OLYMPIA (September 29, 2006) ― There is a traditional Indian belief that we do not actually own the land. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We are all temporary tenants and we’re responsible for its care.
It’s a concept that is as valid today as it has ever been. If people can begin to understand their connection to the earth, they will treat it with much greater sensitivity than they have over the past century.
These are the thoughts that come to me when I think about the so-called property rights initiative, I-933, which will be on your general election ballot in November.
To say I believe you should vote no on I-933 would be an understatement. You should vote “hell, no!”
I-933 is far more dangerous and damaging than you might think.
Other states, particularly Oregon, are seeing the horrible impacts of similar initiatives in the form of skyrocketing expenses and litigation. If this ill-advised initiative were to pass in Washington, heaven forbid, you will see more of the same. This is an initiative that would dismantle land-use rules designed to protect clean air and clean water. It will harm the land and it will steal quality of life from our children.
This initiative requires state and local governments to exempt property owners from any land use, zoning or environmental law adopted or changed since 1995, unless they pay the property owner for any impacts on property uses or values. It also applies the “exempt or pay” approach to any limits on logging, to shoreline protections, water-use laws, agricultural practices and many rules that help keep toxic chemicals out of rivers, streams, and Puget Sound. The Initiative requires extremely extensive, unnecessary and unpaid-for studies before your city, county or state government representatives can enact any laws to protect the land we all share.
Frankly, I-933 would eliminate the tools needed to provide badly needed protection of the environment and natural resources that sustain us all.
The Department of Ecology says I-933 would require it to either reimburse landowners, or not enforce the federal Clean Water Act. The Puget Sound Action Team says the initiative will greatly impair the shellfish and tourism industries, and may result in additional “dead zones” in Puget Sound like the ones in Hood Canal and off the coast. The initiative would seriously affect the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ability to protect fish life and would gut Washington’s forest practices laws. I-933 would cost taxpayers billions of dollars. In fact, the Office of Financial Management has estimated it would cost state agencies more than $2 billion over the next six years alone. It would cost cities another $3 to 5 billion and counties another $1.5 billion. It’s a recipe for governmental bankruptcy and fiscal disaster. Initiative proponents don’t tell us where all the funding is supposed to come from, but taxpayers have a pretty good idea. They know I-933 would cause all of us financial hardships, even as it destroys public services.
Proponents of I-933 claim it would save farmland. But as farmers read between the lines, they realize it would actually cause far more agricultural land to be converted to subdivisions. They’re abandoning the ship, and joining us in calling I-933 what it is—a very bad initiative.
Billy Frank Jr. is the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
For more information, contact: Steve Robinson or Tony Meyer, NWIFC (360) 438-1180