The ESA and its REAL victims: My ESA Testimony



Dear Congressman and Chairman Pombo and Other Members of the House Resource Committee

August 1, 2004

The Honorable Richard Pombo

Chairman, House Resources Committee

1324 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515


This testimony is more than five pages in length because it tells more than one ESA victim story. It is my hope that you will see its worth and accept it.


I am a resident of rural west-central Ohio, where in 1999 "possible habitat" for the Indiana Bat was used to attempt to radically change this prime farmland, production agriculture area with two hundred years of blood, sweat and tears equity. Here I am, when I owned, bred, rode and enjoyed my Arabian horses and drove trucks for a living, before all the horses were sold and the job resigned, in order to protect my home and those farms and homes of my Amish and Mennonite neighbors, who are great neighbors but not so good fighters.



The 'lead agency' was U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and its representatives from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and Ft. Snelling, Minnesota greeted us in January 1999 with FHWA Relocation Brochures.


Not only is anywhere "possible habitat" for anything, but also there are places where the temperate climate and soils make the case for "prime farmland" BEING the 'highest and best use' of the land. Feeding people should always come before "possible habitat" for a species that is very likely not even endangered in the first place! It took three and a half years before the USFWS, for the first time in its history, officially withdrew its 'proposal'. Its parting shot? Siccing the EPA and the Clean Water Act on us -- complete with the very same seven-score 'partner' NGOs. Now we deal with a 'watershed-wide' 'restoration' project that only knows how to con easements out of farmers and apply for and spend 'grant money', which in reality is taxpayer dollars.


I still fight, with a smile and steely determination, and will continue to do so until property rights are no longer in the crosshairs of the ESA or other destructive, unconstitutional laws.


The part of the Endangered Species Act that has arguably been the most utilized to destroy American responsible resource providing industries, custom, culture and economics, is the "throughout all or part of its range" section.


Is not the American Farmer/Rancher/Miner/Fisherman/Timber Harvester and private property owner now truly endangered throughout all or part of OUR range? Where is our protection against an unconstitutional law that has created more extinction among people (through stress-induced illness leading to shortened lifespans, suicide, accidents, and family violence) than it ever "saved" among flora and fauna?


I watched in agony as the Amish and Mennonite population in my rural area dropped like flies during the winter of 1998-99 -- due in no small part to the arrogant manner and intent of Thomas Larson, William Hartwig, William Hegge, "Buddy" Fazio, etc., and their seven-score "partners", ranging from The Nature Conservancy to the Sierra Club to the Audubon Society. Amish and Mennonite communities do not report their deaths like other communities. Many of these deaths were directly attributable to the heavy-handed aspect/spectre of USFWS in our area.


Here are the faces of the REAL endangered species that have been created and that the ESA as it stands has, is and will destroy:



This is Jesse James Hardy of Naples, Florida. The ESA has been used to put Jesse's life, his son Tommy's life and their way of life, in very real jeopardy. The excuse? The 'need' to reflood the Everglades: The Wildlands Project. I fight for Jesse and Tommy every day of my life, because them having their home is as important as me having mine.



Will Florida Governor Jeb Bush honor Tommy's right to have a home and peaceful, rural place to grow up in, raised right by Jesse Hardy, or will Gov. Bush help implement The Wildlands Project at 6000 Naomi Drive (a street named after Jesse's mother)? Little Tommy has suffered digestive upsets regularly, directly due to the stress that he and Jesse are being forced to endure, all because they love their home. They are no threat to any species, endangered or otherwise -- but the ESA is a Direct Threat to THEM!


Like Mabel Flanagan, who used to live along the New River near Hinton, West Virginia, and is now buried there, people die when exposed to Department of Interior agencies with agendas to remove them from their homes and ways of life. I wish I had a photo of Mabel to put here.


Mabel's story: After years of being assured a proposed new "parkway" would bring a better road that would lie gently on the land, have little impact to private property, respect private property along it's route, assuring faster ambulance service, safer school bus travel, a way to meet their activities of daily living, more than 100 private property owners were invited to a West Virginia Division of Highways walk through type "public" meeting in September, 1999.  There was an ARMED GUARD at the door, inadequate seating, forcing those property owners to stand at tables in a long lines, waiting to get answers to "WHY are you taking ALL my land (and giving it to the National Park Service)?" Mabel Flanagan, an 84-year-old widow, was one of those private property owners waiting in line for answers. On one large display board, was a picture of Mabel's home.  (A home she had built, raised her family in, years before that road was much more than a mud rutted weed strangled one-car-tire path along the New River) Through digital imagery in the next picture, Mabel's home had been blipped into oblivion to display how "nice" it would look once Mabel's home was gone! Mabel grabbed her chest and had to be taken home, never to leave her home again except to go to a doctor. In a TV interview with Mabel a few days later, the camera scanned into her little 84 year old wrinkled face, and with a teared twinkle in her eye, Mabel said, "I want to die in my home on the New River". Mabel Flanagan got her wish  last summer. Was this woman sent to an early grave because of worrying about the government stealing her home right out from under her? And the NPS never shed a tear. Many species of animal, including ducks, Canadian geese, toads, great blue heron, green heron, beaver, eagles, and minks, have returned to the valley after years of being gone. The new plan threatens to drive them off again, and at the same time destroy other native species of plant and animal life. Is this the real intent of the ESA?

Mr. William Richmond is a direct descendent of the Richmond Family who settled the Valley over 200 years ago and still owns the same farm today.

Ann Roach and the fine home that she and Bruce built. In a letter to Senator Robert C. Byrd, Marie Rust, National Park Service Regional 3 Director, wrote they wanted to take my house because it DOES NOT MEET SCENIC VALUE


Sheila Davis, whose health has been ruined by this fight to keep her home on the New River at Jumping Branch, West Virginia. In her early forties, Sheila had a stroke a few months ago. Can this be laid at the foot of the ESA? Think about it.

Ann and Bruce Roach, like Sheila Davis, William Richmond, Mabel Flanagan, Art and Loretta Sanda, Cindy Mullins and many others, should NOT be "relocated" because of the ESA and its tentacles.

I'd guess that not many of you know who this man is -- but you ALL should. He is one of the very, very few that understand American Sovereignty and what it means to our freedom. He is U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo from Colorado (on the left), patrolling our international border with a Border Patrol agent. Tom is pictured here on the U.S. side of the border of Arizona and Mexico.

While so-called 'environmentalists' would obliterate our border in order to 'make' a 'wildlife corridor' (when was the last time you saw an animal reading a sign that said where it should travel and where it shouldn't?), they don't tell the public about the horrific invasion of our country that is taking place by ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, AND the mountains of TRASH and WASTE (including human waste) that, in my studied opinion, pose far greater a 'threat' to wildlife than any farmer or rancher's land ever could. This is the same border where the Audubon Society and Nature Conservancy own land -- which looks very much like the photo below. How many donations do you think these self-proclaimed 'environmentalists' would get if a lot more people knew that it really has NOTHING to do with flora and fauna, but rather EVERYTHING to do with grabbing more and more property and more and more CONTROL?

Please tell me how this TRASH, left by hordes of Illegal Aliens and Illegal 'Immigrants' (NOT "guest workers") provides any kind of healthful 'habitat' for wildlife, humans or any plants or animals. Cattle ingest the plastic bags and DIE horrible deaths. Disease and disease-carrying rodents and insects abound. Where is the original intent of the ESA at the American-Mexican border, and WHY is it so conspicuous by its absence? Tom Tancredo wants to know and so do I and many others! Where are the 'environmentalists' and 'conservationalists'? I don't see a single one of them cleaning up the trash or patrolling the borders to 'protect and restore' the wildlife, do you? How important to real endangered species do you think the ESA is?

This is truly a man's man: Wayne Hage. Due to the misuse and abuse of the ESA, Wayne's Pine Creek Ranch in Nevada -- from his family and ranching business to the land itself and the animals and plants on that land -- have been put directly in harm's way. Wayne buried his first wife, Jean, because of the stress of the ESA being levied wrongly to take his ranch. Now he has been blessed with another courageous woman, his wife Helen, former U.S. Congresswoman from Idaho. It looks like David has beaten Goliath, but at an unfathomable cost. If not for the ESA and its implementers, the BLM and Forest Service, would Jean Hage be alive today, enjoying their dream ranch? Think about it.

Sherry and Kit Laney, New Mexico ranchers, have been domestically terrorized by employees of the Forest Service, ostensibly 'enforcing' the ESA by saying that the Laney's grazing permits were invalid. In a twenty-first century cattle and horse rustling that has become all too common with the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, the Laneys now know what it is like to be victims of the ESA. Like Mary and Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Indians and Nevada ranchers, private property was invaded and livestock was STOLEN, in the name of the ESA. Some of the Dann's horses died of STARVATION at the hands of the BLM-hired 'wrangler' that stole them. Horses that belonged to Sherry Laney and her sister were also put under high stress and poor 'care' by such 'hired guns.'

Look at this photo very carefully. It contains the names of four young firefighters who died in the Thirtymile Fire BECAUSE OF THE ESA on July 10, 2001. The farmers and irrigators that stood watch at the Klamath Headgates honored these four dead young people with a large cross with their names on it at the entrance to the Headgates Camp. I drove from Ohio to Oregon to stand with them and saw this cross many times during the eleven days I was there.


J. JOHNSON (Jessica)


D. WEAVER (Devin)

These four young men and women should still be alive, but for the abuse of the ESA, dying during the hours while waiting for 'permission' to scoop water that 'might harm' an 'endangered' fish. What a waste of human life! This SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED.

Because this is REAL and truly shows that many, many people have been made victims of the ESA, I paste the article about Tom, Jessica, Karen, and Devin's funerals. Should the House Resources Committee care to contact the reporter, her phone number and email address are included. I'll bet she never forgets the grief that rippled out from those four deaths through their families and friends.

Solemn services for Thirtymile Fire victims draw hundreds


July 17, 2001

By Margaret Taus or 425-497-0907

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter

Seattle, Washington

Yakima, Washington - On Devin Weaver's first day of first grade, his teacher walked him to the car where his parents waited to pick him up and simply explained, "We had tears today."

The 21-year-old's father, Ken, recalled the memory yesterday as about 500 friends, family members and fellow firefighters said their last goodbyes to the young man who died last week with three others in a blaze north of Winthrop in north-central Washington.

"So Devin, as we're all here today in your loving memory, I can still hear the words that I heard so long ago: 'We had tears today,'" his father said.

Weaver's funeral at Holy Family Church was the first of two yesterday in Yakima. Several hundred mourners gathered at a hillside cemetery and crowded into West Valley High School to remember Jessica Johnson, 19, who also died in the Thirtymile Fire.

On July 10, Weaver, Johnson, Tom Craven, 30, and 18-year-old Karen Fitzpatrick were killed when a forest fire blew up in the Chewuch River Canyon in the Okanogan National Forest, trapping 21 firefighters and two campers.

Craven's funeral was Saturday; Fitzpatrick will be buried today.

The blaze, started by an unattended campfire, has grown to 10,000 acres since it was first spotted July 9.

Weaver, Johnson and Fitzpatrick were in their first fire season with the U.S. Forest Service. Craven had fought fires for about a dozen years.

Weaver was remembered yesterday as a quiet man who spoke with his actions and loved the outdoors. The memorial card for the service depicted a forest waterfall.

"Devin was a doer, not a talker," the Rev. Steve Barker said. "He loved with actions more than words."

He showed that affection by taking care of his two sisters' cars, tackling chores around home and always being willing to lend a hand, his father said, speaking lovingly of the aspiring engineer who always wore a dirty baseball cap, a white T-shirt a size too small, tight jeans and size 13 boots.

"He had a rock-hard body, and a heart and soul as soft as a down pillow," the elder Weaver said, though his son would never have admitted the latter quality.

Weaver's love for the outdoors, where he frequently hunted and camped, led him to work for the Forest Service fighting fires this summer instead of working at the family's flower business in Yakima.

Though he wasn't one for crowds, his family thanked the large gathering that came to mourn him.

"I cannot tell you what a great start this is to the beginning of a long, hard ordeal," said Weaver, who spoke near the end of the two-hour Mass because "I made my son promise he'd speak at my funeral, so I guess turnabout's fair play."

The service included prayers for the other fire victims, including Jason Emhoff, who was badly burned and is hospitalized in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Firefighters in yellow shirts and green pants, and others wearing T-shirts with their unit names on them, formed a "V" before the service outside and lined the back of the sanctuary as a bagpiper accompanied the procession.

Near the ceremony's end, a 10-member honor guard of firefighters, Forest Service and Washington State Patrol representatives marched to the front to the beat of clacking drumsticks.

As a bell rang 21 times, they slowly raised their arms one by one in salute, lowered them, then knelt somberly on one knee, head bowed in one hand.

"It is a very long stretch for everyone involved," Forest Service information officer Mike Ferris said before the service, referring to four funerals in four days.

Not far from the church where Weaver was eulogized, a signboard in a store parking lot listed the names of the four fallen firefighters and proclaimed: "We will never forget."

At West Hills Memorial Park, dozens of trucks from the West Valley Fire Department, the Department of Natural Resources and the Forest Service silently circled the cemetery with lights flashing.

Jessica Johnson's flag-draped casket arrived on the back of a yellow West Valley fire engine adorned with American flags, purple streamers, a black band of mourning across its department logo and a sign on the side: "Jessica Johnson: In Our Hearts Forever."

Mourners heard a "last call" broadcast for Johnson, who joined the West Valley Fire Department as a cadet in 1998.

A flock of white doves and a cluster of purple balloons took flight on a stiff breeze.

Outside West Valley High School, two fire engines with ladders extended supported a large American flag that snapped in the breeze as 500 people crowded inside to share memories of Johnson, the girl they knew as "messy Jessie."

Karen Craig, the mother of Johnson's boyfriend, Nathan Craig, said she'd heard stories of the 19-year-old leaving a trail of clothes behind her and forgetting her purse in restaurants. She didn't notice, thinking it was her son's clutter.

The Central Washington University junior was studying food science and nutrition. "She tried to get Nathan to improve his eating habits. Actually, she was having some success," Karen Craig said to laughter.

Many who shared memories talked of Johnson's outstanding physical conditioning. Among the many snapshots and memorabilia posted in the entryway was Johnson's race number from this year's Bloomsday run in Spokane, her first.

Dave Leitch, West Valley Fire's deputy chief, spoke fondly of Johnson's time with his department. "She was our child, too," he said.

Johnson's father, Rick Johnson, tearfully read a poem for his daughter.

"Jessie Johnson, my angel then and now," he began. "My little girl, my grown woman. My helper, my confidante. My hero, my daughter."

Brooke Blevins playfully spoke to her cousin. "Don't worry, Jessie. I won't tell them about when we ran through the sprinkler in our underwear, or when we went to the dentist and I got a shot and you passed out."

She shared more stories of their times together and finished, through tears: "My fear of dying is almost gone because I know you'll be waiting for me."


A memorial service for Karen Fitzpatrick is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at the Stone Church, 3303 Englewood Ave., Yakima.

The photos:

The family of 21-year-old Devin Weaver walks with his casket into Holy Family Church in Yakima as an honor guard of firefighters salutes their fallen comrade. Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Firefighter Jessica Johnson's casket is lowered off a West Valley fire engine to her gravesite at West Hills Memorial Park in Yakima. Hundreds of mourners also packed West Valley High School to remember "messy Jessie." Paul Kitagaki Jr. / Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I also include this poignant and compelling article about Tom, Jessica, Karen, and Devin, because you will never again be the same -- or feel any affection for the ESA -- after you read it.

The Forest Service Smokescreen

"Trapped firefighters waited for more than nine hours for water to be dropped, while bureaucrats dithered over concerns about endangered species in the water supply."

June 21, 2002

By Michelle Malkin

Terry Barton, a U.S. Forest Service worker, was charged this week with intentionally setting the largest wildfire in Colorado history. It is a black mark on the beleaguered federal agency.

But it not the blackest mark.

Last summer, four young firefighters died at the Thirtymile Fire in Washington state's Okanagan National Forest: Tom Craven, Karen Fitzpatrick, Jessica Johnson, and Devin Weaver.

Craven, 30, was a father of two and an eight-year veteran with the Naches Ranger District.

Fitzpatrick, 18, was a newly-minted high school grad and had been with the Forest Service for three weeks.

Johnson, 19, was a college student who developed a passion for fire-fighting in high school.

Weaver, 21, was an electrical engineering student who had completed firefighter training six weeks earlier.

If you believe the government's version of events, as inscribed on a Forest Service memorial to be unveiled next month, here is what happened to the quartet: "On July 10, 2001, high temperatures, low humidity and severe drought conditions caused an abandoned cooking fire to ultimately erupt into a devastating firestorm that swept up the Chewuch River valley, trapping 14 firefighters and 2 campers. Four dedicated firefighters perished in a valiant effort to battle the Thirtymile Fire."

The agency is spending $32,000 to build the memorial. It is a cheap investment in bureaucratic propaganda at the expense of the dead.

The truth is that the four firefighters perished because of the Forest Service's gross incompetence.

And not a single person has been held publicly accountable for the fatal failures.

"One of the things we're having trouble with is, the Forest Service is making these kids look like heroes," Devin Weaver's mother, Barbara, told the Wenatchee World this week. "Their lives were taken from them. They were not out there trying to save somebody's life. They were led down a dead-end road and sat there to do nothing -- that's the story."

Indeed, the inferno had raged for more than a day; it didn't suddenly "erupt."

Trapped firefighters waited for more than nine hours for water to be dropped, while bureaucrats dithered over concerns about endangered species in the water supply.

It was too late for Craven, Fitzpatrick, Johnson, and Weaver, who died in their emergency fire shelters as the fires swept over them.

Weaver's father, Ken, said: "I don't mind them memorializing my son. The problem is [that] half of their motive is to spin this into this heroic, American flag-waving, died-for-his country-theme, which casts the scrutiny in a completely different direction."

The Forest Service's shameless revisionism about the Thirtymile Fire shows that it is still more interested in blowing smokescreens than in clearing them.

Last month, the agency released a final report -- so full of blacked-out redactions that it looked like the authors had used the pages to clean a charcoal grill. Unnamed managers and commanders were faulted for violating 10 of 18 fundamental firefighting signs of danger. They failed to plan adequate escape routes, neglected to take weather readings, and gave out faulty equipment.

Eleven employees were recommended for disciplinary action based on their abysmal performances during the fire on the Okanogan National Forest.

But the agency refused to name any of them, wouldn't reveal what kind of discipline they received, and refuses to disclose whether any have been fired. A separate Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation determined the Forest Service willfully disregarded the safety of its workers on the fire.

But the findings are useless because the Forest Service is exempt from OSHA enforcement.

At least Terry Barton, the accused Forest Service fire-setter, will be held accountable in a court of law on charges of endangering property and lives. The same cannot be said of the Forest Service employees responsible for the totally preventable deaths of Tom Craven, Karen Fitzpatrick, Jessica Johnson, and Devin Weaver.

The Forest Service motto reads: "Caring for the land and serving people."

By continuing to hide the identities of the bungle-crats who oversaw the deadly Thirtymile Fire, the agency's real mission is clear: Covering up and serving themselves.

So, now you have my ESA Testimony, House Resources Committee and Chairman Pombo.

I ask only that you each look to your own families and consider if any of your family members is worth sacrificing on the altar of this piece of legislation that has cost the people of America so dearly. There you will find your answer to what MUST be done with this legislation.

We ALL deserve better.

Miss Julie Kay Smithson

213 Thorn Locust Lane

London, Ohio 43140