whole families throughout the Northwest who have lost their jobs because government restrictions and environmental lawsuits have shut down the region’s ability to keep forests healthy.
Farmers in the Bruneau Valley whose livelihoods have been held hostage to a snail the size of a buck shot. The Fish and Wildlife Service has het to scientifically prove that farming activities have an effect on the snail.
For those of you who still refuse to see the dangerous character of an established religious environmental movement, let me give you another example.
Wayne and Jean Hage bought a cattle ranch in Nevada in 1978. The former owner had been forced to sell because the regulatory pressure by the U.S. Forest Service had become unbearable. But Hage was confident that he could work with the Forest Service to resolve any problem that might occur. He was wrong. Problems started when, without warning or notification, a nearby Forest Service Ranger Station began to pump water from acritical spring on Hage’s property into the ranger’s cabin. The Forest Service maintained a fence around the spring so that cattle could not drink, but, Hage felt that if the Service needed the water an amicable agreement could be reached. The Forest Service refused to cooperate, and when Hage held a field hearing on the issue, they launched into an all-out holy-war against the rancher.
For the sacrilege of questioning Forest Service actions, Wayne was contacted no less than 110 times with violations of bureaucratic regulations. Most, if not all, were wild goose chases, but each required time consuming and often expensive responses. The Forest Service even resorted to several armed raids on the ranch, confiscating 104 head of cattle and keeping the proceeds of their sale. Hage also faced felony charges for clearing brush from his own irrigation drains. The charges were thrown out by the courts, but this was the last straw — Hage filed a suit for the regulatory and physical taking of his ranch.
Unfortunately, CIGNA Corporation, the lender and lien holder on Hage’s property is one of the environmental faithful, and has been attempting to foreclose on the property to effectively kill the case. CIGNA is a major corporate donor to the National Wildlife Federation which is acting as a friend of the court on behalf o f the Forest Service. This is an organization that instructs environmental activists on how to use Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management regulatory power to “Make it so expensive for the ranger to operate that he goes broke.”
Mr. Speaker, there is something seriously wrong with this picture.
Environmentalism need not be a religion. It could — and should — be based on science and logic and aimed at secular goals. But Secretary Babbitt rejects the protection of species for potential cures for disease, or new strains of drought-resistant crops, or bioremediation of oil spills, in favor of uniting “all state, country and federal workers under a common moral goal.” He concluded his speech by affirming that “religious values remain at the heart of the Endangered Species Act, that they make themselves manifest through the green eyes of the grey wolf, through the call of the whooping crane, through the splash of the Pacific salmon.
The fact that this moral philosophy makes villains of hard working, productive citizens makes it repugnant to American values. The fact that it dismisses science prevents technological progress. The fact that it violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution makes it an attack on our form of government. And the fact that it places obstacles in the way of American prosperity makes it a threat to our children’s future.
Mr. Speaker, politics inspired by this new green religion are having devastating effects on my State. One example that I think exemplifies this new trend is unnecessary introduction of predators such as wolves and grizzlies against the will of the people and at great expense to the taxpayer.
Many people to not realize that the idea of releasing wolves in Idaho and in the west is not a new one. There were attempts as far back as 1983, when Senator [Larry] Craig held the seat that I hold now. At that time, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced this idea, the plan was quickly shelved after then-Congressman Craig held hearing in which obvious flaws of artificially introducing the wolves were exposed.
At those hearings biologists admitted that the wolf was recovering naturally in Canada and Alaska, where there are currently as many as 40,000 to 50,000 of the grey wolves. Moreover, the plan was soundly rejected after it became clear what the consequences would be of introducing a dangerous predator into an area that was no longer completely wild, but in fact, where there are activities such as ranching, logging, mining, and recreation.
The mere suggestion of introducing wolves prompted the State legislature to pass a number of bills prohibiting the introduction of wolves unless it was under the terms and conditions of the State. I would like to insert into the Record the testimony of State representatives Jo Ann Wood, who came before the House Resources Committee and testified to the long history of Idaho’s objection to Federal wolf introductions.
Nevertheless, when President Clinton was elected, Bruce Babbitt, the President’s appointed Secretary of the Interior, again resurrected the idea of introducing wolves in the West. This time, instead of trying to establish a sound, practical, scientific basis for the program, the Government promoted wolf introduction as a romantic notion of restoring the western ecosystem to its pre-Columbian state. Indeed, Mr. Babbitt has gone as far as saying that it fulfills a “spiritual” void. Mr. Babbitt proclaimed in his November 11 speech that wolf introduction efforts were driven by the “elevated nature of America’s conservation laws: laws with the power to make creation whole . . . . “ in essence recover “our ancient religious values.”
The Department of the Interior also responded differently to the avid opposition to wolf reintroduction by States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The Fish and Wildlife service promised the States that no wolves would be released until an agreement of how these wolves would be managed was in place. The Department of the Interior, in conjunction with the many environmental groups also initiated a large scale nationwide advertising campaign — in places where nobody would have to worry about managing the critters — to sell the romantic notion of returning these animals to the west.
Very little has been mentioned during the government’s publicly campaign blitz of the overall costs of the wolf introduction, which includes aircraft, ground vehicles, equipment such as kennels, shipping crates, sophisticated radar tracking devises, radio collars, tranquilizing guns, and extensive staff of biologists, veterinarians, technicians, and administrators — not to mention a massive publicity campaign. Added up, it amounts to about $1 million per wolf.
I first deal with Mr. Babbitt’s infatuation with the green eyes of the wolf just after I was sworn in to represent the citizens of Idaho’s First Congressional District. It was apparent that after the fiscally austere Republicans won the majority in Congress, Babbitt determined that the release of the wolves must be greatly expedited or his chance “to make nature whole” would once again be jeopardized. We found that his attempts to work out an arrangement with the States were not only completely disingenuous, but merely used as a device to detour the legitimate concerns of the States while he found a way to implement his plan. When Babbitt realized that his costly wolf scheme could come under scrutiny by this Congress, he went into emergency mode, bypassing all the processes, including State laws and section 6(f) of the Endangered Species Act which specifically requires the Secretary to work in coordination with the States in any introduction effort. He did this while ignoring the please of Governors and legislators to not proceed, but by actually speeding up the capture of the wolves.
By early January, just days after the new Congress had been sworn in, Babbitt had his wolves ready to be released at Yellowstone and in Idaho. My office received a firestorm of pleas and concerns from constituents and State officials calling for an immediate halt to the releases. In fact, one of my first official acts as a Congressman was to send a letter to the Secretary requesting that he halt any releases, and at the very least let due process take place. Babbitt defiantly responded by immediately releasing the wolves into Idaho — and even forging a highly questionable agreement with the Nez Perce Indian Tribe to manage the wolves.
Despite all, Secretary Babbitt proceeded with the release of his imprisoned green-eyed friends — although I don’t know how anyone can consider him a friend of the wolf considering the abrupt way these wolves were tracked won and shot by a tranquilizer gun, forced into a pen, had a collar placed around their neck, taken away from their native habitat, and released into unfamiliar and unfriendly territory. Moreover, problems resulting from the unnatural methods used became evident when wolves which were released into Yellowstone, that were under the care of humans for weeks, refused for a time to leave their newfound comforts and security. Even now the wolves, which in the wild steer clear of humans, are routinely seen — and quite possibly fed — by many of the tourists visiting the park. It is easy to see that the wolf program in Yellowstone Park has done nothing more than create more dependents on the Government dole.
The released wolves faced — and caused — even more dire consequences in Idaho. Shortly after the wolves were released in Central Idaho, a wolf was shot near Salmon after feeding on the carcass of a newborn calf. The body of the wolf was found on the property of a 74-year-old World War II veteran and rancher by the name of Mr. Gene Hussey. The reaction of the Fish and Wildlife Service was to initiate a full blown investigation that included at $500,000 autopsy performed on the dead wolf. The Fish and Wildlife Service obtained a search warrant, and without notifying Mr. Hussey or the local sheriff, proceeded to send several officers to investigate Mr. Hussey’s property. In a hearing about this incident held jointly with the Resources and Agriculture Committees, on which I sit, Mr. Hussey testified that on arriving home from his neighbor’s house, he discovered several armed Fish and Wildlife officers crawling over his gate — damaging the gate in the process — and refusing to heed his warnings to leave his property until the local sheriff arrived. The predicament escalated to the point that the Federal agents accused this 74-year-old man of throwing rocks at them, and rushed across a stream to confront him about it. In the meantime, the local sheriff, Mr. Barsalou was speeding to the scene — very concerned about the possibility of a violent confrontation. Fortunately, he was able to arrive in time to defuse the situation.
After some of the problems that we have witnessed with the release of only 14 wolves last year, I am amazed to see the media reporting the program as “remarkably successful.” I was even more disappointed to find out that even during the Government shutdown, and before their appropriations were approved, the Fish and Wildlife Service was busy preparing to capture another 30 wolves in Canada for release in Idaho and Wyoming. The Service has spared no expense and has let nothing stop them including inclement weather, lack of appropriations, animal rights protesters, the continued disapproval of the State legislature, and another call by this Congressman to refrain from capturing and releasing more wolves.
Apparently one of Mr. Babbitt’s green-eyed friends did not like the whole idea and bit one of his handlers before receiving the unlucky fate of being killed by one of the Fish and Wildlife officials. Of course, if I had just been tracked down from my home, snared, darted, caged, drugged, and jostled, I would have bitten someone too.
The truth of the matter is that there remain many unanswered questions and unaddressed concerns about the wolf introduction program. Despite the fact that the Government continues to disregard the wishes of the local citizens, to implement a program that serves no scientific purpose, creates the potential for more conflicts, and costs taxpayers a bundle, the Government and the national media continue to paint the program as a better than expected success with a few hitches. I believe this is because the media, like Mr. Babbitt, are not focusing on the logic or scientific merits of the program, but on how well it has fulfilled their own spiritual expectations.
Some wonder why I have fought so hard against a Federal program that has little direct impact on most Americans. I fight because I believe that we should be practicing great fiscal constraint, because excessive deficits threaten the future stability of this country. I fight because the taxpayer deserves to know that millions of their dollars are being spent on aircraft outfitted with sophisticated radio equipment which daily track a handful of confused wolves meandering about and stirring up trouble in the mountains of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.
I also fight because I believe there are deep implications about the wolf introduction program that affects all Americans — and that is the precedent it has set.
Now the Federal Government is finalizing plans to introduce an even more dangerous predator into the Selway-Bitteroot mountain range located in Idaho and Montana — the grizzly bear. Mr. Speaker, only a few years ago — the very idea of introducing grizzlies into central Idaho was considered pure lunacy. Why? Quite frankly, the grizzly bear, a species that now numbers over 100,000 in Canada, Alaska, parts of Montana, and in Yellowstone, simply has a propensity for violence against humans and animals. Last year there were numerous incidents of bear maulings during unprovoked situations. In one case a hiker was merely taking his shoes and socks off to cool his feat in a mountain stream when the odor of his socks apparently caught the attention of a nearby grizzly. And in the State of Wyoming and Montana, there has been an epidemic of nuisance, bears which have been killing cattle and sheep, and rummaging around human habitation. Some are even suggesting that the grizzly no longer needs the special protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Mr. Speaker, the response that I have received from my constituents — even some who do not normally agree with me — has been overwhelmingly against the introduction of the grizzly. I believe that some in the forest industry have been driven by fear or strong coercive tactics into supporting a program that simply will not work. Other than that, the reaction against the idea comes from all types of individuals and or many legitimate reasons. Campers and hikers are concerned for obvious safety reasons, and that many of the trails and areas would be made off-limits. Hunters are concerned about dramatic reductions in game animals population. Ranchers are concerned about the loss of cattle and road closures. Miners are concerned about the possibility of restrictions on their activity as well, and property owners are deeply concerned about bears foraging about their garbage, and around their homes. Overall, people are not only afraid of the potential danger of having the bears in their backyard, but also having severe restrictions in accessing the forests and lands, both for recreational and industrial purposes. In fact the public comments compiled by the Fish and Wildlife Service show overwhelming opposition to the grizzly introduction plan in the Selway-Bitteroot coming from places as far as California and Colorado.
Moreover, introducing the bear has little scientific merit. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not shown how the grizzly is vital to the survival of the ecosystem of the Selway-Bitteroot. In fact, no solid evidence proves that the bear once roamed there in great numbers. Some have pointed to a supposed journal entry by Lewis and Clark claiming that they shot around 20 grizzly in the area during their travels. Considering that no taxonomy was even in place at the time to distinguish between types of bears, it is ludicrous to use a journal entry almost 200 years ago as a solid basis of the facts. Finally, the small amount of data that does exist from previous attempts to capture and release grizzly into unfamiliar and rugged terrain shows that it is impossible to predict the behavioral response of the bear. I believe it is not worth the cost, both in human and budgetary terms, to find out. Mr. Speaker, considering the significant amount of opposition to, and the lack of scientific need for the proposed grizzly introduction, we must look again at what is clearly the real impetus behind this idea. Introducing the bears addresses only an emotional attachment to the romance of having grizzly bears roaming the wilderness. It contributes to Mr. Babbitt’s realization of the spiritual dream that he envisioned with his Hopi Indian friend so many years ago.
If environmentalists get their way with the grizzlies, there will be a devastating impact on the freedoms and livelihoods of my constituents, and significant ramifications throughout this country. I have seen evidence lately of ambitious goals by the Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups to populate regions of the West with thousands of grizzly bears. This would have the drastic consequence of shutting down access to many of our lands and forests to all human activity, including hiking and camping which virtually all Americans enjoy from time to time.
This would be a giant step closer to the utopia religious environmentalists are striving to create — a utopia where human beings have only as much value as the razorback sucker fish, and possibly less.
Mr. Speaker, this religious vision is not shared by every American and no American should be forced to promote a religious vision contrary to their own beliefs. The environmentalists want a new Inquisition to eradicate those with opposing views, and they have the might of the Executive behind them. This threatens, in the most profound way, our entire way of life. It is thoroughly un-American, and I won’t stand for it.
Source: Representative American Speeches 1937-1997, ed. Calvin McLeod Logue, (New York: H.W. Wilson), pp. 670-675.