The Wildlands Project Comes to Hidalgo County (Part 17)
A Country Girl’s Musin’ by Judy Keeler
In researching the Wildlands Project and The Nature Conservancy, I’ve become very uncomfortable with the working relationship the Conservancy has with our federal agencies. This relationship is not new; it has been developing over a period of years.
Doug Fieder reports in his article, “The Eco-Regulatory Conspiracy” that “under a law known as the ‘Intergovernmental Personnel Act’, the federal government ‘lends out’ 1,200 to 1,500 well paid federal bureaucrats to nonprofit organizations each year.”
“They often trade employees back and forth – most of whom are on the federal payroll. Often, federal regulatory agencies even offer grants to nonprofit organizations that use the money to sue the granting agency.”
No doubt, in the beginning, each organization benefited from the other’s expertise. However, as the relationship grew cozier, problems began to emerge.
In the late 80’s the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy began a “joint venture” partnership to create one of the largest federal wildlife refuges in Illinois. Working hand in glove with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service through its National Wildlife Refuge division, the Conservancy shared office space with the Service on Shawnee College Road and had a telephone listing under U.S. Government Offices.
By 1993, with over half the funding for the refuge secured from state and federal governments, trouble began brewing. Albert Pyott, Director of the Illinois Chapter, began flexing his partnership muscles in a letter to Professor Dieter Kuhn. At the time, Dr. Kuhn was living abroad in Germany. Reluctant to sell his property to the Nature Conservancy, he avoided communicating with the organization.
In a letter dated May 26, 1993, Mr. Pyott expresses his frustration at not being able to discuss the transaction with the landowner. He writes, “The government agencies’ intention during the acquisition phase of this project has been to deal only on a willing seller basis.” However, “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, like other agencies, has the power of eminent domain which allows the use of condemnation to acquire lands and interest in lands for the public good.”
As if he hadn’t made his point, Mr. Pyott continued, “If your land is not acquired through voluntary negotiation, we will recommend its acquisition through condemnation.”
Who is the Conservancy that they should be recommending condemnation proceedings to a federal agency?
Of course this letter would become an embarrassment to the Conservancy’s national headquarters. Ultimately, Mr. Pyott would be removed as state director, but a pattern was emerging: Form a “joint venture” partnership with an agency, contract with that agency to do the background work for the “joint project”, present your recommendations, and make off with the goods. In the process you also get paid for your “work”.
Apart from federal grants, the Conservancy received $146,689,449 from our federal government between 1997 and 2001. In 2000 alone, it received $60,085,455 in contract fees, plus $81,925,124 from the sale of private land to federal agencies. Not a bad deal for the 10th largest nonprofit organization in our nation.
Always able to project an image of outstanding environmental stewardship through the Conservancy’s glossy magazine, anything the organization may have lacked in public relations they more than adequately made up through their lobbying efforts.
We now have several bills in Congress that will most certainly impact land ownership in our nation. Already approved by the Senate Finance Committee on February 5th, Senate Bill 256 will give a 25% tax cut on capital gains taxes gleaned from lands sales. But, only if the land is sold to an environmental group or to a government agency.
With an incentive like this, who would want to sell to a private investor? After all, twenty-five percent of one million dollars is two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Any willing seller would prefer to keep this kind of change in his own pocket.
The other bill, HR 652, is sponsored by Robert E. Andrews from New Jersey. The intent of the bill is to maximize large tracts of land for wildland recreational opportunities, habitat protection for native wildlife and natural plant communities, and to contribute to a preservation of water for use by downstream metropolitan communities and other users, through the establishment of a National Forest Ecosystem Protection Program composed of lands within existing wilderness areas and adjacent primitive areas.
The environmental community knows it only takes 9 states with large constituencies to pass such a law in the House.
It’s only natural for those whose back you scratch to also scratch yours, but does it make it right? What will happen when all the land is in federal ownership, or in the hands of a few elite nonprofit organizations? Are we headed on a collision course similar to Russia, China and other communist nations where we can no longer supply food for our citizens? Certainly makes one wonder.
It seems to me we should learn from history that government ownership of the land does not work. It offers no incentive for individuals to investment their time or capital in production or making needed improvements. Neither will ordinary citizens be able to sustain themselves from the land, or make significant contributions to a formerly “great society”.
Has the environmental community become so intertwined with our elected officials, as well as our state and federal agencies they are selling us out to a “higher order”?
In my opinion, Arthur Young, in his book, “Travels”, 1787, summed up his observations of the United States in one paragraph – “Give a man the secure possession of bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine year lease of a garden, and he will convert it to a desert… The magic of property turns sand into gold.” Is it too late to turn back the clock?
How the feds hand out your federal dollars
Why the greens seem to be “getting places”
Report to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Working Group on Wildlife Linkage Habitat - Draft
The Eco-regulatory Conspiracy
Tracking fed handouts to radical greens
Brenda McCalmon, editor
Contact: Judy Keeler
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Hidalgo County" articles, visit:
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