Environmental Rules Steal Family Christmas
by Bob Adams
An opinion/editorial piece published December 1995 by the Environmental
Policy Task Force of The National Center for Public Policy Research, 20 F Street NW, Suite 700 , Washington, D.C 20002, (202) 507-6398, fax (301) 498-1301, E-mail
Perhaps it's no coincidence that the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas"
was green. While most folks are well acquainted with the Dr. Seuss character,
there's another kind of Grinch who will steal Christmas from Americans this
year -- unelected environmental bureaucrats. Some of the victims of the
government's "green agenda" would even make the mean-spirited Grinch
blush in shame. Consider the plight of these families:
- The Johnson Family of Forest City, Iowa, is being threatened with fines of
$25,000 per day and jail time for draining 36 acres of their cropland. They've
learned just how "Grinch-like" the bureaucrats can be when you break
Believing their property to be "nothing more than a
prime piece of Iowa soil," the Johnsons drained a portion of the property
to grow crops to support their family and pay taxes. But the Soil and
Conservation Service saw things from a "greener" perspective: They
designated the land a "jurisdictional wetland," took away their right
to farm the field, provided zero compensation, and now threaten the family with
fines and imprisonment for violating the Clean Water Act. All because the
Johnson family owns farm land that the government thinks should be protected as
an ecological preserve -- at the farmer's expense.
How on earth is my family to enjoy the holidays," said Johnson. "The
government won't leave us alone, we haven't had a wink of sleep in three years,
and now I have cancer."
The Johnsons' Christmas wish? "We do
not want to hear any more about this wetland issue. We do not have the energy,
the time, or the financial resources to fight this issue any more. My cancer
is eating me alive. The regulators could care less. We are human beings and
we don't deserve to have our land confiscated and to be treated so ruthlessly,"
said Harvey Johnson.
- The Lathrop Family of Granite City, Illinois, also received a government
gift of persecution this Christmas -- perhaps, even prosecution in the New Year
-- for helping to improve the environment and helping their neighbors.
Lathrop, a father of two, purchased a neighborhood dump for cleanup and
development. The dump was not only an eyesore, but the swamp land on which it
was built frequently caused flooding problems for neighboring residents.
Lathrop cleaned up the site and created a lake that solved the drainage
problem. In addition to building homes, he provided a wildlife area where
endangered egrets could feed. Just about everyone was pleased with Lathrop's
improvement -- local residents because the flooding stopped and Ducks Unlimited
because a wildlife area was created. Everyone was satisfied, that is, but the
Army Corps of Engineers. In a letter to U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun,
Colonel Thomas Suermann of the Corps' St. Louis District complained that
Lathrop's "intent" was to make a profit off his land, " ...not
for the conservation, flood control, or wildlife sanctuary purposes..."
that the development provided. The Corps accused Lathrop of violating federal
wetlands law and ordered him to return the land to its pre-dump, pristine
Steve Lathrop's reaction: "Bureaucratic-humbug! We
were actually helping the environment and my community. ...Government
bureaucrats have crushed my family's budget. I had to sell the icebox to make
Christmas for my family. We didn't deserve this from our government."
- The Spendlove Family -- along with many other jobless families from the
small town of Freedonia, Arizona -- learned just how hurtful an environmental
law can be.
Despite the risk of destroying 250+ jobs that families depended on,
the U.S. Forest Service closed down the Kaibab Forest to loggers to preserve
it for the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern Goshawk. The birds are listed
as "threatened" species under the terms of the Endangered Species
Act, and therefore the animal's habitat -- the trees -- are protected by law.
Young couples like Mr. and Mrs. Martin Spendlove depended on the local
timber industry to feed, clothe, and provide a Christmas for their three
children -- a seven-month-old baby boy, a five-year-old daughter, and a
nine-year-old son. "I've found a temporary job doing road work, but even
that won't get my family through the holidays. First snow, and that job's a
goner too. Santa Claus is gonna be much thinner around the waist and in the
wallet this Christmas," said Martin Spendlove, who worked for the Kaibab
Sawmill for nine years before it was forced to close.
"The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," of course, had a happy ending:
The Grinch learned that Christmas was about more than "packages, ribbons,
boxes, and bags" -- it was about Christmas itself and about families. The
Grinch's cold heart then melted and he returned everything that he had taken
from the people of Whoville. Perhaps there is still time for a happy ending
for American families suffering under excessive government regulation. Then
again, maybe the Grinch's heart is more easily thawed than Congress'.
by Bob Adams, Project Director for Environmental and Regulatory
Affairs at The National Center for Public Policy Research.
The National Center for Public Policy Research
20 F Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20001
Fax (301) 498-1301
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