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Birders, Biologists, and Hikers Would Displace Boaters, Sportsmen, and Property Owners


Hamilton-Trenton Marsh & Crosswicks Creek Area Could Be Locked Up

By Carol W. LaGrasse
February 1, 2004


A draft bill lurks in the office of Representative Christopher H. Smith (R - N.J.) for the designation of a National Wildlife Refuge for the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh and Crosswicks Creek in his Fourth Congressional District. The incipient bill would close down 3,000 acres of marsh and uplands areas in Hamilton and Bordentown Townships in New Jersey from the Delaware River up Crosswicks Creek to Route 130 to all but special preservationist interests. The bill presents a threat to private property owners as well as to the culture, economy, and way of life of the people of the area.

The designation of the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh and Crosswicks Creek as a National Wildlife Refuge is unnecessary to protect the marsh, which is already highly regulated and protected under federal and state wetlands law. However, judging by the narrow mindset in the draft legislation, the designation would generally shut out the people who currently enjoy the marsh for fishing, boating, and other sporting purposes, except for strictly defined, very limited access locations. Sportsmen and local property owners are up in arms. In a flyer they are distributing, a local citizens organization named the Crosswicks Creek Alliance objects to the attempt by the Delaware and Raritan Greenway, a land trust, to "gain control of, and impart their vision of correctness, through adoption of a 'Management Plan' they quietly developed for the Marsh in 1999."

The draft Wildlife Refuge bill is biased. In the background section, it ostensibly focuses on history and use of the area from pre-colonial days to the present, but, except for mention of landmarks, it neglects to note the cultural history and actions that have continually involved ordinary people in their use and enjoyment of the marsh up to the present day. It is possible that hunting and trapping would be entirely prohibited in such a National Wildlife Refuge. The narrow interest group for whom the legislation has been drafted represents biologists, birders, canoers, hikers, and other promoters of idealized wild places—the typical group who have the stamp of approval of the radical environmental preservationists.

The draft legislation allows for a specific group, the Delaware and Raritan Greenway land trust, to benefit from the National Wildlife Refuge designation, making it possible for them to transfer their land to the federal government. It is reported that a member of the Rep. Smith's staff who is involved in the bill is connected to this land trust. Is this a conflict of interest? At this time, anyone would expect that Congress would be especially wary about legislation related to land trusts, considering that the IRS is investigating the world's largest land trust, The Nature Conservancy, because of corruption in its land transactions and donations.

For many years, I have been observing and exposing the surreptitious designation of riverways as environmental reserves without adequate factual information shared with the people in the area. Usually, the designations involve secrecy or misleading, empty public relations. Often members of Congress do not realize that these environmental set-asides are not meant to be beneficial in the long run to the future of their Districts. Environmental reserves are often supported for their superficial aspects, such as for easy money that may be coming into the District from the federal government or for the supposed attraction of tourism, whereas, over the long term, reserve status will impede the continuation of the historic culture and the economic future of an area.

Reserves along waterways and marshes have become quite fashionable with the environmental preservationists, with their well-healed lobby constantly increasing their demands for federal funds to buy up more land. A series of articles in the Washington Post last spring brought wide attention to the corruption involved in land transactions by The Nature Conservancy. After an investigation last year by the Senate Finance Committee, the Conservancy is now the subject of a major IRS audit. One of the ideas that glares through the Washington Post articles is that the land arrangements allow the elite to own parcels with exclusive homes in the reserves, while preserving the land around them in government ownership or conservation easements. Thus, quite commonly, these reserves are exclusively the domain of the upper crust. Local middle-class working people are shut out, especially as their historic land is bought up and the corollary zoning and other environmental restrictions kick in, making it too expensive for ordinary folk.

The use of reserves to lock up ordinary people's access to waterways has become an epidemic, what with Congressionally-designated National Heritage Areas and Corridors, American Heritage Rivers established by Presidential Executive Order, National Park Service units such as National Recreational Areas, National Wildlife Refuges, state-designated Heritage Rivers, federal and state Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Congressionally established interstate watershed authorities, to name the key methodologies. All of these areas are designed to be nature preserves and to often be the exclusive abodes of the upper crust, often with trappings of tourism, with the local, culturally indigenous people gradually locked out.

National Wildlife Refuges are especially hostile to local people. Often, the only people who can visit on their own terms and stretch out in the sun to enjoy the natural beauty are the environmental wildlife biologists, who have a privileged, exclusive status of entry. They have keys to the gates, free use of the parking and the cottages provided for their "research" and the students they are indoctrinating.

Literally hundreds of Heritage Areas and the like are already designated or in the works to tie up riverfront lands in the hands of preservationists. It is impossible to satiate the environmental preservationists. They always want more reserves and always work to expand whatever preserves they have already acquired for government ownership. Once they have a few reserves along a riverway, they keep on working to connect them. In the instance of the proposal for the Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh, the draft bill is considering designation of the new Marsh as an extension of the already-existing Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Preservationists do not believe that ordinary people have a right to live or conduct businesses along waterways. The waterways are to be solely for them and for the elites. Thus, a wide strip of the shores of the Delaware River in New Jersey and Pennsylvania stretching almost the entire distance from the Delaware Gap to the New York border has come under the control of the National Park Service as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. Historic stone houses and farms that were condemned in connection with a dam that was never built are now empty and overgrown; the National Park was instituted instead. A few miles north of the New Jersey border, with an interruption for the hub of development at Port Jervis, the shores of the Delaware River in New York and Pennsylvania come under the U.S. Department of Interior's control as the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.

While environmental preservationists claim to focus on riverine areas, which they consider to be the prime "wildlife corridors," they work with similar resources and intensity to connect mountain and highland areas in grand nature corridors reserved from so-called "contamination" by the dwelling places and everyday pursuits of ordinary people. For example, the Highlands Stewardship Act (see article), a bill currently focused mainly on northern New Jersey, would create a new reserve corridor from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, southeastern New York, and western Connecticut to the Massachusetts border. Everything in these expanding reserves has to be planned, designed, and managed by the radical preservationists.

With few exceptions, it is a fundamental error to convert private land or locally protected land to federal ownership. Private property owners are the best stewards and can react to the changes that time brings. They will respond to economic forces. By taking action in expressions of their fundamental right to pursue happiness, they participate in the great experiment in freedom that is the United States of America. Private property ownership is the heart of the U.S. Constitution. The maintenance of local rather than federal ownership of land is also an obvious, fundamental advantage, considering that local government is the closest to the people, and most responsive to the will of the people and vulnerable to their scrutiny.

Citizens should oppose any bill to designate the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh and Crosswicks Creek in Hamilton Twp. and Bordentown Twp., New Jersey, as a National Wildlife Refuge administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. National Wildlife Refuge status for this area would harm the local property owners by tying up the future of private property, and by excluding the people from their established cultural uses of the marsh and waterway areas and an ever-expanding domain of adjacent land.


Draft Bill Name:

"Hamilton-Trenton-Bordentown Marsh Acquisition and Management Act of 2003"

Introduced by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, N.J.

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