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County leaders like Bush proposal

by Sheila Gardner

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush’s conservation plans sound like a page from the Douglas County open space preservation playbook.

County Republicans were in step with the party’s front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination after Thursday’s appearance at a fund-raiser in Glenbrook which earned $700,000 for the campaign.

“It’s absolutely awesome to see him fully embracing the Land and Conservation fund,” said Douglas County Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen, a member of a private and public coalition to preserve open space in Carson Valley.

Bush said if elected, he would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and mandate that 50 percent of the proceeds be spent on state and local efforts. Congress created the fund 35 years ago, and annual spending peaked in 1978 at $900 million. The level is currently $500 million.

“His stand on land and conservation easements is something we have been working on in Douglas County for two years,” Etchegoyhen said. “We’ll set the template here, and it will be applied throughout the West.”

Douglas County voters will be asked in November to approve an extra quarter-cent in sales tax to support open space preservation. If successful, the tax would generate $1 million a year. Over 30 years, the revenue could make up a third of $90 million needed to preserve 30,000 acres of agricultural land in Carson Valley, according to preliminary figures the coalition has provided. The group says the rest of the money could come from federal grants and private donations.

Etchegoyhen said he was heartened by Bush’s comments about repealing the estate tax so landowners won’t be encouraged to sell property to developers in order to pay taxes.

n Incentives. “If we’re really serious about saving the family farm, we have to do a few things,” said Etchegoyhen, ranch manager for the Mack Land and Cattle Co. “We have to make enough economic incentives to stay in ranching. A big part would be to get rid of the estate tax.”

Etchegoyhen said many of Bush’s remarks about conservation and protecting the environment were similar to comments President Clinton made during a summit at Lake Tahoe in 1997.

“It’s not a lot different from Clinton, except if he actually implements what he said today. Talk is cheap, and rhetoric is all we’ve been getting lately,” Etchegoyhen said.

Commissioner Steve Weissinger said he valued Bush’s apparent willingness to drop the “one size fits all” federal mandates regarding land issues.

“Bush seems to be open to a different mindset than what I’ve seen in the past 3-1/2 years from the Clinton-Gore administration,” Weissinger said. “It’s that ‘If it’s good for the East, it’s good for the West.’ If someone has different views and is willing to work toward a partnership, than I would welcome it.”

Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, a member of the Bush welcoming committee, said he was impressed with the Texas governor’s message.

“He is very straightforward and has a definite idea where he is going,” said Hettrick, R-Gardnerville. “He is a very intelligent and caring man. He spoke a lot about the American dream and what it means, that everybody should be brought along. I am probably biased, but I was really impressed with the man and his message.”

n Big bucks. Donations came from a $1,000-a-plate event for 300 supporters and a $20,000 per person roundtable for 16 donors who spent about 1-1/2 hours with the candidate.

Hettrick didn’t attend either event, but said the response was favorable from those who did.

“His message on defense was that President Reagan built it up, but it’s gone downhill ever since. We need to do more on the defensive mode, not the offensive. He said we need to have the rest of the countries become peacekeepers and the United States become the peacemaker, the ultimate power for defense,” Hettrick said.

“He made some great ideas in regard to education,” Hettrick said. “First, he said the federal government needs to get out of the way and let the local jurisdictions control it. He wants to set a standard and if it can’t be met in three years, give the money to the parents and let them choose their own school. He wants to raise the bar and not let the kids suffer and fail.”