MORRISON: But I thought they were the good guys

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

By Joyce Morrison (
The Illinois Leader

For an enlarged version of the map, click on the graphic.

OPINION -- Have you ever had a nagging feeling that things are not what they seem? You think you have an organization pegged as one of the good guy, and then you find it was just doing a great job of looking good - just don't look beneath the veneer if you don’t want to see corruption.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) produces beautiful ads. It reaches the sensitive at heart - and that would include me. But when you begin to do a little digging, you’ll find it is about money and power - not the environment.

The February 18th issue of Range Magazine has a 24-page special report by Tim Findley on the arrogance of TNC entitled, "Nature’s Landlord." This will make you folks who have sent in your $25 to save the earth wish you had it back in your pocket.

The report can be found at

"I knew the founders of this organization (TNC) on a first name basis, and they would be turning over in their graves," said former TNC manager Huey Johnson, according to "Nature's Landlord" author Tim Finkley, of TNC's "Durable Conservation" Strategy.

Well, it looks like TNC has gotten to the place where it doesn't think its integrity can be challenged.

Findley’s report tells how the TNC makes "willing sellers" of people who own the land it wants to buy. TNC even used an innocent looking college boy to infiltrate areas to find the weaknesses of the land owners. Then TNC preys on poor old people and those who are in a financial bind.

J. Zane Walley of Paragon Foundation wrote "As one 75-year-old rancher and poet said, "I had no choice, really. They (the TNC) bought everything around me. I’m just tired of fighting with ‘em."

The "college boy" who watched her lose her home is now the head of TNC in California.

Even in Illinois this is happening. Findley’s article tells of national attention drawn in 1993 when the Illinois state director of TNC, Albert Pyott, so coveted property near the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge that he tried to intimidate the owner with a letter saying, "If your land is not acquired through voluntary negotiation, we will recommend its acquisition through condemnation."

Findley reports TNC to be America’s 10th largest nonprofit charity without so much as a tax dollar’s accountability to the people of the United States.

Their balance sheet ending June 30, 2001, showsed a balance of $2,670,120,790. Grants and pledges of $97,544,629 were reported with inventories, investments, etc., making up the rest. Your tax dollar makes up a lot of their grants.

Twelve million acres in the U.S., an area the size of Switzerland, is controlled by TNC - and it enjoys tax exempt status. Worldwide, TNC controls some 90 million acres.

Slipped into "The CARE Act of 2003" is tax favoritism for TNC and other land trusts. Federal bill S256 (Sections 106 and 107) which has already been approved by the Senate Finance Committee on February 5, will provide a tax break if sellers sell to land trusts.

According to Mike Hardiman of the Landrights organization, S256 would "hand over to the Nature Conservancy and other already wealthy land trusts, a nearly insurmountable advantage of up to 25% when competing with private purchasers of property. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) propose huge new benefits for TNC and other land trusts - at the expense of private property owners, communities and other charities.

The bait in this bill is a 25% tax break to the seller if he sells to a land trust. Groups like TNC will have up to a 25% advantage when bidding versus private parties, because of the tax benefit to the seller. When these groups buy the land, then it goes off the tax roles and other property owners will have to make up for the loss.

It is upsetting to see these land trusts polluting the Faith Based Initiative bill. Hardiman says, "a bill designed to help charities to help people has quietly had this provision tacked onto it by multibillion dollar land trusts for their own selfish benefit! OF COURSE, this has been done with NO PUBLIC HEARINGS. The land trusts prefer to work in the dark, behind closed doors."

The GOOD NEWS is the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has some great new members who will be helping Chairman Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). The left wing activists have flocked to this committee in the past. Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, and Harry Reid have been members and the real environmental move has suffered under their control.

The Constitution puts limits on government ownership of property. The following statement from Range Magazine should explain why TNC is called the "government’s real estate agent."

"We do work closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said TNC’s William Weeks in 1991. "We buy these properties when they need to be bought, so that at some point we can become willing sellers (to the government). This helps the government get around the problem of local opposition."

Continued next week........


Joyce Morrison
Joyce Morrison lives in Jersey County, Illinois. She is a chapter leader for Concerned Women for America and she and her husband, Gary, represent the local Citizens for Private Property Rights. Joyce is Secretary to the Board of Directors of Rural Restoration/ADOPT Mission, a national farm ministry located in Sikeston, MO. The group's SOWER Magazine features Joyce's writing. Joyce is an activist and serves as a member of the agricultural advisory board of U.S. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL).


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