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Rep. Don Young`s Speech to the Outdoor Writers Association of America

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

On June 27, 2000, Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) spoke to the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He described the mismanagement of funds intended to preserve our hunting and outdoor heritage and what steps are being taken to correct this serious problem.

Thank you for that warm reception. I am very informal in my presentations and I hope that someone will have some questions when I finish.

I`m one that will never criticize any area, because I always enjoy the whole United States, but I am a little prejudice about Alaska. If you get a chance and the board members have an opportunity and this association would like to really experience heaven, go to Juneau, Alaska. And when you open that curtain instead of seeing a parking lot with Dillards and Penny`s you`ll see eagles, seagulls, hopefully blue skies, mountains and glaciers. I suggest, respectfully, that you think about that especially when it`s very hot.

I love many things and one of them is the State of Alaska. I represent that whole state, my wife and I do, and have for the last 28 years.

I love my wife and my family, I love this country and I love my firearms, because without them I can`t have my wife, my family or this country. It`s one of the reasons I`m here--and I`m not a "Johnny Come Lately." I`ll just give you a little background about myself if you`ll bear with me. Sometimes that`s a little boring, but I hope it`s not.

I was born on a farm, or a ranch--they call it a ranch even if it`s an acre, but it was a little larger than that--in California in 1933, right at the height of the Depression. Keep that in mind, 1933, because what I`m going to talk about today, part of it is the year of 1937. My father gave me my first BB-gun when I was six years old, my first .22 when I was seven years old. The one rule he had was, whatever you shoot you eat. I only shot one mud hen in my whole life.

But being outdoors and being free and being able to think--now we were 40 miles from any town--I believe gave me the greatest background for being the congressman for Alaska. I went to Alaska 40 years ago. It`s given me the opportunity to do what I love most and that is to be in the outdoors, and you`re all Outdoor Writers, not all of you but most of you. You have a great opportunity because you form public opinion. We`re at the crossroads, I believe, of this society, which I believe very strongly, and that is the freedom of the individual, the freedom for my family, and to have this great nation continue to lead the world in the right to freedom. We`re at that crossroads and only you can, in fact, make sure that happens.

Much of the media, by the way, doesn`t believe that we should be that free. Much of the media believes that we should be controlled, urbanized, directed, dictated to. I don`t believe that. You give me an opportunity to have a young boy or girl to be out there on the bank, even with a cane pole and a bobber or with a .22 or even a BB-gun or a shotgun, give them time to think, to get away from the computer, get away from the TV, get away from the violence, get away from the negativism of the newspaper, let him or her think, you will have a free nation.

You cannot do that if you`re urbanized. You cannot do that if you don`t have that opportunity. We have the same land mass, in fact we have more of a landmass as far as availability to you and I, but it`s federally controlled. We have Fish and Wildlife people in the audience; some of them are good friends of mine. But we have a policy and a philosophy coming out of the White House and out of many of the think tank groups that say we must not, in fact, allow people on these lands --not to hunt, because that`s bad, not to fish, because that`s not right either. They are depriving us of the freedom which I live for and will defend. You have to start writing about the roadless areas and what does it really mean and how does it affect the individuals and is it going to be available. Are the streams going to be clean and can we, in fact, fish on them or are we going to have to get a permit every time we turn around from the government. Because each time you`re required to take a permit from the government you lose a little bit of that freedom because they dictate to you.

I went to Alaska for a real reason. I went to Alaska to be a trapper. The best thing that ever happened to me, though, was not trapping anything; it was catching my wife. Truth of the matter, I didn`t catch her, she caught me, and I didn`t know it. That`s the way it usually works. But she`s been with me every step of the way, a small village at Fort Yukon, 700 people, 675 Native people and the rest of us strange ones. I trapped and she supported me. I caught fur and I`m proud of it. I`m still the only the card carrying trapper in the whole United States Congress, also the only riverboat captain. And it has allowed me again to say and do what I wish to do because I believe in so much of that freedom which I cherish.

I`ve also hunted and lived off the land. I`m one of the few that have done that. Our total bill for food for one year was $1,000 for a family of four. The rest was all game, fish, and my garden. I say "my garden," it was her garden really. She had asked me to plant it and then she`d say it was hers when the tourists came by. But that`s what we lived on.

But it gives you the strength when you`re in Congress. You`re not a lawyer--and all due respect to the lawyers in this room--you`re not somebody that has this vision, who wants the desire to be recognized and written about in the paper just because it`s you. My goal is, again, to go back to what I said, the right and the duty to protect the freedoms of this great nation, and my family.

Now I know you heard from someone yesterday, which I have never criticized and will not do today, about the Pittman-Robertson Fund and the Dingell-Johnson Fund. This has been an interesting time for me, this issue itself. It`s not new. It was created in 1937. I was four years old. My first BB-gun when I was six, first rifle when I was seven. And at that time the sportsmen, the hunters and the fishers, primarily the hunters, during the depths of the Depression voluntarily said, we will contribute 11 percent excise tax on all guns and all firearms equipment to take and send it to Washington, D.C., so it could be redistributed back to the states for fish and wildlife programs because we recognize fish and wildlife--because of the Depression--being decimated. We must do something to protect and provide and sustain the yields of that wildlife, remember they did this at the depths of the Depression. And it was a sacred fund.

Around 1940, I believe it was, `41, we developed the Dingell-Johnson Fund, which works the same way. The Pittman-Robertson was allowed eight percent administration costs, eight percent. It was seven percent administration for the Dingell-Johnson, that makes fifteen percent of the total for administration. We believed as we bought that pole, the reel, the .22 ammunition that I was shooting mud hens with--a box of shells, by the way, was 28 cents--we thought we were giving 11 percent of that 28 cents to make sure that we had something in the future for the future generations--and it worked.

Billions of dollars were diverted back to the states fish and wildlife departments. It was the most successful conservation program Congress has ever passed and then something happened. And this is why I`m not criticizing an individual. Something happened under my watch, although I was in the minority we had my President, he`s still my dear friend. Up until 1990 it took less than one percent to administer the programs for billions of dollars back to the States, one percent of the total 15 percent available. That`s all it took. In 1990 someone in that department found out that there was a pile of money there that didn`t have to be accounted for and they put their hand in the cookie jar and they pulled out one little cookie. By 1992 there was one and one half percent being used on the administrative costs.

And it`s ironic; there was a chairman of this committee named Mr. Miller that requested a GAO report. In 1993 the GAO report came out that it was a program that was misusing--by the way, one and a half percent--misusing monies that were collected from sportsmen for other activities. No accounting was taking place. And that report got lost.

I truthfully, very frankly, did not pay as much attention as I should have. Two years ago, though, a gentleman came to me, Mr. Beers and said, "This is what happened to me and what is occurring in the Department of Fish and Wildlife."

He said, "I have been harassed, I have been demoted, I have been threatened, I have been moved." And I thought at first he was just a complainer. And then we checked it out and we found out he was absolutely correct, because he would not issue money through the program back to a state that requested money for an anti-trapping measure. That got me to thinking. I looked up the old report and I asked the GAO to make another report and they did.

And this is what we found. We found that money in the tune of about, we believe, $100 million. Now we`ve identified $45 million of your money, each one of you in this room that was spent, as the gentle lady said, on programs. There`s nothing in the law says any of that money shall be spent on programs, the money can only be spent on administrating those grants that were asked by the states.

We found out money was used to go to Japan and to Brazil. We found out money was used in other programs. There`s nothing in the law that says they shall be used that way. The discretion in which they use the money, in fact, broke the intent of my father in 1937 during the Depression. That 11 percent could be spent on anything they wished to do so. And they spent the full 15 percent for administration costs. And as the hearings went forth and as the time went by it became more evident each day that there was no accounting, there was no justification, there was total misuse of the monies into the millions of dollars--breaking your trust.

I said this cannot happen. I reintroduced this bill. We marked it up. It came out of the committee, then it went to the floor of the House. As I told Jim Baker, the best job I ever did and he ever did, he was very successful, the only problem is we did it too well. Only two people voted against it. It wasn`t a news story.

Every one of you writers in this room should have written about that. We have finally spoken. We have saved the program. We have saved the fish and wildlife. We`re going forth. It became a non-story. That`s unfortunate.

The bill moved out of the House, overwhelmingly, two votes against--by the way, both of them who voted against it said that there was money in it for the NRA. There is no money in it for the NRA; I want you to know that right now, unfortunately. But the fact is that`s why they voted against it.

It`s over in the Senate. And what we have to do, on the Senate side now, is keep the pressure up and get this bill before the President. Because you`ve been told, "Well, we can handle it administratively." You`ve been told, "We have solved the problem." It is not my belief that any administration should have the opportunity to misuse the monies as this administration did, and under my bill they cannot. It tells specifically what they cannot spend the money on. It tells you where the states can apply for it and what shall be the results. It`s very specific. It`s very clear. It limits the amount. It is the proper thing to do to reestablish the trust in the Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson Funds.

I need your support. I want your support. This is a very important piece of legislation to maintain, as I mentioned to you before, what I believe so strongly in--so I have the rabbit and I have the elk and I have the duck and the goose and, yes, even the mud hen. And my grandson and my great grandsons will have that opportunity to be free and to think and not be dictated to. If you do not help me I will lose that and my children will lose it and so will yours. It`s your responsibility as public opinion makers to be very, very strong in this issue. Let`s keep this country free. Let`s make sure we have a democracy and a republic. Let`s make sure as I walk down the street I can be proud to be an American. That I`m not letting the government dictate to me and I have the opportunity to be out breathing fresh air and listening to the quiet time and have my heart beat rapidly as I see the wildlife which I cherish.

I pledge to you to continue working as long as God allows me, my wife puts up with me, my children support me and, of course, my voters vote for me.

I thank you for this morning. I`ll open it for any questions. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Do we have any questions for the Congressman?

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: By the way, you get an "A" for raising your hand first.

It`s amazing to me when I speak before large groups how many people are afraid to raise their hand. And I say that with myself, I`m a little bit reluctant to do that myself. But thank you, sir. You get an A. Go ahead.

Q: What state applied for the anti-hunting money?

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: It was an Eastern state. I believe it was Vermont. And it was the gentleman, Mr. Beers, who brought it to my attention. We have it all documented.

Fish and Wildlife finally settled with him, by the way. They reimbursed his whole pay, with the concept he can`t speak to the public. That gives an example of just how far they went. In the meantime, they`ve also harassed one of his cohorts to the point where they`re going to end up having to settle with her too.

They`re not whiners. These people believe very strongly and have been involved in this for about 28 years that was his career, of providing money to the states that apply to the programs not to misspend it in other programs, because it`s your dollars. It`s just a very badly run operation.

But, again, what I`m trying to do is prevent any future administration--I can`t put the chicken back in the hen house right now. They say they can account for all the monies, and I believe they can. They can account for the trips to Japan, about $100,000 worth of trips to Japan. That`s your dollars. They can account for the reintroduction of the red wolf in the lower 48. Yes, that`s your dollars. That`s not what the state applied for.

I can go on down the list of things that they used the money for, the slush fund. They used the money to do things that the Congress would not appropriate the dollars for. That`s my objection. If they wanted those monies they should have come to Congress. We could have decided "yes" or "no." But they used that money they collected from you, voluntary collected. You offered it and then they misspent it , and it didn`t help out the fish and wildlife of this nation. That`s what really frustrates me the most.

What else we got? Yes, sir.

Q: What`s the bill number?

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: The number? You know, I`m a senior citizen? I`m sure Jim Baker`s got the number of the bill. I passed that bill about--it`s not 701. That`s the C.A.R.A. bill.

JIM BAKER: It`s 2609 in the Senate.

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: 2609 in the Senate.

JIM BAKER: There`s some articles and information here on this table that have a lot of background on this issue so please help yourself on the way out.

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: Yes, sir.

Q: (Off mike.)

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: My C.A.R.A. bill.

This is an interesting thing, for most of you who might follow my career. I was a little bit concerned. I spent two years working on this bill. It was George Miller and Bruce Vento and every greenie in the world and Richard Pombo and we finally came together with a bill that I believe is a pretty good bill. I got thoroughly criticized for my private property rights people, which I got 100 percent with. But it`s a lot better than present law.

It does give a tremendous amount of money back to the states for fish and wildlife. I want you to understand, it is the best-funded fish and wildlife program we have. It passed the House, 315 votes, which is a large amount. I got a majority on my side and, of course, a majority on the other side. It`s over in the Senate. I believe we have an excellent chance for passage. I have one slight problem. Bruce Babbitt`s come out opposed to it now and saying it`s too conservative. We need to have more authority to buy more land. We have to have more authority to restrict use of that land. I don`t want the government to have any more authority. I`ve got enough of that right now.

Now I`ll give it to the states. This is the great United States of America. And whoever came up with the idea that it has to be run from Washington, D.C., I hope they all sink very slowly into the mud.

He`s kicking me off stage. He flew me all the way down here last night, I got four and a half hours sleep, and he says I`ve only got time for one more question. Bless your heart, Jim. I love you.

Yes, sir.

Q: Vice President Gore is now under criminal investigation for illegal campaign fund raising. Part of that investigation pertains to allegations that e-mail backup tapes were destroyed or erased. I understand that part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service case also involves allegations that e-mails were erased or destroyed in an attempt to conceal records of financial irregularities. Is that true?

CONGRESSMAN YOUNG: The criminal part of the program. We are still pursuing that.

The question was about e-mail being destroyed in the Fish and Wildlife Department, that`s true. That`s under further investigation.

I will tell you, if we can find the computer of Al Gore`s we`ll get it back. I learned something, by the way, all of you in this room, you`re all writers, if you think--the only way you`re ever going to erase the computer is to burn it.

I found one in Seattle, Washington--excuse me, I have an expert in Seattle came back. We`ve got another investigation on Pogo and the Marianas. We got the guy`s computer. They had erased everything. We recovered it all. It`s amazing what they can do.

I thank you all for being an attentive audience. Come to Juneau.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.