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Tightening the screws

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 7, 2001

More than 1,400 farm families in the Klamath Basin have been targeted for economic extinction by environmental extremists. Nearly 90 per cent of the 210,000 acres of farmland will get no water from Upper Klamath Lake because Steve Lewis, a biologist, rendered an opinion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which said a sucker fish in the Upper Klamath Lake, and coho salmon in the Klamath river need the water more than the farmers. In an appeal, U.S. District Judge Ann L. Aiken, agreed, saying "...while it is clear that the farmers face severe economic hardship, the threat to the survival of the fish is greater."

A "Bucket Brigade" is scheduled for May 7, where thousands of supporters will physically lift buckets of water from Klamath lake and hand them, person-to-person, down the brigade, all the way to an irrigation canal. The demonstration may draw attention to the farmer's plight, but it is not likely to change anything in the long run. The Klamath Basin is in the path of a coveted Bioregion; the fish problem is simply a tool being used to achieve a much bigger objective.

The underlying legal authority is the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which has been used excessively by environmental extremists to drive people off their land, and into economic oblivion.

Ironically, the ESA was enacted in response to a very emotional appeal to protect the American Bald Eagle; the decision to protect the Klamath sucker fish will deprive the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge the runoff from area farms, which will jeopardize as many as 1 000 eagles that feed there.

Attorneys for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund (formerly Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) are fighting for the sucker fish. This same extremist outfit sued the federal government in behalf of the coho salmon, then submitted a bill to the Justice Department for $439,053. Most of the bill represented 931 hours by a single attorney – at $350.00 per hour.

This fight, though, is not about attorney's fees, as obnoxious as they may be. This fight is not about the sucker fish, as repulsive as they may be. This fight is about the land.

It would be a mistake to laugh off the vision held by some, to convert as much as half the land in North America to core wilderness reserves, devoid of humans, connected by corridors of wilderness, all surrounded by buffer zones. This vision was advanced initially in the United States by Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!, founder of the Cenozoic Society, the Wildlands Project, and recently, a member of the board of the Sierra Club.

Foreman's vision was elevated into a legitimate plan when The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society funded the efforts of Dr. Reed Noss, who actually drafted the Wildlands Project plan. The United Nations Environment Program legitimized the vision when it published the Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA), a massive 1140-page instruction book for implementing the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. Section 13 of the GBA is a detailed description of how biodiversity should be preserved under the Convention (treaty), and on page 993 (Section, the Wildlands Project is named explicitly as being "central" to successful implementation.

When the plan first appeared in 1992, it drew rave reviews from deep ecologists and environmental extremists – and rounds of robust laughter from everyone else.

Al Gore did not laugh. Bruce Babbitt did not laugh. Carol Browner did not laugh. Immediately upon taking office in 1993, the Clinton/Gore administration began restructuring the resource agencies of government around an "Ecosystem Management Policy" that elevated the protection of ecosystems to the same level as human health, and considered humans to be a "biological resource." When the Democratically controlled U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994, the shocked and bewildered administration decided to implement the Ecosystem Management Policy anyway.

From day one, Gore, Babbitt, and Browner set out to impose and enforce every rule possible to keep people from using federal land, and even private lands. A law suit filed by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund to "save" the spotted owl, took out the loggers in the northwest and eventually, in the southwest as well. A red-legged frog froze commercial activity on vast stretches of land in California. Monument designation removed ranchers and prohibited mineral production on nearly 2 million acres of the Escalante Staircase, and millions more acres in and around Clinton's rash of additional National Monuments.

On and on it goes. Following the Clinton/Gore administration around the United States is a trip through tragedy for people who love the land and depend upon its natural resources.

Now it is the farmers in the Klamath Basin who must pay. They must pay with their land. Had the federal government just ordered the farmers to move, there would have been a rebellion.

No, no. No one would be so brazen. A more subtle, indirect approach was contrived. In Ohio, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would never "force" people off their land; they would, instead, proclaim the virtue of a new wildlife preserve, and insist that the farmland owned by nearly 200 families must be protected for future generations – and therefore, the taxpayers should buy the land from the residents of the Darby and return the land to its pre-settlement condition.

In Maine, environmental extremists want to convert most of the state into wilderness.

In the northwest, there are several simultaneous, indirect tactics underway, all of which have the effect of forcing people off the land, or severely limiting what people may do, who are allowed to stay on the land. The Columbia River Basin has been a burning-barrel for tax dollars, wasted in plan after plan to remove or control the people. The Columbia River Gorge Commission is a classic example of government controlling people's activity on their own private property.

The Y2Y project envisions wilderness from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and the Cascadia Bioregion vision adds the forests and river bottoms from Washington to northern California – including the Klamath Basin. All across the land, policies and programs are being implemented that have the effect of forcing people off their rural land – to achieve some imagined environmental benefit.

If the Klamath farmers get no water, they can't farm. If they can't farm, they will have to move somewhere and find work. It's as simple as that. Sympathy will be dispensed, and tax dollars offered, but in the end, if farmers can't get water, they can't farm. If they can't farm – they must move off the land.

Ask any Congressman or federal officer what the Klamath water decision has to do with the Wildlands Project, and the reply will be an indignant "nothing!" Sadly, most of them will think they speak the truth. The field officers of the federal agencies are just following orders. Their bosses, however, were selected by the Clinton/Gore team directly from the very environmental organizations that dreamed up and promoted the Wildlands Project. Many of the second and third tier officials remain in the Bush administration.

The elected officials have little time to be bothered with wild, scatter-brained "conspiracy theories" about U.N. land grabs. "Hogwash," they say. Anytime the U.N. is mentioned in less than glowing terms, elected officials tend to throw up the "black helicopter" defense and listen no more.

Nevertheless, look around. If the Klamath farmers get no water, they must move. The loggers in the northwest found that owls and salmon are valued higher than the needs of loggers , and they were forced to close the mills and move off the land. The ranchers throughout the west are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their herds at profitable levels because of ever tightening rules and regulations.

Miners are now a distinct endangered species, but they are not on the EPA list for help. Private land owners from Maine to Ohio to Florida are finding "growth limits" blocking economic expansion and forcing land into open space instead of productive usage. Slowly, project by project, law by law, rule by rule, the United States is being transformed into the bizarre vision advanced by Dave foreman more than a decade ago, which, incidentally, is precisely the objective of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.

The screws are tightening now on the Klamath farmers. It is a sad day in the United States when the government officially places the value of a sucker fish above the needs of its citizens. The Endangered Species Act, as onerous as it is, does provide a mechanism for a so-called "God Squad" to overrule the federal agency and the sucker fish.

It is worth noting that when the snail darter stopped construction of a major dam in Tennessee, it was none other than Al Gore who demanded that the God Squad step in and overrule the ESA. Of course, this was before Al's green baptism, when he really was concerned about the people who elected him.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was not ratified by the United States. Clinton and Gore are no longer in charge. But the drive to drive people off the land continues, powered by foundation and corporate-funded environmental extremist organizations and their former officers who remain entrenched in government.

This foolishness must stop. Perhaps the new administration will listen to the people; the last one certainly didn't.

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

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