LETTER FROM WASHINGTON DANA WILKIE
More mapping messes

August 1, 2005

Rep. Duncan Hunter seems to be the go-to guy when the federal government goofs on its cartography.

Readers may recall that the El Cajon Republican was trying to help the late Fred Gruner, who discovered that because of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management mapping error, he had for 40 years been paying taxes on Lakeside land that didn't exist.

Now the congressman is trying to help another constituent – Frank Dokter – with his own property-line headaches.

For more than 30 years, Dokter has owned a concession named Walter's Camp near the lower Colorado River and Imperial County's Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. Dokter's 140-acre camp is a family-run business that offers visitors camping, hiking, canoeing, fishing and bird-watching excursions.

Only recently did the Bureau of Land Management discover that when it created the 16,600-acre Cibola refuge three decades ago, it mistakenly included Walter's Camp. Now the BLM says it lacks authority to renew Dokter's operating permit because – on paper, anyway – the concession lies in a protected wildlife refuge.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service and the BLM agree that the land has insignificant, if any, existing . . . or potential . . . wildlife habitat value," Hunter told a House Resources subcommittee more than two years ago when he first introduced a bill to remove Walter's Camp from the refuge so Dokter could continue operating his business.

But because Hunter introduced his bill late in the 107th Congress, the House did not have time to consider it. The legislation passed the House in the 108th Congress, but the Senate added an unrelated provision that kept it from passing that chamber.

Hunter is back with his bill this year. It recently passed the House and awaits consideration in the Senate, where Hunter aides expect it will pass as well. For Dokter's sake, one hopes so.

STRONG MEDICINE

Susan Davis, the San Diego Democrat who crusaded to expose the dangers of the herbal supplement ephedra, is back with three new bills aimed at protecting the health of your average American.

There's the Dietary Supplement and Awareness Act, which would require makers of dietary supplements to tell the Food and Drug Administration about consumers who suffer health problems because of their products.

The congresswoman's Second Medical Opinion Coverage Act lets patients enrolled in health plans get a second opinion when the plan's doctor cannot diagnose a condition, when treatment is not helping a condition and when a recommended surgery or treatment might lead to loss of life, limb or bodily function.

A third bill would give women enrolled in health care plans direct access to an obstetrician or gynecologist without having to first get a referral from their primary doctor.

"Trying to get an appointment with a doctor just so you can get an appointment with another can be . . . challenging and inconvenient," the congresswoman said. This one is called the Women's Obstetrician and Gynecologist Medical Access Now Act.

Now all we need is a bill that bans bills with tongue-twisting titles.

MOVE OVER, J.K. ROWLING

To the list of renowned novelists, let us add the name of Barbara Boxer. The California senator is writing a book titled "A Time to Run," to be published this November. There's romance. There's political intrigue. And there's protagonist Ellen Fischer, a character who picks up the Senate campaign of her late husband and wins public office despite all the obstacles. A senator. Who's a woman. And spunky. This person sounds so . . . familiar.

CLOSE TO HOME

Darrell Issa spent more on foreign travel than more than 50 of his House Energy and Commerce Committee colleagues, and this September he plans to rub shoulders with more foreigners. This time, the Vista Republican will address the Kazakhstan Industrial and Innovation Strategy conference. The topic: Kazakhstan's role as an emerging market. For a change, however, Issa will remain in this country for his speechmaking. The conference will be held Sept. 8-9 at the Hotel del Coronado.

Dana Wilkie is a Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and a longtime observer of California politics and social issues.

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