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Wildlands Project writ large

By Henry Lamb
web posted March 3, 2003

When Earth First! co-founder, Dave Foreman, first voiced his vision in 1990, of wolves and grizzly bears roaming, unmolested by humans, through unbroken wilderness from Mexico to Canada -- many people laughed. When Reed Noss first published his Wildlands Project in 1992, calling for the conversions of "at least half" of the United States to "core wilderness areas," surrounded by buffer zones in which human activity was to be severely limited -- few people even noticed.

When the U.S. Senate learned in 1994, that the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity embraced this "Wildlands Project" concept, it chose to not ratify the treaty. But the Clinton/Gore administration decided to pursue Dave Foreman's dream anyway, and set out to transform America's land use policies through a multitude of new rules and regulations bundled neatly into what it called its "Ecosystem Management Policy."

Now, a New Jersey Congressman, Robert Andrews, has decided to write into law the very same U.N. policies rejected by the Senate, and promoted by environmental extremists. His bill, the National Forest Ecosystem Protection Act ( HR652), requires the Forest Service to designated "core wilderness areas," and surround them with "primitive areas" in which human activity is severely limited.

The bill also requires the "permanent phase out of commercial grazing.

To achieve this transformation of the American landscape, the bill appropriates $100 million per year for 13 years to acquire private property East of Denver. Additional millions are appropriated to acquire private property and other land use rights West of Denver.

This bill leaves many questions unanswered:

1. Why is a New Jersey Congressman who sits on the Armed Forces Committee, promoting this bill that can transform almost every state except New Jersey?

2. How many "core reserves" will be created?

3. How many acres will be designated as "primitive areas?"

4. How many acres of private property will be added to the federal land inventory?

5. What percentage of land must the government own in order to adequately protect the environment?
These, and many other questions go unanswered because Bill Caruso, designated press spokesman for Congressman Andrews, failed to return repeated phone calls to his office.

Congressman Andrews' bill appears to be a direct response to Dave Foreman's fantasy. Foreman said in 1990, " Move out the people and cars. Reclaim the roads and plowed land." Section 8(d) of the bill says: "The Secretary shall begin closing unmapped roads, temporary roads, and unimproved cherry-stemmed roads in a primitive area as soon as practicable...."

Foreman says: "Terminate commercial livestock grazing on the western public lands!" Andrews' bill says: "Any commercial grazing permitted, as of the date of the enactment of this Act, in the primitive areas delineated under this section shall be phased out as provided in section 5."

The Wildlands Project is no longer a laughing matter. Already, nine bills have been introduced to expand wilderness in America. Nearly two dozen bills have been introduced which authorize the government's purchase of additional private property. The concept of "multiple use" of so-called "public land" is being replaced with the reality of "no use" of public land. Logging, grazing, mining - use of America's resources - is being curtailed for the benefit of a turtle, or a frog, or a weed.

The nine million acres of wilderness originally designated by the 1964 Wilderness Act, has grown to hundreds of millions of acres of wilderness, including 47 U.N. "Biosphere Reserves." Governments already own more than 40 per cent of the total land area in America. The Andrews bill seeks to take even more land out of production.

The land, the source of our economic prosperity, is being locked up, out of reach of individuals and industry, forcing our economic future to become dependent upon the very nations that eagerly await America's downfall.

Efforts to protect the environment by assigning the responsibility to government, are simply wrongheaded. The most degraded environments in the world are those for which the government has primary management responsibility. The forest fires of recent years are further evidence of government's inability to manage the land it already owns.

Private owners are, by far, better stewards of the resources upon which their livelihood depends, than is an agency of government, or an organization of zealots, or an international commission meeting in Gland Switzerland.

Dave Foreman's vision, and Robert Andrews' bill should be rejected. Free people create free markets; neither can survive when the government owns the sources of production.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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