Private Land Lockup
Federal and state agencies are, in essence, pulling the land right out from under the feet of private property owners as part of the United Nations’ radical Wildlands Project.
One moment they were responsible, law-abiding owners of forestland in rural Washington; the next, they were eco-criminals confronting onerous fines and eviction from land they thought they owned. What had they done? Nothing — and that was the problem, according to notification letters sent by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The DNR notices sent last December informed owners of forestland tracts larger than 500 acres that they were required to submit a Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) for all “forest roads” on their land (including driveways). The new law, explained the April 22nd Seattle Times, requires “the state’s 91,000 small-forest owners to map, and in many cases, upgrade private roads to save fish. Estimated cost: $375 million.
To facilitate “recovery” of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, Washington state devised a set of road maintenance rules “designed to repair fish-blocking culverts and stem runoff from forest roads that load waterways with sediment that smothers fish eggs, raises water temperature and alters stream courses,” reported the Seattle Times. According to Pat McElroy, director of regulatory programs for the DNR, “The roads issue is very, very important to meeting our obligations, and fundamental to improving salmon habitat and moving recovery forward.” But as is so often the case, recovery of endangered nonhuman species in Washington threatens to make human property rights extinct, and key decisions have been made without input from the endangered property owners.
The RMAP rules are part of the Washington State Forest and Fish agreement, finalized in April 1999, intended to bring the state into compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act. Although RMAP initially targets owners of large tracts of forestland, by 2004 it will encompass landowners possessing as little as two acres of land capable of supporting forest. The measure’s ostensible purpose is to abate sediment runoff that supposedly makes streams and rivers unsuitable for endangered salmon and trout. To that end, owners of forestland or “forest-capable” land are required to provide, by 2005, detailed plans to bring their access roads — including private driveways — into compliance with federally mandated state environmental standards.
The estimated cost of mapping, surveying, and upgrading the roads runs into tens of thousands of dollars per property owner. RMAP provisions dictate that owners wishing to sell their forestlands must inform potential buyers — through the Department of Natural Resources — of the “continuing obligation” to upgrade the roads. This effectively makes the DNR a joint owner of privately owned lands. Should a property owner fail to follow this procedure in selling his forestland, he would face a summary civil judgment requiring him to pay the estimated cost of the upgrades. RMAP does offer one other alternative: After conducting mapping and surveys at their own expense, owners of forestlands can choose to abandon their access roads.
“Those are our only choices under RMAP,” Okanogan County Farm Bureau President Joel Kretz told The New American. “We can somehow pay the expense to bring the roads up to standards, or we can physically block them off and never use them again.” In addition, Kretz continued, RMAP “essentially provides a continuing conservation easement on your land — forever. It requires that you grant open-ended access to your land to multiple parties, such as environmental enforcement agencies, various Indian tribes, and so on. People who thought that they owned their forestlands now find that they have been relegated to co-manager status over that land with practically every agency under the sun. Quite simply, what has happened is that tens of thousands of people across this state suddenly discovered that, according to our state government, they don’t own their own land.
Okanogan County resident Kathy Power teaches a continuing education program on real estate law. She declares that the Endangered Species Act (ESA), of which the RMAP measure is an outgrowth, is “one of the most fascist laws this country has ever seen.” Addressing an audience of 1,000 people at a March 26th town meeting in Tonasket, Powers noted that RMAP claims to regulate “public resources on private lands” — a description that harmonizes with the fascist concept of government control of nominally private property.
“I’m not about to be run out of town by a fascist law with no constitutional basis!” Powers declared to the applause of her audience. Seeking to channel her neighbors’ outrage into constructive activism, Powers stated: “We have to remember [that] to win we must do it peacefully. We will never be able to change this law if the National Guard comes in and shuts us down.
Confiscation by “Consensus”
The negotiations leading to RMAP began in 1986 as a series of meetings between timber companies, Indian tribe representatives, and activists from the “environmental community.” The final plan listed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency as key authors. The “stakeholders” in the process included large timber companies such as Weyerhauser and Boise Cascade, who can absorb the costs imposed by the new plan. But the “consensus” reflected in RMAP was created without significant input from either private forestland owners or representatives of the affected counties.
Driving the effort to create a “consensus” was the threat of draconian federal intervention. “During the late 1990s, the feds listed a bunch of fish species as endangered, and threatened to shut down all rural activities across the state if it didn’t come up with a “recovery’ plan,” Joel Kretz explained to The New American. “Al Gore came here personally and sat at the negotiating table, along with representatives of state and federal agencies, local Indian tribes, and people from some of the big corporations. But there was only one token landowner present during those talks. So it shouldn’t surprise us that the plan was good for the agencies, and acceptable to large corporate interests, and utterly disastrous for small landowners.” Kretz describes the deliberations that produced the RMAP as “a large table of vultures fighting over scraps of the carcass of the small private landowner. The only seat we got at the table was as the main course.”
“It’s really the federal agencies and members of the ‘environmental community’ that have driven this process,” commented Okanogan County Farm Bureau researcher Darlene Hanjy to The New American. “They’ve set themselves up like little tin gods, arrogantly sitting on panels that have the power to take people’s homes and land away.” Hanjy points out that many of the most important details of the RMAP scheme — such as the estimated costs to property owners to bring their private roads into compliance with the ESA — were concealed in confidential memos circulated among regulatory officials.
One private DNR document admitted: “No federal or state funds currently exist to pay for professional engineering to prepare plans or to help landowners pay for required road work. In addition, what little cost share money is available for family forests cannot be used for these purposes as federal regulations prevent cost share money being used to achieve compliance with requirements imposed by law.”
Accordingly, this mammoth unfunded federal mandate falls directly on private landowners, most of whom would simply be driven off their property. The confidential DNR memo continues: “This extensive investment in the public good may further erode the economic viability of family forestry. Despite the cash outlay, private landowners cannot expect any financial return on their investment.”
“They knew that the RMAP was targeting small property owners in our state’s poorest counties — people who cannot bear the financial burdens it imposes,” Hanjy commented to The New American. “Yet they tried to bury these facts in documents that the public would never see, unless someone dug them out, which we were fortunate enough to do. When we brought this up at a meeting with the DNR, and asked why the public hadn’t been told, we were informed that these memos were ‘addressed to a different audience for a different purpose.’
While RMAP’s architects sought to keep the public ignorant about the measure’s effects, they have also made it clear that ignorance of this law would not be considered an excuse for noncompliance. “They had hoped to implement this program on a one-to-one basis, which would mean that each targeted property owner would have no understanding of the bigger picture,” observed Hanjy. “It’s easy to imagine how some elderly couple could try to sell their small tract of forestland without filing the proper papers with the DNR, finding themselves tied up in court and eventually forced to pay the costs of upgrading their roads.”
In his address to the March 26th meeting in Tonasket, Doug Sutherland, Washington state commissioner of public lands, pointed out that the fate of Washington’s rural forestland owners will ultimately be determined by “those voters living within a 40-mile radius of the Space Needle” — that is, voters composing one of the nation’s most liberal population centers. With the regulation firmly in place and prospects for political change uninviting, Sutherland promised the outraged landowners that he would do what he could to “sweeten the lemonade.” This prompted one member of his audience to comment: “If it’s Jim Jones’ Guyana lemonade he’s talking about, sweetening it won’t undo the final effects.”
“We’re clearly being used as guinea pigs,” Joel Kretz told The New American. “This is an ideal set-up for an experiment with implications for the entire western United States. There is a huge urban population in Seattle that supports radical environmental measures like [RMAP], and a huge disparity in economic and political influence between urban and rural Washington. So if this thing finds traction here in Washington, it will probably expand to include private owners of forestlands across the West.”
In fact, Washington’s RMAP law is just one of numerous efforts to shut down human access to western lands. In the Klamath Basin along the Oregon-California border, federal regulatory officials denied desperately needed irrigation water to thousands of farmers. This was supposedly done to protect the habitat of two “endangered” species of sucker fish — even though the local reservoir was full, and wildlife biologists point out that the fish actually thrive in shallow water. Nationwide public outrage prompted federal officials to grant the embattled Klamath Basin farmers what may prove a temporary reprieve.
In the early 1990s, federal initiatives to protect the alleged habitat of the supposedly endangered northern spotted owl placed millions of acres of timberland off-limits to loggers, costing more than 100,000 jobs in the Pacific Northwest timber industry. A similar effort to protect the Mexican spotted owl in the Southwest destroyed thousands of logging jobs in Arizona and New Mexico.
In late 2001, a whistleblower in the U.S. Forest Service revealed that seven researchers employed by the agency to conduct a habitat survey of the endangered Canadian lynx had planted hairs from that wildcat species in three national forests in Washington. Chris West of the American Forest Resource Council points out that another federally employed biologist had been caught planting lynx hair samples in the Oregon Cascades. If successful, these deceptions could have led to a federal ban on nearly all human use of millions of acres of forest land in Washington and Oregon — to protect the fraudulently designated lynx habitat.
In June 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a “Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan” mandating creation of 32 million acres of “protected recovery zones” throughout the Rocky Mountain West. The intention was to restore grizzly bear populations in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and Colorado, and to create “wildlife corridors” connecting these “island” populations with each other.
Shortly before leaving office, Bill Clinton issued regulatory decrees locking up nearly 60 million acres of national forests across the West as “roadless areas.”
The most ambitious effort to create a wildlife corridor is the Yukon to Yellowstone Initiative (Y2Y), which seeks to create a transnational “bioregion” 2,000 miles long and 300 miles wide. The initiative describes its vision as one in which a “web of protected wildlife cores and connecting wildlife corridors has been defined and designated for the Yellowstone to Yukon region,” and all land-use and development decisions within the affected region would be “based first and foremost on ecological principles.” A UN-approved “bioregional council” would ultimately administer a bioregion consuming two-thirds of Idaho and roughly half of Montana. Yellowstone National Park, declared a “World Heritage Site in Danger” by the UN in 1995, provides an anchor for the bioregion on the U.S. side of the border.
The grandiose Y2Y project is an outgrowth of the “Mackenzie Decision,” which created a 16-million-acre wilderness area in British Columbia. Proudly describing the set-aside as “Canada’s gift to the world,” B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh pointed out that creating the West Virginia-sized wildlands area “establishes an important precedent.” First, with the decision, British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to comply with a UN mandate to set aside 12 percent of its land base as protected area. Second, the decision — like Washington State’s RMAP plan — was created by an assembly of “stakeholders,” rather than accountable elected officials.
Dr. Michael S. Coffman, a widely revered forest scientist, points out that this model of decision-making by “consensus” is prescribed by the UN’s Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA), a mammoth document created to guide implementation of the UN’s Convention on Biodiversity. “Under the GBA plan, land-use decisions would be made through a new form of governance whereby local people form ‘stakeholder groups’ or ‘partnerships,’ which would make land-use rules by ‘consensus.’ Of course, this arrangement would effectively dispense with property rights altogether.
Henry Lamb, director of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), notes that Our Global Neighborhood, an authoritative blueprint for UN “reform,” envisions the organization of land masses across the globe into “bioregions administered by bioregional councils under the direct supervision of the UN and with enforcement authority....” A more appropriate label for such “bioregional councils” would be “UN eco-soviets.” The purpose of soviets in Communist Russia was to dictate a local “consensus” on behalf of policies emanating from the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Failure to achieve such a “consensus” voluntarily would result in its imposition by force, generally through liquidating resisters.
Mike Low, a forest industry representative who participated as a “stakeholder” in the process that created the Mackenzie Decision, testifies that while British Columbia’s methods weren’t as severe as those employed by the Soviets, the same principles drove the process: “One of the fears we had was that if we couldn’t reach consensus then the government would make the decisions for us, and none of the stakeholders wanted that.” In the same fashion, looming behind deliberations of the eco-soviet that created Washington’s RMAP plan was the prospect of federal intervention that would amount to a “Final Solution” for the state’s rural economy.
The Wildlands Scheme
The eco-radicals driving Washington’s RMAP plan tried to implement its scheme on a one-to-one basis, thereby preventing landowners from presenting organized resistance. In the same fashion, those behind the continent-wide assault on property rights are trying to conceal the true scope and nature of their ambition, outlined in a UN-approved program called the “Wildlands Project.”
The centerpiece of the UN’s 1992 UN “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro was the Convention on Biodiversity, which Bill Clinton signed in 1993. The treaty stipulated that specific guidelines for preserving biodiversity would be provided by the UN’s “Global Biodiversity Assessment” (GBA), unavailable for Senate inspection until just a few hours before the final vote on ratification in September 1994. Once the GBA was made available to the Senate, then-Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) quietly took the ratification vote off the agenda — because Section 18.104.22.168.3 identified the Wildlands Project as the framework for implementing the treaty. Little support existed in the Senate for ratification of a measure mandating the eradication of industrial civilization from one-half the surface area of the continental United States.
Co-created by eco-terrorist Dave Foreman, founder of Earth First!, the Wildlands Project envisions nothing less than “the end of industrial civilization,” according to John Davis of Wild Earth magazine.
The Wildlands Project, states Foreman, “is a bold attempt to grope our way back to October, 1492, and find a different trail.” As the project advances, Foreman predicts, “local and regional reserve systems linked to others [will] ultimately tie the North American continent into a single Biodiversity Preserve.” “Our vision is simple,” asserts the Wildlands Project Mission Statement: “We live for the day when Grizzlies in Chihuahua have an unbroken connection to Grizzlies in Alaska; when Gray Wolf populations are continuous from New Mexico to Greenland…Our vision is continental; from Panama and the Caribbean to Alaska and Greenland, from the Arctic to the continental shelves…”
Reed F. Noss, the radical “deep ecologist” who co-created the 1991 Wildlands Project proposal with Foreman, describes how the surface of North America would be covered by “an interconnected system of strictly protected areas (core reserves), surrounded by lands used for human activities compatible with conservation that put biodiversity first (buffer zones), and linked together in some way that provides for functional connectivity … across the landscape.” In both the “core” and “buffer” areas, Noss explains, “the collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.”
Every environmental preserve — such as habitat for endangered species, national monuments, wilderness areas, or UN-designated World Heritage sites or Biosphere Reserves — is a potential Wildlands Project “core area.” Dave Foreman urges radical eco-activists on the ground to “identify existing protected areas” and have them designated core areas. They can then be connected to other core areas through “corridors” across the landscape.
Foreman also instructs eco-radicals to “look for gaps between wild lands or public lands” for future acquisition “by public agencies or by private groups like the Nature Conservancy.” Wildlands activist John Davis states that the whole purpose of this strategy is to keep “expanding wilderness until the matrix, not just the nexus, is wild” — in other words, until property owners, miners, ranchers, loggers, and others living and working in targeted areas have been driven off their lands and cattle-penned in urban reservations.
Writing in Science magazine, Charles C. Mann and Mark L. Plummer warn that as the Wildlands Project unfolds, “most roads would be closed; some would be ripped out of the landscape.” This is certainly what RMAP portends for owners of Washington forestlands. Eventually, continue Mann and Plummer, the project will require “nothing less than a transformation of America [into] an archipelago of human-inhabited islands surrounded by natural islands.” Environmental author Alston Chase bluntly warns that consummation of the Wildlands design will mean “the forced relocation of tens of millions of people … the removal of human habitation from up to half of the country’s land area.”
Even though the Senate refused to ratify the Biodiversity Convention, the Clinton-era Interior Department created a National Biological Survey intended (in the words of Department science adviser Tom Lovejoy) to “determine development for the whole country and regulate it…” Furthermore, key federal regulatory agencies — the USFWS, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management — have become infested with the ideology of “Biocentrism” — the concept that human rights, needs, and prosperity must be subordinated to the good of the “global biosphere.”
In his book In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the Rising Tyranny of Ecology, environmental analyst Alston Chase describes believers in Biocentrism as “apostles of the new order” and observes that the Clinton administration “adopted biocentrism as the guiding philosophy of all federal land management” immediately on coming to power.
David Garber, a research biologist with the National Park Service, offered the most useful summary of the biocentric world view.
“Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but that isn’t true. Somewhere along the line — at about a million years ago, maybe half that — we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth....Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”
This isn’t to say that biocentric extremists are simply idling away the hours waiting for Gaia to unleash a mutant pathogen to cleanse Earth of less “enlightened” people. Biocentrists in the federal bureaucracy, working with allies in environmental pressure groups, have been working to lock away lands across the United States, particularly out West — where the federal government is the largest landowner. The most useful weapon in this campaign of “rural cleansing,” explained biocentrist Bruce Babbitt, who served as Bill Clinton’s interior secretary, is “one landmark law: the 1973 Endangered Species Act [ESA].” But as Dr. Coffman points out, the ESA itself is adapted from the UN’s Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) — meaning that the decades-long assault on property rights and rural life conducted via the ESA has been carried out pursuant to UN mandates.
In January 1996, Bill Clinton unveiled another key element of the Wildlands apparatus by issuing Executive Order 12986, which granted immunity to lawsuits to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN is a multinational advisory panel to the UN; its membership includes hundreds of federal and state regulatory agencies (including the EPA, BLM, and the USFS), as well as 133 UN-accredited non-governmental organizations, or NGOs — including scores of the most powerful, foundation-funded eco-radical organizations. The IUCN describes its mission as that of applying “eco-spiritual practice and principles” with the intention of “chang[ing] human behavior” with respect to nature.
Composed entirely of unaccountable bureaucrats and eco-radical activists, and immune to civil lawsuits, the IUCN is at the center of efforts to create “consensus” among the “stakeholders” who create policies like Washington’s RMAP law. Okanogan County property rights activist Darlene Henjy refers to the arrogance of the officials responsible for creating and implementing the RMAP proposal. The attitude she describes is of a piece with that expressed in an article published by the IUCN journal Conservation Biology: “[W]e assume that environmental wounds inflicted by ignorant humans…can be treated by wiser humans…Conservation biology is a crisis discipline. On the battlefield you are justified in firing on the enemy.”
Stopping the Juggernaut
Many beleaguered Western property owners hope that with the end of the Clinton administration, the “rural cleansing” campaign will end. Apparently, though, the UN-connected biocentrists in the federal bureaucracy are merely retrenching, rather than retreating. In late April, Interior Secretary Gail Norton announced new guidelines that would encourage greater participation by state and local officials in the administration of federally designated wilderness and national monument areas. However, the Bush administration hasn’t indicated that it contemplates a rollback of the gains made by Wildlands Project activists during Bill Clinton’s reign.
“I spend a lot of time talking to people in the [environmental regulatory] agencies, and I have seen a real change in the attitude of the people who’ve come in with the new administration,” Joel Kretz told The New American. “But I’m a ‘Show me, don’t tell me’ kind of person, and it’s clear that many of the most radical people have burrowed down deep in the bureaucracy, and they’re still following the same plan.”
Rooting out the deeply entrenched biocentric radicals from every federal environmental agency would be the political equivalent of rooting al-Qaeda terrorists from their caves in Afghanistan. A better strategy would be to work through the House of Representatives to cut off funding for eco-socialist initiatives. But we cannot decisively defeat the Wildlands threat until we get our nation out of the United Nations — and permanently evict the UN from our shores.
This article appeared in The New American magazine.