We thought it would be a freezing cold day in the deep, deep South before we would find ourselves on the same side of an issue as property rights activist Chuck Cushman. It turns out it was just a seasonably cool June day in the Woodland Bottoms.
The issue is whether the Army Corp of Engineers should intimidate a family of local farmers with the threat of eminent domain. The Corps want the Colf family to sell them some of their land for the purpose of either dumping spoils from dredging the Columbia shipping channel, or mitigating the damage that that dumping will do to wildlife habitat.
The issue is complex. The Corps, local port authorities and state government all have a role to play in the negotiations. At stake are wildlife habitat, local farmland and a shipping channel that serves the ports and which happens to serve apple and wheat farmers east of the mountains who would like to export more of their produce to Asia. It is a Machievellian dream. The opportunities to divide and conquer are nearly endless.
Mr. Cushman has weighed in on the issue in the past few weeks in editiorials and full page advertisements in the Battle Ground Reflector. He is urging voters to contact their Port Commissioners and voice their support for preservation of prime farm land and family farms. This is a first step with which we wholeheartedly agree.
Unfortunately, it appears to us from his most recent editorial that Mr. Cushman's interest is more in dividing and conquering, than in helping work toward a satisfactory solution to the matter.
Mr. Cushman would like to place the blame at Governor Gregoire's feet in an election year. He accuses Gregoire of not supporting farmers and supporting the use of eminent domain to take their land. He states, "If the ports don't use eminent domain, The Governor Gregoire will try to take the land and get the blame."
You see, the property rights movement supports the right of any landowners to do what they please on their land regardless of the consequences for other people or the environment, without interference from government. This movement is generously funded by large resource extraction companies who would like to be able to poison the ground and surface waters that farmers depend on to water their crops and livestock. They would allow mineral right owners to continue the practices of destroying the land of the surface owning farmers with minimal compensation, and without restoring the land to its former productive capacity.
So it doesn't surprise us that the goal here is to defeat a Governor who might control that activity, rather than work with that Governor to save farmland.
And so we offer Mr. Cushman this challenge. Engage the considerable resources of your organization toward working with the Corps, the ports, farm organizations and state government to find a workable solution to this problem. Do so and we will regard you as friend of the farmer. Refuse the challenge and at least these two humble farmers will continue to regard you as our lifelong opponent.
As for our fellow voters, we urge you to contact your port commissioners, Governor Gregoire, your Congressional delegation and President Bush and ask them to quit this kind of political game and sit down together to find a solution that will save wildlife habitat AND prime local farmland.
Diane & Jim Hunter
Hunter's Greens CSA
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