Surpluses, deficits, tax rebates - safe topics for political personalities. If we had a nickel for every time these words appear in print, or fill the media airways, each of us would have a tidy nest egg. Everyone's social security would be secure! Elected officials at the national level constantly revisit the topics of where our nation is in terms of debt load and paying down the debt----how very proper-----how politically very risk free.
Meanwhile, a far greater national debt is increasing at an alarming rate. This debt gets almost no attention from the only people in a position to reduce it. This is a debt of obligation. It would take political courage to pay it off.
The debt owed to the American people is total reform of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This debt is going unpaid and is being effectively ignored by those elected to demonstrate courage under fire.
This piece of well intended and much needed legislation is now serving to destroy this nation from within. Rather then help this nation mature as it deals with problems of the 21st century the ESA is resulting in the polarization of the rural and urban sectors of our society.
How many more fire fighters have to die, how many other Klamath Basin farmers, ranchers and wildlife refuges have to be deprived of water, and communities economically destroyed, how many other landowners have to be jailed trying to defend their private property rights before elected lawmakers say enough is enough? Unless our elected officials embrace the political courage to stop these civic, economic and social crucifixions there will be no answer to these questions. The debt will continue to increase as the obligation to fix this problem goes unmet.
Perhaps the three most significant impacts on urban arenas where the ESA plays a role will help to penetrate the political firewall behind which elected officials isolate themselves in order to avoid action. These are the energy crisis in California, the military's current efforts to seek revision of the ESA to allow for more defense training (LA Times, Aug. 27, 2001), and perhaps the most ironic of all, the current battle heating up over repair of the Woodrow Wilson bridge which connects Virginia to Maryland right at the border of Washington, D.C. itself.
Indeed, there have been some failed and abandoned attempts to reform this law. How genuine or politically motivated these efforts were is for history to judge. The lack of results is what is important.
Public policies that control water and wildlife are the same policies that control this nation from border to border. This fundamental reality seems to escape many citizens and elected officials. Neither water nor wildlife recognizes any type of ownership or sovereignty. International, national, state, county, private property lines have no meaning for these two resources. They cross all of these political lines as they cover the landscape. The ESA has more direct impact on these two resources then any other legislation. Control of these two resources directly effects food production, settlement patterns and access to and utilization of numerous other resources.
It is not uncommon for elected politicians to tell proponents of ESA reform that while they may not themselves agree with the law, too many of their constituents are opposed to reform. Therefore, they are not going to vote for or work on reform and run the risk of not winning the next election. This country can no longer afford to feed such selfish interests.
Elected officials owe the American public the demonstration of courage and fortitude to solve this problem. Elected officials of another time put this legislation on the books, and it is elected officials of the present who bear the responsibility to improve laws as well as write new ones.
Elected officials have a moral obligation to not allow their fellow citizens to be crucified and their dreams destroyed because they put getting re-elected over and above principle. Any elected official that is not willing to put their political life and future on the line to pay this debt should resign from office and/or be removed from office. This debt is that important!
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