Unmasking the Green
October 5, 1998
By Clark Carter
Mary Adams recently asked me to attend the Maine
River Summit, held at the Sebasco Resort in
I suppose I was a logical choice, not only
because I live nearby, but also because I have
attended many conferences like this one when I
spent a year of my life working for People for
the West (now People for the USA), a coalition
of miners, ranchers, loggers, and recreational
Upon arrival at the "river summit" we
were greeted, signed in, and given coffee and
As with any large group, conversations started
and old friends were greeted. As I circulated
around the room, I was struck at the nature of
At conferences out west, I heard many intriguing
stories about how the weather is affecting the
wheat, how the financial winds are blowing, what
the new Forest Service people are like to deal
with, which new "endangered" species
was likely to become a surrogate for
preservationists, and similar concerns. The
conversations of small business people.
At the River Summit, I heard no one talking
about how hard it is to make a living.
The dominant topic of conversation seemed to be
the closing up of camps and summer homes.
I believe there was a tie for the second most
common subject of conversation -- between
getting the boat out of the water for the winter
(a trailer comes to mind, but apparently the
boats being discussed here were a little large
for that) and junior's high tuition bills. I was
at a conference of the moneyed elite, no
question about that.
And these people are not nearly as much fun as
the hardworking men and women [that] I worked
with out West.
Conversation was very dark and serious, with
dire consequences hanging over everyone --
consequences that could only be avoided if these
"good-thinking people" can monopolize
Indeed, the only laughter I heard was during the
speech of Donald Hooper, a political operative
who is New England Regional Organizer for the
National Wildlife Federation. He mentioned the
ideas of limited government and sitting down to
compromise with business (he called it having a
"love-in"). My fellow attendees found
these ideas uproariously funny.
As I wandered around the various exhibits, I did
overhear one interesting tidbit.
Sara Faulkner Leff, Executive Director of the
River Alliance of Connecticut was bemoaning the
fact that she couldn't get such a large turnout
of people in Connecticut.
It appears that using the concepts of
"watersheds" to put vast areas
off limits to any kind of business is a
practice that is okay for hillbilly states like
Maine, but not real popular when done in
For in the end that's what this conference was
It was a political strategy session -- a place
for environmental professionals to learn a new
The technique is "the watershed
address." Mr. Hooper told the gathering:
"Watersheds take in everything from
agricultural practices to Midwestern power
plants." In other words, we are dealing
with the next Endangered Species Act here.
We are all familiar with the devastation that
has been wrought on our resource industries by
the green tactic of finding an endangered
species and then using the ESA to shut down
resource producers and change
communities from places where things are made to
destinations were the elite are served.
The greens know that they cannot succeed if
voters are aware of their policy ends (e.g. the
transformation of the North Woods into a
playground for those rich enough to have the
time to walk from Greenville to Allagash).
Their successes have come when they use an act
such as the ESA to mandate wrenching social
change. They are starting the process here now,
with their efforts to make the Canadian Lynx
Maine's spotted owl.
And, of course, their efforts to protect
The "watershed" concept is another
attempt to sneak their radical beliefs into
public policy without having a debate about
Chris Brown, of the National Park Service, said
that now "most federal agencies are
organized around watersheds."
Despite the fact that this man has a position of
great responsibility in the federal government,
he made no pretense of being impartial in any
He spoke of environmentalism as being "the
business we are all in." He said: "the
watershed is the best geographical unit to give
citizens a sense of place -- remember
recruitment is essential."
Mr. Wallin, the keynote speaker and the founder
of the River Network in Portland, Oregon, said:
"you can't conserve a river without
managing the land," as well as "a
river is more than water, it is an ecosystem
with a headlands forest and riparian
The "watershed" scheme goes like this:
First use the concern everyone has for the
beautiful river near where he or she lives to
get people to buy into the idea that they
belong, not to a town, a county, or a way of
life, but to a watershed.
Second, use that concern to pass laws
"watershed," but keep quiet about
ideas like regulating all riverfront property
and the forests at the river's head while doing
Third, once the laws are established use them
against activities the greens are hostile to,
such as forestry and agriculture.
In the end, of course, "watershed
protection" will lead to zoning and
administrative rulemaking, which will accomplish
what the greens cannot accomplish
straightforwardly -- the
destruction of the American resource producer.
Those of us whose living depends on using the
land, or those of us who just don't want to
change the communities of Northern Maine, need
to fight the concept of "watersheds"
from the start.
If the traditional political parties don't have
the gumption to fight this moneyed elite, then
we need to rally around fighters like Mary
Make no mistake about it --
"watersheds" are just another tool to
turn Northern Maine into a park.
The best example of the attitude of the greens
didn't come from this conference.
I read it in the Boston Globe in an article
about the pending sale of the SAPPI property.
A man sitting on the porch of his camp on
Moosehead said to the reporter: "I look
across the lake at all that empty land and I am
afraid that it will all be developed into
My reply is simple: "Fine. We'll take yours
Note: Maine is apparently way behind the
"watershed" scheme that's been
implemented in places like the North Olympic
Peninsula in Washington state.