Rare face planning to attend Tahoe Summit
An annual summit that draws lawmakers and dignitaries to rally around protecting Tahoe’s environment will see a new face this year.
Staff at the Washington, D.C., office of embattled Congressman John Doolittle, R-Fair Oaks, said the lawmaker’s schedule did not allow him to attend the summit in the past, but Doolittle will attend this year.
The summit is at Sand Harbor on Aug. 10 and will be hosted by U.S. Senators John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev.
“Mr. Doolittle recognizes Lake Tahoe is one of our most prized national treasures and deserves our protection,” said spokeswoman Laura Blackann.
She said Doolittle’s environmental record speaks for itself, citing the lawmaker’s sponsorship of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act and $100 million in appropriations to the area.
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Others were not impressed.
A Washington representative with the League of Conservation Voters said Doolittle’s lifetime score on voting for environmental issues is 4 percent.
“It’s a horrendous score. We definitely view congressman Doolittle as a real foe of the environment,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, legislative director with the League, a non-partisan group that aims to achieve a pro-environment majority in Congress.
The lawmaker came under fire in June for blocking the sale of Homewood Mountain Resort to the U.S. Forest Service with a one-line rider in an appropriations bill. A longtime critic of the Forest Service, the congressman told news media at the time he wanted to know more about the deal.
His close ties with lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, whom he has called a “close friend,” have brought more visibility to the eight-term term congressman, who is up for reelection this year.
In June 2005 Tribune interview, he said there is “no debate on whether Lake Tahoe should be conserved,” but called for abolishing the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which regulates development here.
In an August 25, 1999, article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Doolittle was quoted as saying “The environmental movement will have its legs cut out from under it when Bush becomes president.”
His opponent in this fall’s election, Democratic nominee Charles Brown, said Doolittle’s first appearance at the Summit is pure election-year politics. Brown said Doolittle, after living in Washington, D.C., for 15 years, is finally realizing he should spend some time in his district.
“His record shows he is against any environmental protections,” said Brown, a Sierra Club member. Brown’s spokesman Todd Stenhouse said he’d like to avoid labels, but described Brown as a “traditional conservative” who is strong on national defense, ethical leadership and taking care of the environment.
Originally a Republican, Brown said he switched parties when he realized, “They’ve run away from all of the real problems facing this country.”
President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore kicked off the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997 and pledged an initial $50 million in funds for restoration efforts.
Ensign and Reid, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have carried on the tradition with a summit each year.
The Restoration Act was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, authorizing $300 million over 10 years for restoration, most of which did not materialize until 2003 when Ensign helped bring forward the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.
That enabled a portion of land sales proceeds in Southern Nevada to come to Tahoe to fulfill the obligations of the Restoration Act.
Tahoe is now on track to receive upwards of $900 million from federal, state and private sources.
Doolittle was originally opposed to the Restoration Act, according to Tribune archives.
Feinstein’s efforts to designate Tahoe as a national recreation area went too far for Doolittle and Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons, who said it would add another layer of bureaucracy in Tahoe, according to Tribune archives.
In 2000, extensive negotiations brought a bill that was agreeable to both branches of Congress.
During the 2000 presidential election, Doolittle mailed out a passionate letter calling for initiatives to “go on the offensive against the extreme environmentalists.”
“What I’m looking to do is not merely reverse the damage done but to enable the executive branch to work its will to counter that entire movement and undercut their sources of power. We must force them to spend money and resources, weakening their influence,” Doolittle says in the letter, part of what he dubbed the “Evergreen Project.”
In the letter, he also says efforts to get people out of their automobiles are anti-highway propaganda. The letter is widely available on the Web.
The evergreen project was a public relations campaign to promote the benefits to “green space” of pesticides, fertilizers and other lawn maintenance practices.
– Congressman Doolittle’s complete “Evergreen Project” letter is available at http://www.ombwatch.org/article/articleview/564/1/97
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