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Related Policy Trackers

Congress Clears Redwood National Park Bill

An article from CQ Almanac 1968

Document Outline




Congress Sept. 19 completed action on a controversial major conservation measure (S 2515) establishing a 58,000-acre Redwood National Park in northern California containing some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. The park was to include some 27,500 acres of three state parks and approximately 28,000 acres of privately owned land.

Congressional approval of S 2515 represented a victory for conservationist interests. Northern California lumber companies and other interests in the area had protested that establishment of such a large park would dangerously disrupt the local economy. S 2515 as approved established a park smaller than the Senate bill's 64,000-area park but larger than either the House-amended measure, providing for a 28,500-acre “mini-park,” or the Administration's proposal (HR 10951) for a park no larger than 45,200 acres.

S 2515 included two highly controversial provisions involving the method the Federal Government would use to acquire the land authorized for the park. Both were unprecedented in national park legislation.

The first of these provisions authorized exchange of federally owned Forest Service lands for privately owned land in the park area. The provision had been reluctantly supported by the Interior Department but adamantly opposed by the Agriculture Department.

The second provision, described by the conference committee on S 2515 as a “legislative taking provision,” vested ownership of all land authorized for the park in the Federal Government, effective with enactment of the bill. Private owners of land in the area could recover money for their holdings through negotiation with the Interior Department or through litigation in the Court of Claims, with no provision for jury trial, which is normally provided in federal condemnation proceedings. One purpose of the legislative taking provision was to prevent rapid escalation of land prices in the park area. (See box, p. 436.)

S 2515 authorized appropriation of $92 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to reimburse private owners for land acquired by the Government. However, it was anticipated that a substantial part of that sum would not be needed because of the land exchange authorization. (See p. 291.)

History of Park. Vigorous efforts to establish a Redwoods National Park began after a National Park Service report in 1964 pointed out that the famous giant redwood trees of the Pacific coast were in danger of extinction. At that time only 2.5 per cent of these ancient trees were protected in state parks.

President Johnson requested Congress repeatedly to act to create such a park. He first made this request in his 1965 conservation message, and reiterated it in 1966, 1967 and 1968 Budget and conservation messages, as well as in his 1968 State of the Union address.

In 1966 the Administration proposals for a Redwood National Park provided for a 40,460-acre park including two state parks in Del Norte County, several adjacent areas and a separate unit to the south in Humboldt County, costing approximately $60 million.

Opposition to these measures quickly arose from lumber companies, which asserted that their operations would be severely curtailed by such action, and from conservationist groups, which declared that the park was too small and located in the wrong place. The influential Sierra Club and other conservation organizations backed a measure to provide for a 90,000-acre park, centered in Humboldt County and costing an estimated $200 million.

The Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation held hearings in California and in Washington, D.C., but Congress took no further action.

Timber harvesting, continuing in the area under consideration, was halted in September 1966 by a moratorium on cutting negotiated by the Administration with the lumber companies involved. The moratorium was later extended until the close of the 1968 session.

1967 Action. The proposals advanced in 1966 were again introduced in 1967. The Administration plan (revised slightly to include 41,834 acres) was introduced by Sen. Thomas H. Kuchel (R Calif.) (S 1370) and House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee Chairman Wayne N. Aspinall (D Colo.) (HR 10951). The conservationist measure (S 514) was introduced by Sen. Lee Metcalf (D Mont.). Both of the proposals included provisions to minimize the economic dislocation which would result from removing this acreage from the local tax rolls.

The Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee conducted hearings on the bills in April. During and after the hearings, California Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) demanded that the lumber company most affected by the establishment of the park, the Rellim Redwood Co., be compensated with land from the federally owned Redwood Northern Purchase Unit in Del Norte County. This 14,567-acre unit, acquired between 1939 and 1945 as the nucleus of a Redwood Park, had never been expanded into such a park, remaining under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. The Budget Bureau, as well as the Agriculture Department, opposed the use of Northern Purchase Unit lands as exchange for privately owned lands.

In October a compromise bill (S 2515) was reported by the Senate Committee proposing a park of 64,000 acres, allowing exchange of the Purchase Unit lands and other federally owned lands in the state for the private lands to be included in the park, and authorizing appropriation of $100 million for land acquisition. The compromise measure sought to soften the impact of land acquisition on the economy and tax base of Del Norte County. It shifted the bulk of the land to be acquired from Del Norte County, 71 per cent of whose land was already owned by either the state or the Federal Government, to Humboldt County where only 21 per cent of the land was publicly owned. The compromise bill also protected more old-growth redwoods and spread the effect of the park's establishment over four major lumber companies, no longer hitting primarily just the Rellim Redwood Co.

Two days of debate on an amendment presented by Sen. Clinton P. Anderson (D N.M.) to delete the exchange provision concluded with rejection of the amendment, 30–51. S 2515 passed the Senate Nov. 1, 1967.

Aspinall said in October that his Committee would not act on the bill until early in 1968. (For details on 1967 action, see 1967 Almanac p. 754.)

1968 Action. The House National Parks Subcommittee conducted hearings on S 2515 in April and May. No united Administration position was presented on the measure. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall read to the Subcommittee an Administration statement reluctantly agreeing to the exchange of federal lands for private land in this “unique” instance. Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman described this “barter” as setting “a very dangerous precedent.”

Early in July the full Committee reported a substantially altered bill (S 2515 - H Rept 1630) providing for a park of 28,500 acres, excluding the Jedediah Smith State Park which contained most of the disputed private lands. This amended bill made donation by California of the state park land prerequisite to the establishment of the park, thus giving the California legislature virtual veto power over the creation of the park. An exchange provision was included without specific mention of the Northern Purchase Unit lands. The measure recommended land acquisition appropriations of $56,750,000 and development appropriations of $10 million. S 2515 passed the House July 15 by a 388–15 roll call, with advocates of a larger park voting for passage with the understanding that the conferees would approve a larger park.

President Johnson in his March 11, 1968, conservation message had urged the House “to complete action on a Redwood bill this year.” (For text, see p. 61-A.)

Final Version. The conference version of S 2515 provided for a Redwood National Park of 58,000 acres, composed of a northern and a southern unit with connecting corridors and adjacent sections of land. The northern unit included the Jedediah Smith and Del Norte State Parks, 4,600 adjacent acres and a corridor linking the two parks. The southern unit, linked to the northern section by a coastal strip, was to be composed of the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, the Lost Man and Little Lost Man drainage areas, the Redwood Creek corridor, adjacent areas and a coastal corridor connecting Prairie Creek State Park with Dry Lagoon State Park.

The 27,500 acres of state-owned property were to be acquired only by donation, but establishment of the park was not made contingent upon an act of the state legislature. Private lands, composing the remainder of the new national park, were to be acquired by purchase or exchange for federal land, and ownership of all lands to be included in the park was vested in the Federal Government.

PROVISIONS. As agreed to by House and Senate conferees, S 2515:

Park. Established a Redwood National Park in Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, Calif., composed of three state parks and a substantial amount of acreage owned by four lumber companies and other private persons. The park area was not to exceed 58,000 acres, exclusive of a strip of submerged lands one-quarter-mile wide the length of the park.

Land Acquisition. Authorized the acquisition by donation only of all public lands within the park boundaries. Until the acquisition of public roads within the park, federal and state governments were to cooperate in administration of such areas.

Authorized the acquisition of all nonpublic lands within the park boundaries by donation, purchase, exchange or any combination thereof.

Provided that, effective with the enactment of S 2515, all right and title and interest in all property within the park boundaries was vested in the United States, except that property owned by the state of California.

Provided that the owners of all such property would be justly compensated either with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with federally-owned property available for exchange, or with some combination thereof. Provided that if the property owners and the Secretary of the Interior were not able to agree on just compensation, any suit filed against the Government was to be brought in the Court of Claims. Provided that the property owners would be paid six-percent annual interest on the value of their property until they had received compensation for the property.

Provided that the legislative acquisition provision did not apply to areas of less than fifty acres held primarily for residential or agricultural purposes.

Authorized the Secretary of the Interior to acquire interests in adjacent lands and to enter into contracts and agreements with the owners of such lands if necessary to assure that practices engaged in on peripheral lands not adversely affect the park.

Rights of Use and Occupancy. Provided that the owner of improved property (defined as a detached noncommercial residential dwelling, the construction of which was begun before Oct. 9, 1967, and the land on which it is situated) might retain a right of use and occupancy of that property for such purposes for a definite term of no more than 25 years or until the death of the owner or his spouse.

Exchange Provision. Authorized the Secretary to acquire any property within the boundaries of the park, except state property, by exchange of any federal property under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management in California, except property needed for public use and management, or of any federal property within the Northern Redwood Purchase Unit, except the 935-acre section known as the Yurok Experimental Forest.

Provided that by the exercise of this exchange authority the Secretary should, to the extent possible, minimize economic dislocation and disruption of commercial operations.

Appropriations. Authorized appropriation of $92 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition.

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COMMITTEE—House Interior, Subcommittee on National Parks and Recreation; Roy A. Taylor (D N.C.), Subcommittee chairman.

HELD HEARINGS—May 20–21 on several bills to establish a Redwood National Park. In April three days of hearings were held in California.

TESTIMONY—May 20—Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall said the Administration bill provided “a feasible and eminently worthwhile Redwood National Park.” He noted several recent developments on the issue. One was testimony by California Gov. Reagan that his administration would agree to turn over to the national park the third state park included in the Senate bill, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Humboldt county, as well as the other parks included in the Administration bill.

In recent weeks. Udall said, major redwood timber companies owning land within the boundaries of the park envisioned in S 2515 were more willing than previously to negotiate with the Federal Government and to make certain lands available.

Udall said the developments “lead us to suggest that the Committee explore the possibility of establishing a park consisting of a northern unit similar” to that in S 2515 and a southern unit including Prairie Creek Redwoods Stale Park “and all or portions of such adjacent areas as the Committee deems feasible and desirable.” He added, however, that “in current circumstances” the cost of the park should approximate the cost of the original Administration proposal, which was $60 million compared to the Senate bill's $100 million.

Udall read what he said was an Administration statement supporting a general policy of not favoring the exchange of public lands for private lands, as proposed in S 2515, but he added that circumstances “make the redwood situation unique.” He said the Administration “reluctantly would not object” to the exchange if Congress found it essential for realizing a redwood national park. (The swap had been justified as reducing the overall cost of the park as well as providing tax revenues to Northern California.)

Edward C. Crafts, director of the Department's Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, said the estimated cost of private land in S 2515 had risen from $100 million in 1967 to $117 million.

May 21—Agriculture Secretary Orville L. Freeman said he “strongly” supported the effort to create “a meaningful and outstanding” redwood national park, but he added that he was “unalterably opposed to the barter of National Forest timberlands for private lands needed for the proposed park.” Such barter, he said, would imperil the integrity of the national forest system and set “a very dangerous precedent.”

ACTION—The full Committee July 3 reported S 2515 (H Rept 1630) after making substantial amendments.

As amended by the House Committee, S 2515 provided a 28, 500-acre park, compared to Senate provision for a 64,000-acre park and the Administration proposal (HR 10951) for a 42,500-acre park.

The key dispute in the hearings had been whether the Federal Government would agree to the demand of California Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) that it turn over to a private company 14,567 acres of Forest Service redwoods in a swap for land acquired from the company for the park. The Interior Department reluctantly agreed to the proposal but the Agriculture Department and Forest Service opposed it. During executive consideration of redwoods legislation by the Committee, the Administration failed to present a united position. The Committee deleted from the National Park the Jedediah Smith State Park, where most of the disputed private holdings were.

Major Provisions. As reported by the Committee, S 2512 established an approximately 28,500-acre national park which included the Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek State Parks (totaling about 18,500 acres) plus a number of connecting strips and corridors. (The Senate version included these two state parks and the Jedediah Smith State Park, while the Administration bill included the Del Norte Coast and Jedediah Smith State Parks.)

In addition, the Committee provided for acquisition of about 390 acres of redwood land on Van Duzen Creek about 50 miles south of the Redwood National Park, if the state agreed to administer it for park purposes.

Further, the Committee bill authorized the Interior Secretary to negotiate agreements with owners of adjacent lands and on lands on watersheds tributary to the park. If necessary, he was to acquire interests in such lands which, while allowing selective logging, would “require the land owner to follow practices that will…protect the trees, soil and streams within the park.” However, the Secretary could not take such action until 70 days after he reported his activities to Congress.

The Committee amended S 2515 to prohibit the Interior Secretary from establishing and purchasing land for the park until such lands were obligated or donated by the state, which required an act of the state legislature.

Cost—The Committee recommended appropriations of $56, 750,000 for land acquisition and $10 million for development. The total estimated cost of the Senate version was $117 million ($17 million more than an earlier estimate). The Administration proposal would require about $60 million.

Committee Views. The Committee said its redwood park proposal was “sufficient to insure preservation” of the redwood species and was “worthy of inclusion” in the national park system. At the same time, the Committee added, the proposal was “not so large that it will disrupt the economy of the area in which the park is located or cause undue hardship to those whose livelihood depends on continued employment in the forests of the region.”

Supplemental Views. Five Committee members said they “reluctantly deferred any effort to add breadth to the boundaries” of the park, but reserved the right to amend the bill on the floor. The members were John P. Saylor (R Pa.), Theodore R. Kupferman (R N.Y.), John V. Tunney (D Calif.), Morris K. Udall (D Ariz.) and Thomas S. Foley (D Wash.). The focus of the Committee plan, the group said, was on two state parks “already well protected and administered for public enjoyment. No important national purpose is served by changing their administration if they alone are the focal point of federal effort.” Noting that in most public discussion of the redwoods controversy the focus had been on saving redwood stands discovered in 1964 on Redwood Creek, the group argued that this purpose could not be served “by a mere strip a quarter-mile wide” on either side of the Creek.

Additional Views. An additional six Committee members including Kupferman contended that S 2515, as amended, “fails to accomplish most of the objectives” for which a redwood park was sought. The members in addition to Kupferman were: William F. Ryan (D N.Y.), Hugh L. Carey (D N.Y.), Patsy T. Mink (D Hawaii), Phillip Burton (D Calif.) and Robert W. Kas-tenmeier (D Wis.).

The plan was not a fair compromise, they said, noting that it was smaller than the smallest plan before the Committee. “What kind of national park will we have if it is no more than a ribbon of trees wandering through a wasteland of logged-off slopes?” they asked.

The group said the Committee neglected to include a number of complete watersheds “which are protective and harbor superlative forests.” The group urged that substantial acreage be restored to the bill and that the Federal Government be freed to move without state consent.

Individual Views. Foley urged that the bill be amended to permit the swap of sections of the Forest Service's Northern Purchase Unit for private land within the proposed park.

Kupferman said the Committee's action “raises the question of whether our being involved was worth the trouble…. To concur in this action is merely to acknowledge the obvious: that, in conservation, something is better than nothing.”

Floor Action

The House July 15 by a 389–15 roll-call vote passed S 2515 as reported and sent the measure to conference with the Senate. (See vote 137, p. 62-H.)

Despite the controversial nature of the redwood measure, the House considered S 2515 under suspension of the rules, a procedure requiring a two-thirds vote for passage and precluding floor amendments.

House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee Chairman Wayne N. Aspinall (D Colo.) said that “under existing situations with the drive toward adjournment,” the procedure was “the only sure way we have of getting a redwoods bill passed by this Congress.”

Phillip Burton (D Calif.) countered that Aspinall's argument was “the same argument made before the full Interior Committee some three weeks ago—that we must now accept this outrageously inadequate proposal for a Redwood National Park—having delayed doing anything for more than four years—or it will again be too late.”

Burton contended that the House plan had been gerrymandered to fit economic demands, and argued that the forest industry in the north California coastal area was rapidly declining anyway and would not be seriously affected by a park in the area. The volume of private timber in the larger Senate version amounted to only a one-year supply for all the existing mills in California's Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, he added.

Jeffery Cohelan (D Calif.) told the House, “We cannot accept a one-shot choice of taking or leaving a gutted bill with equanimity.” But later Cohelan said that “the risks of forestalling action today are too great…. Given the hard and unfair choice before us, voting “Yes” is the lesser of two evils.”

PROVISIONS—As passed by the House, S 2515: Provided a 28,500-acre Redwood National Park in Northern California, including the Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek State Parks (totaling about 18,500 acres) plus a number of connecting strips and corridors.

Authorized $56,750,000 for land acquisition, and $10,000,000 for Park development.

Provided for acquisition of about 390 acres of redwood land on Van Duzen Creek about 50 miles south of the Redwood National Park, if the state agreed to administer it for park purposes.

Authorized the Interior Secretary to negotiate agreements with owners of adjacent lands and on lands on watersheds tributary to the park.

Permitted the Interior Secretary to acquire interests in such lands which, while allowing selective logging, would “require the land owner to follow practices that will…protect the trees, soil and streams within the park.”

Prohibited the Interior Secretary from acquiring such interests until 70 days after he reported his activities to Congress.

Prohibited the Secretary from purchasing land for the park until such lands were obligated or donated by the state, which required an act of the state legislature.

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REPORT. Conferees on the bill filed a report (H Rept 1890) Sept. 11. Differences were resolved as follows:

Park Lands. The conference version established a Redwood National Park not to exceed 58,000 acres, exclusive of submerged lands. The Senate version had set a limit of 64,000 acres, and the House had cut this limit to 28,500 acres.

Conferees agreed that, as in the Senate measure, three state parks would be included, the Del Norte State Park, the Prairie Creek State Park and the Jedediah Smith State Park. The House had deleted the last park.

State Donation. Both Senate and House had stipulated that state lands could be acquired only by donation, and the final version included this stipulation. The House had made such donation a condition precedent to the establishment of the park, but conferees agreed to delete that restriction.

Exchange Provision. The conference version included the exchange provision which the Senate and the House had included in varying forms. The final measure authorized the use of lands within the Northern Purchase Unit, an area included by the Senate measure and deleted by the House amendment, and lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management to acquire private lands. One 935-acre tract in the Purchase Unit, the Yurok Experimental Forest, was excepted from exchange. The conference report stated that this use of federal forest land was “not intended to be precedent-setting,” but was an exception to general policy necessitated by the desire to preserve certain particular ancient trees and to minimize dislocation of the local economy.

Legislative Acquisition Provision. The conferees included the new legislative acquisition provision at the request of the lumber company most concerned in the property transfer and to prevent an increase in land prices and to expedite establishment of the park. The provision had not been included in either the House or Senate version. Conferees said that the provision pledged “the full faith and credit of the Government” that just compensation would be made to private land owners.

Submerged Lands. The conference report also recommended inclusion of a strip of offshore submerged lands within the park boundaries.

Appropriations. In accordance with the agreement concerning the park's size and the methods of land acquisition, the appropriation for land acquisition of $92 million was less than the Senate's $100 million proposal but substantially more than the $56,750,000 in the House amendment. Conferees said that because of the legislative acquisition and exchange provisions, the actual cash outlay was expected to be considerably less than the amount authorized.

FINAL ACTION. The House Sept. 12 adopted the conference report by a roll call vote of 329–1 with Rep. L.H. Fountain (D N.C.) casting the dissenting vote. (See vote 178, p. 80-H.) The Senate Sept. 19 agreed to the report by voice vote, clearing the bill for the President, who signed it Oct. 2 (PL 90-545).

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S 2515 Authorizes New Method of Park Land Acquisition

S 2515, the bill establishing the Redwood National Park in California, included a land acquisition provision that was unprecedented in the history of national park legislation. The provision's constitutionality was questioned Sept. 17 on the Senate floor.

Legislative Acquisition. The provision stated that, with the enactment of S 2515, private lands contained within the boundaries of the new 58,000-acre national park were to become the property of the federal government. The provision was not in either the original House or Senate versions of S 2515; it was inserted by House-Senate conferees, who described it as a “legislative taking” provision.

Property owners were then to receive just compensation through negotiations with the Secretary of the Interior or through filing suit against the United States in the Court of Claims. Normally, condemnation would be accomplished through jury trial in federal district court; the Court of Claims does not provide for jury trial.

Interest at the rate of six percent per annum was to be paid these property owners on the value of the property from the date of enactment until the Government completed payment for the land.

The provision applied chiefly to the approximately 22,500 acres owned by four major lumber companies, the Arcata Redwood Co., the Simpson Lumber Co., the Georgia-Pacific Corp. and the Rellim Lumber Co. The Arcata Redwood Co. requested the insertion of such a provision in the bill. The companies would obtain compensation either through cash payments or through exchange of lands with the Government.

Excluded from the provision were all public lands, which could be acquired only by donation, and all tracts of less than 50 acres used for residential or agricultural purposes.

One reason the provision was inserted in S 2515 by the conferees was that it was considered an effective means of halting the escalating price of these particular lands. Other considerations directing the inclusion of this provision were the desire to halt immediately all cutting of timber on this land and the desire of the companies involved to know at once and with some degree of precision their status in regard to holdings and compensation.

Land Price Escalation. The matter of price escalation in park areas had been a matter of concern to the Government for several years. In 1966, President Johnson warned that the public must not “be burdened” by “artificial price spirals” caused by speculation on lands to be acquired by the Government. A notable example of such an increase in land prices occurred in the Point Reyes National Seashore, authorized in 1962, where there was a 30-percent increase in prices over a 12-month period.

The extent of price escalation in such areas frequently depends on the method of land acquisition. Prior to 1961, most units were created from federally owned lands, donated lands, or small areas purchased by the Government. With the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore, however, a new precedent was set by which lands for units were to be acquired mainly by purchase or condemnation of private property. To acquire an area, Congress must first pass a bill authorizing the establishment of the unit within certain boundaries. Following this Congress must appropriate money, usually from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to purchase the authorized lands. Often a time lag exists between the authorization and the appropriation of funds, and during this time, speculators may buy up land or improve it with buildings to increase its value. The Interior Department must then negotiate for the purchase of the land. If the Department cannot work out an agreement with the owner, it can refuse to buy the land, in which case the owner simply benefits from Government improvements in the area, or the Department can initiate condemnation procedures. Condemnation, however, with the administrative costs involved, tends to cost more than outright purchase, even at speculative prices, since juries tend to be generous to the owner whose property is being acquired. (For background on land acquisition, see 1966 Almanac p. 647, Congress and the Nation p. 1077, 1079.)

“Recreation Land Price Escalation,” a report by the Interior Department's Bureau of Outdoor Recreation published in March 1967, suggested the use of a legislative taking provision among a variety of ways to deal with the increase in land prices. This type of provision had been used by the Government at numerous times in acquiring Indian lands.

According to the Interior Department's Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, the cost of the Redwood National Park lands in the Senate version of S 2515 increased from $100 million in November 1967 to $117 million in May 1968. In this instance, the rising value of redwood timber augmented the general increase in land prices. (For further background, see p. 291, 1967 Almanac p. 233.)

Morse Criticism. In a speech to the Senate Sept. 17, Sen. Wayne Morse (D Ore.) termed the legislative taking provision of S 2515 “a serious retrogression from the normal condemnation procedure,” and said he had “great difficulty reconciling this conference report with the Fifth Amendment when it comes to the taking of property.”

Morse condemned the provision as “absurd” and “unwise” in departing from the regular procedure by which federal district court juries decide the fair value of land which the Federal Government should pay.


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Document Citation
"Congress Clears Redwood National Park Bill." In CQ Almanac 1968, 24th ed., 11-434-11-439. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1969. http://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/cqal68-1284092.
Document ID: cqal68-1284092
Document URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/cqal68-1284092