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CARA "Compromise" To Be Offered NRA Directors;
Author's Home State Affiliate Wary

by John G. Lankford

November 2, 2001

KeepAndBearArms.com -- After parleys marked by abrupt schedule changes and executive sessions, a proposal described as a "compromise" on the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) is ready to be presented to the National Rifle Association's Board of Directors on Saturday.

The measure already bears the endorsement of NRA's Legislative Policy Committee, it has been reported, and may go to the entire Board with a Hunting and Wildlife Committee endorsement or other comment as well.

The terms of the compromise have not been disclosed. Due to the posture of CARA in Congress, however, any performance-for-promise arrangement would leave conditions placed on the Board's endorsement fraught with peril. CARA supporters within the NRA hope for any outcome that will permit the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), to continue its three-year, until-recently-quiet support for the bill. The Board has the authority to control ILA's stance by stating NRA policy.

From all indications, the NRA state affiliate for the home state of CARA's author, Rep. Don Young, R-AK, may be aligned with the New York and Arizona's NRA affiliates in opposition to CARA, even as Young presses for its passage. Due to Alaska's low population, Young is the sole Congressman from that state.

Affiliate Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) Executive Director Michael "Jesse" Vanderzanden earlier this month acknowledged AOC had expressed serious reservations about CARA in 1999 and then, when objections were not satisfied, opposed the bill:

With regard to HR 701 itself, in a letter dated Nov. 10, 1999, we expressed opposition to the bill after conducting an exhaustive review and watching our recommended amendments fall short of being included in the bill. Our primary concerns were the impacts to private property owners, a dedicated (as opposed to discretionary) revenue stream solely for the purposes of purchasing land, the public review and approval process for purchasing lands, and the potential loss of hunting, fishing, trapping, and outdoor pursuits on added federal lands. Please know that we do not oppose conservation efforts aimed at the long-term perpetuation of fish and wildlife, however, we believe it should be done in a scientific needs-based manner that incorporates the public into the process at all levels.

Vanderzanden emphasized that AOC members have not examined CARA, still H.R. 701, as it now stands, and does not at this time take a position on it.

Property rights defenders, however, maintain there is no significant difference between earlier versions and the current one. Stewards of the Range attorney Fred Kelly Grant, in his latest CARA evaluation, termed the 2001 version "a CARA bill carrying the same baggage as the last", and leveled these charges:

During House Committee on Resources open markup session on July 25, 2001, several amendments were offered which would limit the condemnation authority as currently stated in the Bill. Representative Thornberry introduced an amendment which would restrict use of funds to acquire land through condemnation. The amendment failed by a vote of 21 to 16. Other private property protections offered by Representatives Pombo, Otter, Walden, and Cubin were also defeated. The supporters champion their "willing seller" claim, but reject an attempt to limit condemnations. The message is clear!!

At the House Committee on Resources open markup session on July 25, 2001, Representative Otter presented an amendment which would preserve rights-of-way by restricting the termination of rights-of-way through acquired lands. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 19-15. The "access message" to outdoorsmen should be clear!!

At the House Committee on Resources open markup session held on July 25, 2001, Representative Pombo offered an amendment which sought to grant 100 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund money to the States without federal intervention. The amendment was defeated 24-16. Supporters do not want to diminish the potential for federal intervention, and expansion of federal power and authority. That message is clear!!

Members of Congress see the adverse impact on adjoining property to be a real, not speculative, problem. On July 25, 2001, Representative Pombo (R-Ca) offered an amendment entitled Protection of Rights in Non-Federal Property From Federal Acquisition of Nearby Lands, designed to assert the property rights of inholders and owners of lands adjoining federal lands. The amendment failed by a vote of 22-17.

Members of Congress recognize this as a real, not speculative, problem. Representative Otter (R-Id) offered an amendment on July 25, 2001 which would protect rights of ways by restricting termination of rights of way through lands acquired with use of CARA funds. The amendment failed, but 15 members voted in favor of it.

At the House Committee on Resources open markup session on July 25, 2001, Representative Walden (R-Or) offered an amendment which would require approval by a State of federal acquisition of land in a State where 50 percent or more of the lands are already owned by the federal government. The amendment was not agreed to, with the vote 15 for and 15 against. The message is clear that it will be very difficult to get any relief from the Congress for the economically strapped rural counties in the west.

Representative Barbara Cubin (R-Wy) offered an amendment which would limit acquisitions of property by requiring no net loss of private land. The amendment was rejected by voice vote. Again, the message is clear that western rural counties can expect no relief from CARA's debilitating provisions.

NewsMax.com reporter Wes Vernon in an August 20 story titled "Powerful Lawmakers Try to Silence Property Owners" charged CARA advocates had rigged House Resources Committee hearings to minimize testimony by property owners.

The American Land Rights Association, the Paragon Foundation, western land rights and lifestyles advocate columnist Diane Alden and NRA Arizona affiliate Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association all continue to oppose the current version of CARA on property rights grounds.

Performance for Promise?

Due to opposition on the part of some Board members newly familiar with CARA, it was decided the bill, and ILA support of it, would be debated at the autumn committee and Directors' meeting in Washington. The parleys were originally scheduled for mid-September, but were twice postponed due to the attack on America September 11.

Announced arrangements originally called for CARA to be taken up in the NRA Hunting and Wildlife Committee Wednesday and Thursday, and the Legislative Policy Committee, originally scheduled to meet on Friday, then, most likely, to be presented to the entire Board meeting Saturday and Sunday.

Instead, the Legislative Policy and Hunting and Wildlife Committees met together Thursday, heard presentations from Rep. Young in favor and Senator Larry Craig, R-ID in opposition, constituted a subcommittee, and referred the issue to that. Later, an observer said, a report was made to at least the Legislative Policy Committee, which endorsed what was described as a "compromise" to be presented to the full Board this weekend.

Two sources noted the absence of Rep. Barbara Cubin, Board member, CARA opponent, and member of the Legislative Policy but not the Hunting and Wildlife Committee.

One, a Director, reported being told "The Senate version (of CARA) is, apparently, very different from the House version." But a land rights organization lobbyist later said, "I know all the CARA bills backward and forward, virtually every line . . . The two Senate and one House bills are not very different, they are virtually the same."

CARA is currently represented by House version H.R. 701 as well as Senate Bills S. 1318 introduced by Senator Frank Murkowski, Rep. Young's fellow-statesman of Alaska, and S. 1328, introduced by Sen Mary Landrieu, D-LA. CARA's foremost House co-sponsor is Rep. Billy Tauzin, D-LA.

Both Senate bills were introduced the same day, the day H.R. 701 was favorably reported in the House Resources Committee, August 2. Both were referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Murkowski and Landrieu are both members of that committee.

Wes Vernon at NewsMax.com has reported that Republicans may, Young to the contrary notwithstanding, try to keep CARA from coming to the House floor for a vote. It is controversial among Republicans, and Democrats, all in favor, would enjoy seeing their partisan adversaries squabble, Vernon explained. That could block one way by which CARA could become law, by passage in the House and then in the Senate.

Should a Senate version pass, however, it would be passed to the House for action, or, alternatively, the House might pass its version. Either could result in reconciliation in a conference committee to produce a version acceptable to both houses.

In CARA's current posture, in other words, it is subject to negotiation, amendment, and possible compromise relative to positions taken by lawmakers on other measures, concession-trading, in at least one and possibly two committee sessions, as well as two -- probably four -- floor sessions in each house.

As a result, any decision by NRA's Board to maintain NRA support of CARA, attaching conditions, would be highly vulnerable to being honored as to the endorsement, the conditions being lost in the legislative process, and compromise backers later telling Board members -- sincerely or otherwise -- "We tried our best, but that's the legislative process."

Following the September 11 attack, some commentators opined CARA is dead for this year. Others, however, feared it might be included in emergency legislation as a rider benefiting from the rush to respond to the nation's new wartime situation.

What the Board meetings have made clear this far -- if nothing else -- is that CARA's sponsors, battling for it in the deliberations of one of its most influential hitherto-sponsor organizations, consider it very much alive and maintain determination to pass it, somehow, in this Congressional session.

 

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