Thanks to the Sally Thompson campaign committee for their brochure, "For Sale: Kansas Land $24 per Acre," and to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The Roberts/Brownback Land Grab
"If you don't gimme the deed to yo' ranch,
I'm gonna tie you to the railroad track."
-- Along Came Jones, Ray Stevens
In 1995 when Brownback and Pat Roberts were in the House of Representatives, they teamed up and tried to sneak through a giveaway bill, H.R. 2644, that would sell Kansas public lands (which belong to all of us) to private irrigation districts (big campaign supporters of his) at only $16 to $24 an acre, exempt from EPA oversight! (See for yourself.)
Sam signed on as co-sponsor. When an alert Topeka Capital-Journal reported exposed the deal, public outcry was sudden and loud. Sam withdrew his sponsorship.
Among others, the present writer called Sam's office to complain. His aide said Sam was startled by the intensity of the reaction and had asked her to form an "environmental task force" so as to avoid being startled again. The task force apparently never materialized.
Eventually I received a form letter from Sam (dated 4/17/96) with this "bait-and-switch" explanation: "The price in the bill at which theb property and water rights were listed were intentionally a low starting point in order to force negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation.... The properties never would have been sold at this low price."
(About this time, Bill Myers of Topeka wrote a very good Letter to the Editor in the Topeka Capital-Journal about that form letter. You should read it.)
But, Sam explains in his form letter, these public lands should be sold at some price, and Sam will keep working to make that happen, "because I believe that Kansas and Kansans [i.e., Sam's agribusiness cronies] can manage the irrigation projects better than the federal government." He offers no evidence to support this conclusion.
Quoting now from "For Sale: Kansas Land $24 per Acre," published by the Sally Thompson campaign committee:
Let's Make A Deal
Pat Roberts introduced legislation to sell 33,000 acres of Kansas public lands to a special interest group with offices in Lincoln, Nebraska. The land will be sold for $24 an acre. The legislation, H.R. 2644, is still pending in Congress.
About 10% of the state's public lands will become property of the special interest group if H.R. 2644 becomes law. Included in the sale will be a national wildlife refuge, 3 state parks, 4 public wildlife areas, boat ramps, water rights, dams, equipment, and buildings.
Most of the lands and lakes are managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. These properties are managed for a variety of uses, such as flood control, city water supplies, fishing, boating, irrigation, bird watching and hunting. Many business people operate shops, stores, motels, and restaurants near the properties. The lands and lakes support abundant populations of ducks, geese, deer, wild turkey, pheasant, song birds, bass, walleye and other wildlife and fish.
Who sponsored this bill, H.R. 2644?
Who wrote the legislation?
According to Pat Roberts's press secretary, the special interests helped write the bill. (Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/30/95)
Who pays for the legal and transfer costs of the sale?
The taxpayer. (H.R. 2644, Sec. 3 (c))
If one of the 4 dams should develop safety problems, causing property damage or loss of life, who is responsible?
The special interest has limited liability. (H.R. 2644, Sec. 4)
Will birds and wildlife be protected?
No. Existing environmental and administrative laws will be waived. (H.R. 2644, Sec. 5 (d))
What happens to the land that was improved with hunting and fishing license money?
It will become property of the special interests. (H.R. 2644, Sec. 3)
Were public meetings held prior to H.R. 2644?
No. However, after the newspapers broke the story about H.R. 2644, meetings were scheduled for Thursday and Friday afternoons.
Has Pat Roberts withdrawn his bill, H.R. 2644, from Congress?
No. It is still pending in Congress. "[Roberts] said he didn't plan to withdraw the bill, but suggested that decision shouldn't concern his opponents." (Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/30/95)
What properties will be sold?
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge; Webster Reservoir, State Park, and Wildlife Area; Sebelius Reservoir; Prairie Dog State Park; Norton Wildlife Area; Woodston Wildlife Area; Lovewell Reservoir, State Park, and Wildlife Area; Kirwin Reservoir.
What do the special interests get for $24 an acre?
- 33,000 acres of public land
- water rights
- revenue and leases
- federal money
- buildings and equipment
- 4 dams
What can the special interests do with the public land?
Anything. Under Pat Roberts's bill "a transferred project or part thereof may be redirected to ... another use if the project beneficiary [the special interest] determines that the public purpose for which the facilities were constructed is better served." (H.R. 2644, Sec. 5 (b))
"[T]he bill has all the markings of an under-the-table deal that was supposed to be sneaked through." (Topeka Capital-Journal, 12/22/95)
"It was a land grab that would have made the 19th-century railroad robber barons proud." (Wichita Eagle, 12/6/95)
"A Dumb Idea" (Emporia Gazette, 1/11/96)
"Abuse of multi-use resources" (Lincoln [NE] Journal Star, 1/28/96)
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