American Heritage Rivers Advisory Committee to Convene “Kangaroo Court”

Property rights activists ­ including one dressed as a kangaroo – will brand the first meeting of the American Rivers Advisory Committee a “kangaroo court” at a protest outside the meeting on May 11 beginning at 8:45 A.M. at 726 Jackson Place, N.W. (along the western border of Lafayette Park).

The American Rivers Advisory Committee is tasked with recommending rivers for designation as “American Heritage Rivers” (AHR) under President Clinton’s American Heritage Rivers Initiative. The initiative, designed ostensibly to ensure “natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation,” has many property owners concerned. They have good reason to be concerned as AHR designation could permit the federal government to influence local zoning decisions. Because federal dollars would flow to the ten river communities receiving AHR designation, property owners also fear their local communities will be enticed to impose new restrictions on private property to obtain one of the coveted designations.

Property rights activists are calling the AHR Advisory Committee meeting a “kangaroo court” because the public will not be permitted to make oral statements at the meeting. Because the Advisory Committee consists of only people handpicked by the Clinton Administration, this gag rule ensures that the discussion will be one-sided. It also excludes input from those who will be affected the most by the Advisory Committee deliberations.

Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), a strong defender of private property rights and staunch opponent of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative, will speak outside the meeting about her concerns about the AHR designation process.

“We have many concerns about how this meeting is being conducted,” Representative Chenoweth wrote in a letter to Council on Environmental Quality Chair Kathleen A. McGinty. “Sixty Members of Congress sent you a letter on February 10 requesting that this advisory committee hold one day of public hearings in Washington D.C This would have been the only opportunity for this panel to hear directly from local citizens who would be impacted by river designation.”

Last December, Representative Chenoweth was the lead litigant in a suit against the Clinton Administration charging that the American Heritage Rivers Initiative was an unconstitutional infringement on congressional authority. Representatives Richard Pombo (R-CA), Don Young (R-AK) and Bob Schaffer (R-CO) were also involved in the suit. Though the case was dismissed on March 2, Chenoweth filed an appeal on March 17 with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

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