After I passed the bar in 1974 I couldn’t get a job, so I started a law practice in the basement of our dumpy little house in Spenard. My wife used some of her inheritance for the down payment. She was seven months pregnant when we moved in. Things were a little bleak. I really didn’t know anybody, and had no idea of how to practice law. They don’t teach you that at UCLA. They’re more into theory. It got so bad we thought of hopping in the car and driving down the Alcan, back to California. I found out you could make $20 an hour as an ad hoc public defender for federal criminal defendants, so I signed up and was assigned some cases. Most lawyers didn’t like to work that cheap. I ate it up. The prosecutor in some of these cases was assistant U. S. Attorney Sam Pestinger, a guy my age from Kansas. He decided he wanted to quit the U.S. Attorney’s office and become my law partner, so we formed Pettyjohn and Pestinger the summer of 1975. I started making some money, and we were on our way.
Part of becoming Sam’s partner was going boating with him in Prince William Sound. He had a twenty foot inboard, with a small cabin, and in the fall he wanted to go bear hunting. So we went up to Coghill Bay, in College Fjord, and sure enough saw a black bear. Sam handed me his .270 and told me to shoot it. His vision wasn’t very good, he said. So I shot it in the shoulder, knocking it down, but it got up and ran off into the woods. We had to follow it to try to finish it off. You can’t leave a wounded bear. It’s irresponsible. So we followed its trail of blood up into the hills, but couldn’t find it.
That was the first, and last, wild animal I’ve ever killed, except for a caribou and a moose, which I killed for meat. I don’t understand trophy hunters. Why do they take such pleasure in killing beautiful animals? I loved Alaska, above all, for its natural beauty. Alaskans are outdoorsmen, and love their beautiful environment. They love it more than other Americans, because they live there. The same can be said of the people of Nevada or Wyoming or Utah. These people can be entrusted with their own land, despite what the environmental extremists will tell you. The Federal Lands Commission is a net positive for the environment. The legislature of Idaho, and the people of Idaho, are and will be better stewards of their land than some pencil pusher in Washington.
A few years ago some national magazine sent a reporter to the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, the Serengeti of the North, to describe its natural wonders to its readers. He spent four or five days there, and the only sign of life he found was a tuft of caribou hair. He wrote lovingly of that tuft of fur, and all the wonderful animals it surely must represent. These creatures must be protected form those greedy Alaskans who want to destroy their ecosystem.
That’s what we’re up against. Crazy people. If we give the oil companies a few acres to drill on, they can produce enough wealth from ANWR to fund all kinds of true wildlife conservation. And help balance the federal and state budgets. And put thousands to work at good paying jobs. And help free us from reliance on oil from the Middle East.
There is tremendous wealth on and under western federal lands. The environmentalists in the federal government don’t want that wealth produced. These are people you would hesitate to entrust with a leaf blower. You’d never want to allow them access to a weed whacker. They’d hurt themselves. The warning labels you see on a step ladder, the ones telling you not to fall off, are designed for them. But they know best. They’re really smart people. They have degrees.
So I’m off to Anchorage in the morning. It will be good to go home.