Property Rights Foundation of America®

Has The Nature Conservancy Run Amok?

The Nature Conservancy was founded in 1951. Early on its activities were apolitical, limited to the purchase and care of small parcels of wildlife habitat of special interest and intrigue. In the last 50 years it has evolved into one of the most influential, self-appointed saviors of the Planet Earth.

Their stated mission "is to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive." This is indeed a presumptuous proclamation, suggesting omnipotence, especially in light of the fact that wildlife belongs to the people, and state and federal governmental agencies are mandated the responsibility for the efficient management of these natural resources. And there are laws against delegating responsibilities to the man on the street.

The Conservancy appears to have a mystique over fish and wildlife agencies. They have been welcomed in with open arms. Or could it be that a horrible complacency has befallen the wildlife profession? It indeed has lost much of its professional lustre. There are many cases which likely caused Aldo Leopold and other notable pioneers in this field to roll over in their graves. Acquiescing out of fear of losing one's job is unacceptable, especially for a civil servant.

Another striking achievement is entering the ranks of the most successful real estate brokers. They regularly purchase sizable tracts of land, hold them until the interested governmental agency can come up with the funds, making a very significant profit in the process.

The Nature Conservancy has the distinction of being the most heavily endowed of the many ultra-green, liberal, environmental organizations. They have received vast amounts from wealthy families such as the Rockefellers, Mellons, duPonts; industry giants as Amoco, ARCO, Ralston-Purina; and various well-funded foundations. It is difficult to understand just what these individuals and institutions stand for, but it might be wise for those citizens concerned about traditional American society and values to pay a lot more attention. Conservation has indeed been taken over by big money. And the locking up of land increases power and control.

Similar to the tactics of other groups, they succeed by employing bad science, deception, and play on human emotions. The true picture of open space and wildlife habitat in the U.S.A. is grossly misrepresented. If the truth be known, once one gets away from the eastern seaboard and coastal California there is a superabundance to meet all interests and needs. If the Conservancy was really concerned about their so-called problems, they might better focus on the dismantling of cities and the surrounding sprawl. This incidentally is where the bulk of these activists live.

Then there is the Natural Heritage Program that was foisted on New York and most other states. At first it sounded noble, with the goal being to assemble and compile all available information on flora and fauna historically associated with the area in question. There was definitely a need for such. Contracts called for a two year effort. Lo and behold, close to ten years later the program is still in place and has been very effective in enlarging the tentacles of the Endangered Species Act and diminishing the rights of private landowners in regard to the use of their property. Wow, somebody was sold a bill of goods. And in New York some of the original Conservancy people are now in permanent open competition positions. The question of whether civil service rules were violated may still not have been addressed.

The Fall 2002 issue of their slick magazine Nature Conservancy includes a quarterly report of activities throughout the United States and the rest of the world designed to "save the last great places around the world." Does this suggest that there are only a few left? Indeed the report is impressive in respect to how deeply they are involved. Individual projects are listed with mention of acres or square miles, type of habitat, and sometimes wildlife species involved. It would be interesting to ask them if they can defend their purchases or control on the bases of supply and demand relationships, problems to needs analysis, cost to benefit ratios, and elementary questions such as how much is enough. Such exercises certainly should be essential when dealing with so much acreage and such large expenditures. They are a huge private business.

A number of examples might be offered to further clarify the points being made. In Alabama the Conservancy agreed to purchase 5,500 acres from Hancock Timber. Some of the land adjoins the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. Is additional acreage needed to provide refuge for whatever they are trying to refugee? They state that all are coveted conservation lands. Coveted by wildlife and what species, or by man, and if so Conservancy people, the general public, or who? Also they want to increase the land's value as habitat for rare species. What species, and how much additional acreage is required for the rare ones to be secure?

And then gobbledygook appears in the Arizona report. The new-age jargon, although politically correct, can be bothersome. There really is no such thing as an Ecoregion. There are physiographic regions, each with its consequential array of flora and fauna. Reference is made to managing the biodiversity (of course diversity must enter into any liberal discussion). Diversity of species is a product of the physiography. Some regions have a lot, others little. In the Idaho update it is stated that the Conservancy will expand its efforts to restore several hundred acres of critical wetlands. Just what makes them critical is not noted. Could this just be a matter of wanting more, more, and more? Suffice to say, the quarterly report does not provide much insight into the Conservancy's true goals.

Could it be that they fit in with many other environmental groups that are afflicted with insatiable appetites and packrat mentalities?

September 20, 2002
Nate Dickinson

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