Eco-Thug: Richard Pombo
Rauber, Paul, Sierra
When Don Young (R-Alaska) went looking for help in dismantling the Endangered Species Act, he passed right by moderate Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), whose subcommittee would normally have handled the matter. What the House Resources Committee chair needed was an Eco-Thug. He found one in Richard Pombo.
The 34-year-old second-term Republican representative from California's Central Valley boasts that he went to Washington specifically to rewrite the ESA. Pombo especially dislikes the act's protection of habitat for endangered species on private land. He once claimed that his own ranch had been devalued by a declaration of critical habitat for the kit fox. (In fact, no such fox habitat has been designated.) Pombo has a personal stake in unfettered development; his family's Pombo Real Estate Company is the biggest real-estate broker in San Joaquin County, and owns at least $18 million worth of agricultural land that is rapidly being converted to housing tracts and industrial parks.
Pombo has also asserted that he entered public life only after county officials insisted on building a nature trail through the middle of his ranch. "My family has been on that land for four generations," he said on the floor of the House. "If you take away someone's property, you have to pay for that."
The alleged trail is, in fact, a publicly owned railroad right-of-way the Pombos have been trying to gain title to for years. So rather than the government taking Pombo's land, Pombo was trying to take the public's land--for free.
The assertion of such "rights" makes Pombo a darling of the Wise Use movement. …