How to keep government accountable
By Henry Lamb
web posted February 21, 2005
The Missouri legislators who read, before voting to approve a
water law (HB1433) in the waning moments of last year's
session, no doubt, thought that they were creating something to
help protect clean water in a nine-county area. That's what they
were told by reputable employees of the state agencies, and
influential lobbyists from environmental organizations.
The new law created a nine-county district in which water policy
would be developed and enforced by appointed -- not elected
None realized that the law they adopted was, in fact, an
important step toward the implementation of a plan conceived
more than 15 years ago by government officials and
environmental organizations convened by, and systematically
working through, the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature, in Gland, Switzerland.
The plan, generically known as "ecosystem management," is
designed to manage natural resources on an "ecosystem" basis,
rather than on the basis of arbitrarily-drawn state and county
political boundaries. Equally important, is the transfer of
management authority from elected officials to appointed
officials. The "watershed" is the primary building block of every
HB1433 successfully designated nine Missouri counties as a
watershed, and created an appointed body to govern water --
the essential ingredient in every ecosystem.
Ten years ago, in the same area of Missouri, the same
government officials and environmental organizations attempted
to impose the entire ecosystem management plan on the same
area by proposing the creation of a U.N. Biosphere Reserve for
Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas. The plan
failed because local citizens learned how the plan would
diminish private property rights and transfer authority from local
elected officials to professional bureaucrats.
The proponents of ecosystem management have simply
regrouped, lowered their sights, and are taking smaller bites
toward achieving the same goals they pursued ten years ago.
Proponents of the ecosystem management plan make strong
arguments about the desirability of managing water resources to
assure adequate, safe supplies for future generations. It is
absolutely true that water flows are not restricted by political
boundaries or property lines. It is easy for politicians to swallow
these arguments, if no one speaks up for costs and
consequences that inevitably follow this kind of management
Local people are speaking up in Missouri. Russell Wood, head
of the Ozarks Chapter of the Property Rights Congress, and Ray
Cunio, President of Missouri's Citizens for Private Property
Rights, are leading an effort to repeal HB1433.
More than 200 local citizens packed a restaurant where a
meeting was held to discuss the merits of HB1433, and the
efforts to repeal it. State Representative Dennis Wood, a
proponent of the water district, explained that the legislation
provided low-cost loans to people who would be required to
upgrade their septic systems.
An unidentified lady said in response: "Why can't you
understand? We don't want your 'help.' We don't need your law!
Why can't you get that?"
Aside from the particular regulations and fines imposed by the
water district law, the larger question is one that faces virtually
every community in the nation: who shall govern -- elected
officials, or appointed professionals?
The only way a government of, for, and by the people can be
controlled by the people, is to throw the elected bums out of
office when they enact laws or policies the people don't want.
When policies that carry the weight of law are enacted and
enforced by appointed professionals, the people no longer have
the means to control their government.
Across the nation, watershed councils, historic districts, heritage
areas, scenic highway commissions, rural development
authorities, regional transportation boards, area planning
councils, and numerous other "multi-jurisdictional" authorities are
emerging, to diminish, or remove policy-making authority from
elected officials, and transfer that authority to appointed
These agency professionals are often members of national
associations of agency professionals that regularly participate in
conferences convened by the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature. Six federal agencies are dues-paying
members of this organization, as are most of the national
environmental organizations. The IUCN is the source of virtually
every international environmental treaty in the last 30 years, the
Agenda 21, and numerous other international environmental
agreements and policies.
When key players in the Missouri legislature were approached
last year by these well-versed agency professionals and
environmental experts, they created the water district. Now that
the local citizens have had a chance to see what the legislators
did, they are responding, to hold their elected officials
accountable -- to repeal the water district law.
Local citizens everywhere can take a lesson from the folks in
Missouri; get informed, get involved, and get busy.
Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental
Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty
Enter Stage Right -- http://www.enterstageright.com