On the Record: U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) Discusses CARA

Last year, Alaska Republican Don Young convinced three-fourths of the U.S. House of Representatives to support his Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 2000 (CARA), only to see it die in the Senate despite support from state and local governments, thousands of outdoor advocacy groups, and more than sixty Senators.

CARA would have dedicated over $3 billion each year for the next 15 years to a host of federal, state and local conservation initiatives including wildlife protection, coastal restoration, historic preservation, and urban park projects. Instead, Congressional appropriators committed reduced, one-time funding to address some of the bill's priorities in a package Young and his supporters dubbed "CARA-lite".

Today (6/20), Young began anew his push to pass CARA, as the House Resources Committee he chaired until last year heard testimony on the bill in Washington.

Stateline.org : Why is the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) so important to you?

Rep. Young : Well, number one, I believe it's a great legacy for the future generations to have wildlife available. Open space is necessary, as is the states making decisions that are pro-conservation. And I believe CARA does this. We put a lot of time in it last year. We had over 5,000 support groups and 315 votes in the House. It had great momentum and we're going to start it again. I think what spells out the need for it is [that in] the appropriation process already they've cut way back on the so-called CARA-lite. And so I think this has to be established as an entitlement for conservation.

Stateline.org : Is the momentum behind CARA as strong now as it was a year ago?

Rep. Young : Not yet. I think it will occur. You know, you never win at these things if you don't keep at it. I think people recognize the need for this. They haven't felt the effect of what the recent Interior appropriation bill has done which has cut most all the money out that they got last year. And so they're back to square one. Once people find this out - especially for historic preservation, urban parks, you know, the soccer moms, the fish and wildlife groups, the outdoor users - when they see what's happened I think there's going to be a great groundswell. We're just going ahead. We've got 218 co-sponsors now. We're going to try to get more co-sponsors in the very near future. We'll just keep at it.

Stateline.org : Is this the year for CARA to pass?

Rep. Young : I thought it was last year. You know, I did my job. And I'm going to try to do my job this year. It's all up to the Senate. I think there's a greater possibility of it happening this year than last year on the Senate side and I'll say without reservation that it's not going to be easy. I've been working with the President and hope he will come out. And though President Clinton said he supported it, his own people were trying to kill it last year. [Former Council on Environmental Quality chairman] George Frampton hated this bill and [former Interior Secretary] Bruce Babbitt hated it because it took away the control from the federal agencies and gave it to the state agencies. Of course, they don't like that. They like big government. And I like the states to get a better shot at how they should be running their states.

Stateline.org : So why is the state-based funding component of this so important? Is that the thorny point for the bill's opponents?

Rep. Young : No, the thorny point comes really from the so-called private property rights groups. I'm a big property rights guy, I got an award from them last year. But the point is, under my bill, there are some protections [that don't exist] under present law. And I've said all along, if you like the present law, if you think it's great, don't come crying to me if you won't support CARA, because CARA itself protects the private property people. The first time they [government agencies] had to have not only the notification, they had to have a justification and then they had to have authorization before they could buy property. Right now, they buy more property than they've ever bought before with no justification and really no authorization and through condemnation. And under my bill, that can't happen.

Stateline.org : And what about the state funding?

Rep. Young : To me, the state basis is that they can have a better decision on how to manage their land and what is important as far as conservation and fish and wildlife go, what urban parks are needed, what historical preservation should take place.

Stateline.org : Are there important substantive differences this time around?

Rep. Young : Very little. It's basically the exact same bill.

Stateline.org : What difference will the change of control in the Senate make to the success or failure of this bill?

Rep. Young : I don't know. I think it helps us out. But you know, it's hard to say. There's not much difference as far as votes go. It's still 50 votes one way or the other.

It's a good bill. I hope America wakes up to it and gets on the bandwagon as they were last year.


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