Property Rights Foundation of America®

Carol W. LaGrasse, excerpt from Positions on Property, Vol. 4, No. 1, Nov. 1998

Heritage Rivers — Elites Only

Our ancestors built the heritage which is embodied in the culture, historic pride and countryside of regions which preservationists pronounce the need to "protect " but the future they are trying to mold is for elites only.

Today we have fourteen American Heritage Rivers designated this year by President Clinton under his unconstitutional 1997 Executive Order No. 13061. During previous years, Congress designated sixteen American or National Heritage Areas.(1) UNESCO has designated 22 World Heritage Sites in the U.S. under the 1972 U.N. convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Government levels lower than the federal have designated a few hundred state and regional Heritage areas. In addition, UNESCO has designated 47 Biosphere Reserves in the U.S. without authority under any treaty.

Unlike multi-state regional authorities created by the federal government, such as the Columbia River Gorge Commission and Lake Tahoe Commission, the Heritage areas and Biosphere Reserves are not overtly designed to be regulatory domains for the federal government or the United Nations, at least in the immediate sense. The most-touted purposes of the American Heritage Rivers designations are access to federal grants and easing the way through federal regulations. Like other regional preservation projects conceived by preservationists such as the Northern Forest Lands scheme for northern New England and New York, the Heritage areas are fundamentally evolutionary and flexible in scope.

The regional Heritage programs are both (1) an important genteel division, so to speak, of the grandiose movement to accomplish widespread rural depopulation and (2) an important current tool of planners and regulators to grandly structure their control over land and resources to eliminate whatever they consider to be inappropriate human activity or activity in the wrong place.

Working with them in setting policy — and in gaining whatever advantage they can — are representative officials who disburse and feed off porkbarrel, and historic preservationists, notably the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is a long way down the spectrum from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to Earth First and the monkeywrenching co-founder David Foreman of the Wildlands project, but now that Foreman has moved up to the Sierra Club board of directors, the Sierra Club has announced its Bioregions project, and the most effete charities are funding the Wildlands project, it shouldn't be hard to understand that the irrational popularity of a crusade, always in the mainstream (if not the best) American tradition, and the substitution by the elites of nature for the great religious heritage of Judaism and Christianity, have propelled not just the Wildlands project but the Heritage region programs forward. The irony is that while Wildlands proponents are merely discreet about rejoicing over rural economic malaise while campaigning to restore villages, farm fields and grazing lands to nature, the Heritage region proponents often claim to actually be economic development advocates, and many of the hangers-on are such, while adhering to policies that are inherently constrictive of the rural economic future and play into the hands of the extremists.

Disguising Goals
The Heritage regions are designed to be saccharinely deceptive. The hammer is hidden, is for use by others mainly in the future, and for now is cloaked in honey. Furthermore, and most fundamentally, the Clinton American Heritage Rivers program is so fluid and shapeless that it is nearly impossible to pin down.

The American Heritage Rivers program can be viewed as a complicated flexible stagework that lays the structure, both in the local region and in Washington, D.C. for effective federal control over land and water use in any given region. The chief spokespeople and policy makers at the Council on Environmental Quality make little or inconsistent effort to even understand, remember or follow formally promulgated documents and structures they've already set out. New structures evolve, differing from river to river. Thus, they've temporarily forgotten about the "State of the Rivers " computer reports announced as a feature of the program in the Federal Register. These will be effective tools for environmental litigation groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council, which have begun this year to bring lawsuits to halt economic activity in an entire watershed, based on federal and state government river pollution data. Surveillance capacity of geographic information systems (GIS) is not yet being hyped, but such advanced computerized mapping capacity has already been developed for environmental enforcement purposes.(2)

The juggernaut of enforcement potential by effectively coordinating the agenda of the thirteen federal agencies in the American Heritage Rivers Interagency Committee is not yet a focus, at least not visibly. Among the agencies in the Interagency Committee are some of the most abusive of private property owners: U.S. Department of Interior (includes Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service), U.S. Department of Agriculture (includes National Forest Service), Department of Defense (includes Army Corps of Engineers) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Instead, these agencies, which, CEQ claims, don't communicate with each other at present, are learning to work together in innocuous ways, guided by non-threatening examples such as the federal Housing and Urban Development Agency. Several of the departments and agencies have "divvied " up among themselves the first 14 designated rivers. These agencies are the U.S. EPA, Department of Transportation, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A., Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard.

According to Clinton's September 11, 1998 Executive Order, federal agencies shall have "Once a river is designated an American Heritage River and at the community's request, a single representative called a 'River Navigator' with whom communities can communicate goals and needs and who will facilitate community-agency interchange. " According to the CEQ's summary of the program in the May 19, 1997 Federal Register, "Each designated river will be assigned a 'River Navigator' to help implement the community's vision and provide a single contact/liaison for all federal resources. " But as of press time November 1998, not one River Navigator has been appointed. Instead, the federal agencies have appointed contacts and professional "facilitators " to lead each "community " in meetings to work out community goals by "consensus. " No votes or minutes, or records of majority and minority views are kept. Weaker voices are not made a matter of record as in the Hanalei American Heritage River in Hawaii, where economic development and tourism were ignored by "consensus " in the "Hanalei Community Agreement " railroaded through in October 1998. In addition, the secretive treatment of the problem begun during the designation process continues; meetings are obscurely announced at best.

The general public which might be inclined to participate in the development of the American Heritage Rivers agendas is at a great disadvantage by what appears to be an orchestrated blackout by CEQ. It is very difficult to obtain dates of meetings for each community under the facilitators and names of the contact person at each federal agency. In addition, action plans for each river which are posted on the official federal American Heritage Rivers Internet site are flagged with warnings that they should be viewed only at the individual's risk because the posted material may contain a virus. This blackout is similar to that prior to the period when CEQ was developing the general program in spring 1997 before the Federal Register pronouncement. CEQ held meetings for "the public "/"community " around the country but phone calls to the agency to ascertain dates and locations of meetings (which were well-attended by federal government officials and selected environmentalists) were not returned until all meetings were over except one, just 24 hours later!

It is essential to the elites who plan these programs to take away our rights that they keep the public out of "their " meetings. Due process, public hearings, representation through elective procedures, freedom of information law and any constitutional and legislative procedures that would inform the public must be systematically breached, even though liberals arrogantly portray these protections as their domain. Remember that, as opposed to true liberals in the grand tradition of western civilization's respect for all individuals including the person who is not well-connected, today's liberals want nothing but a very big and nasty nanny state.

So, as we fight incipient totalitarianism under its current guise of environmentalism, let's tackle all the usual methodologies that totalitarian's agents use. Let's dissect their high-sounding, nebulous, deceptive pronouncements for the "good " of local "communities " and "regional resources, " embarrass them for these hypocrisies, and display their real agendas to the public. Let's not only ride herd on them at every meeting of theirs, but also let's call meetings especially under the auspices of representative government at every level to oppose their programs, and refuse both the short-term porkbarrel "benefits " they claim to control and the hammer of repression in the hand behind their back. Let's insist that if access to federal agencies is to be improved it be for all locales of the country, under the broad principle of equal protection guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment. Let's reach our representative government at every level to ask them to dismantle the overlapping jurisdictions of the federal behemoth that are so confusing that an unconstitutional presidential order of the nature of the American Heritage Rivers Initiative can be adjudged by anyone to be a reasonable means to sort through the confusion and provide access to (illegitimate) power.

The grassroots private property rights movement now organized in hundreds of organizations based voluntarily in kitchens and corners of private homes and businesses throughout the fifty states has the capacity to stop these repressive programs of land designations. Our vision must be that of tightly and clearly structured and restrained government organized at the most locally representative levels consistent with our Constitution. While we fulfill our vision we will eliminate the illegitimate intermingling of environmental interest groups with government to rule us without running for elective office. We don't need mushy go-anywhere programs like American Heritage Rivers to accomplish environmental protection. Our local, state and, in a limited way, federal governments can regulate environmentally in the same orderly, reasonable, and open way, under the same strictures imposed on government by our Constitution that have been imposed relatively successfully for the longer-established functions of government.

(1) To add to the sixteen, Congress designated the Automobile National Heritage Area in Michigan and Indiana, and others in 1998.
(2) LaGrasse The APA Shell Game - How the Adirondack Park Agency has Become the World's Foremost Environmental Snoop PRFA 1994

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