By Brennan Long
Staff Writer, The Capital News Service
The Virginia Tea Party Patriots Legislative Action Committee opposes legislation that makes state rivers part of the Virginia Scenic River System, a river designation that encourages preservation and protection.
Carol Stopps, the head of the committee, said that projects such as Virginia Scenic River System aim to protect the earth so that people cannot use the land.
“When environmentalists talk about saving the earth, basically takes it away from human use in a lot of cases,” Stopps said. “If you happen to be living there or own property there you lose property value. ”
A scenic river system designation promotes sustaining important river resources and designating a river as scenic does not use any part of the state budget, officials said. To construct a dam in a river that is part of the system requires General Assembly approval.
“Benefits are that it brings a lot more awareness to the inherit resources of the river. It adds for some added protection for that awareness,” said Lynn Crump, environmental programs planner for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Del. James Edmunds (R-Halifax) presented a bill Wednesday that would make a 38.4-mile section of the Banister River part of the Virginia Scenic River System.
Edmunds’ bill passed the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee, and Del. Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg) and Del. R. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) were the only committee members to vote against the bill.
Wilt and Ware also voted against another Virginia Scenic River System bill by Del. Danny Marshall (R-Danville).
Marshall’s bill, making a 15-mile portion of the Dan River a part of the Virginia Scenic River system, passed the House on Monday despite 13 Republican delegates voting against it.
This is the first time that a Virginia Scenic River System bill has been contested in the House, said Edmunds, a co-patron of the bill.
“Some Tea Party enthusiasts see designating highways and rivers as a part of Agenda 21,” Edmunds said.
Agenda 21 is a non-binding set of guidelines to protect the environment that were established at the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit. More than 170 governments, including the United States during the first Bush Administration, ratified Agenda 21.
Donna Holt, executive director of the Virginia Campaign for Liberty, said that Agenda 21 is “a global to local plan to take control of everything from water, energy, housing, transportation, healthcare, pretty much every aspect of our lives.”
Del. Ben Cline (R-Lexington) is the patron of a bill that protects private property rights from the infringements of Agenda 21.
Cline’s bill says that the commonwealth will not “Adopt or implement policy recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe upon or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to, Agenda 21.”
Cline voted against Marshall’s bill to make a portion of the Dan River part of the Virginia Scenic River System. Del. Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge) and Del. Gilbert (R-Woodstock), co-patrons of Cline’s bill, also voted against Marshall’s bill.
A House Joint Resolution introduced by Lingamfelter proposes that the General Assembly needs to oppose Agenda 21, “due to its radical plan of purported ‘sustainable development.” Del. Christopher Peace, R-Mechanicsville, a co-patron of Lingamfelter’s bill, also voted against Marshall’s bill.
Crump said that despite the opposition to the Virginia Scenic River System, no part of the scenic river bills infringe on personal property rights.
“It’s out of a lack of education,” she said. “There is nothing in this legislation that keeps people from doing what they want with their land or doing what they want with their land in the future.”
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