I always get a kick out of the various so called “conservation” organizations that rate every legislator on various legislative proposals.  If one looks at them carefully over a period of time, you will see a regular consistency with them.  One is that Democrats tend to rate much higher than Republicans, and the other is that those in urban Virginian generally are rated higher than those in rural areas.  This makes little sense because most of us understand and appreciate nature - we live in day to day.  From their reports, you would believe we hate our natural resources and could care less about them.

Looking more closely at the facts, you will see that they manipulate the data to achieve the results that they want.  

First, they often give greater attention to that legislation they ask legislators to introduce.  They are usually Democrats they turn to for introduction.  They often select other legislation based, not on the value to our environment, but rather does it match their agenda.  Why do I get a kick out of this?  It is simple.  In each election, they use their ratings to encourage election or defeat of those who focus on their particular agenda.

They believe that we should put greater and greater restriction on our farmers; placing more and more costly restrictions on the operation of those farms.  They do not seem to understand that farming is usually marginal in Virginia.  This should leave little doubt as to why every year we lose thousands of acres to housing developers.  This is why I have consistently placed a high priority on cost share programs that help and encourage protecting our top soil and waterways. 

Fires

Is there any proof that some of these environmentalists are misfocused?  Simply look at the Pacific Northwest.  The fires in California this year have been much worse than most years.  One very important reason is the lack of good forest management.  The same environmentalists who dun us in Virginia for siding with them have so much political clout in California that they have eliminated forestry management.  They make it hard if not impossible to remove undergrowth and eliminate diseased trees.  Therefore, when lightning or arsonists start a fire, it is extremely hard for firefighters to put it out without the aid of rain.

We have had the same thing also happening here in Virginia in other years.  On federal land where, because of forest size or difficult federal regulations, those forests are always at risk.  

However, on private land, it is much less likely for a fire to get out of control.  Timberland held by private parties are more often managed to protect against fires.  The owners understand that they are at a greater risk of losing valuable trees if they do not maintain their timberland using best practices such as keeping fire trails open, removing dead and dying trees and removing undergrowth.

I believe and other rural legislators fully appreciate that our constituents do care about their land.  Land that in many cases has been held in their families for generations.  Surely, understanding of the best ways to protect their cropland, the waters that run through their property, and the assets on their land has changed over the decades, but the love of their farms has not.  Without excess laws and regulation, most will do what is needed to protect what they love.

Sen. Frank Ruff may be contacted at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, 434-374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA  23927.