Tuesday, Feb. 23, 1999 Exponent Editorial

It was a good week for the Blackwater; support still needed
        Friends of Tucker County's Blackwater Canyon heard plenty of good news last week.
First, bills were introduced in both the West Virginia House of Delegates and in the Senate that would close loopholes in state regulations that allowed Allegheny Power to sell much of the scenic Blackwater Canyon two years ago.
    The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jon Blair Hunter, D-Monongalia, would require Public Service Commission approval for all land sales by a public utility - including sales made by out-of-state subsidiaries.
    Second, and perhaps best of all, Allegheny Wood Products (AWP), the logging company that ended up owning much of the scenic canyon sold by Allegheny Power, agreed to continue working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and area environmental groups to protect endangered wildlife in the canyon. In exchange, the firm won an agreement to drop pursuit of a threatened lawsuit by the state chapter of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club had threatened the suit as a means of protecting four species of threatened and endangered animals that live in the canyon.

A couple of thoughts on these issues:

    Allegheny Wood Products owner John Crites took a big step toward doing the right thing for the Blackwater River and West Virginia when he signed the agreement that stopped the lawsuit. The Blackwater Canyon is a unique and beautiful resource (even for West Virginia ) and it would have been a tragedy had widespread logging been allowed to continue there unchecked.
    While the agreement signed by Crites and the Sierra Club will not put an end to logging in the canyon, the agreement does specify that the logging firm will continue to work with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered animals, and will notify the Sierra Club in writing when it decides to resume logging. As part of the agreement, Mr. Crites also promised to end current logging operations by the end of March and will share environmental and management plans on future operations with the Sierra Club.
    However, despite this good faith, first step by AWP, the battle to save Blackwater Canyon is not over the company did not agree to give up logging in the canyon. This means that the Sierra Club and other interested groups, like the Highlands Conservancy and West Virginia Rivers Coalition, must remain vigilant.
    Regarding the legislation offered last week to close the loopholes in land sales laws for public utilities, we urge our region's delegates and senators to support it.
    Vast tracts of West Virginia land are owned by regulated utility companies, including 20,000 to 25,000 acres owned by the out-of-state based Allegheny Power. West Virginians must have a say in how these lands will be developed or managed in the future.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which consists of William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 1999

Federal laws actually could be detrimental to fight against crime
    If America wants to reduce crime, Congress needs to pass tough new federal laws, right? Wrong.
Congress has enacted a flood of federal criminal laws since 1970 and they haven't worked. That's the conclusion of a task force sponsored by the American Bar Association.
    The task force spent two years preparing a report called "Federalization of Criminal Law." Among its findings:
-Congress has been busy. Nearly one-half of federal crime laws enacted since the Civil War have been enacted since 1970.
-States, not the federal government, do the vast majority of crime fighting in America. Ninety-five percent of all prosecutions nationwide are the result of state law enforcement.
- The new federal crime laws can actually harm the fight on crime by keeping federal funds from going to state law enforcement, where the funds can do the most good.
-The new federal laws can also harm the fight on crime by reducing funds for federal law-enforcement work that is not duplicated by the states.
-Many of the new federal laws (the report cites laws on drive-by shootings, interstate domestic violence, failure to report child abuse and murder by escaped prisoners ) are rarely used. "Several recently enacted federal statutes, championed by many because they would have a claimed impact on crime, have hardly been used at all," the report says.
    So why, then, has Congress been so eager to pass new federal crime laws? The answer is simple: Congressmen are afraid of appearing soft on crime. A heinous crime is committed; calls go out for a new federal law to keep it from happening again, and Congress obliges, even if there are already adequate state laws in place.
    "There is an understandable pressure on Congress not to vote against crime legislation even if it is misguided, unnecessary and harmful," according to the ABA report. "But there must be a recognition that a refusal to endorse a new federal crime is not a sign that a legislator is soft on crime."
    We suggest that every member of Congress have printed in giant letters on his or her office wall the key conclusion of the ABA report: "There is no persuasive evidence that federalization of local crime makes the streets safer for American citizens."
    Perhaps that would remind our congressmen that the way to fight crime isn't to add to the federal bureaucracy, but to make sure that state and local law-enforcement agencies have the resources needed to do the best job they can.
Tim Langer
Telegram Editorial Board member


Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999