Property Rights Foundation of America®

The Glory of Environmentalism

Re-wilding the United States of America

by Carol W. LaGrasse, from Positions on Property, Vol. 1, No. 2 (PRFA, May 1994)

The most radical environmental view of the future has become the mainstream. A top scientific journal has actually printed the preservationist's goal to restore most of the land of the United States to wilderness. Where farms, towns and industries now flourish and falter, bears, wolves, jaguar, puma and wolverine are to range freely, according to plans published in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Just a few Years ago, such thinking would have been an embarrassment. But in today's climate of environmental zealotry, the prestigious Science magazine has featured this extreme view with multi-color maps and unapologetic "scientific" credibility. The most notorious environmentalist, David Foreman, who "popularized" monkeywrenching and founded the radical Earth First!, has thereby in effect joined the ranks of peer-reviewed scientists.

The Science article, entitled "High Cost of Biodiversity," by Mann and Plummer looks at the Wildlands Project of environmentalists like Reed F. Noss, the editor of the journal Conservation Biology.

The article culminates in a quotation by a population geneticist, Fred Allendorf of the University of Montana, "If we want to save animals like grizzly bears, we really do have to put aside the large chunks of land they're talking about."(1)

Noss, whose ideas are the hallmark of the Science article, wrote in Wild Earth magazine recently of restoring fully half of the area of the "Midwestern Till Plains"—the breadbasket of America—and the "Northeastern Coastal Zone"—which includes the New York-Boston Megalopolis. "Most" of the remaining area of these vast populated or cultivated regions would be restored to very sparsely inhabited "buffer zones." The effect would be to "restore viable populations of large carnivores and natural disturbance zones," Noss stated in his late 1992 Wild Earth article, "The Wildlands Project."(2)

"Natural disturbance zones" is a euphemism, a nice way of referring to regions where giant forest fires are allowed to burn freely. These would be separated from human settlements by the buffer zones, which the initially smaller "core" wilderness areas are selected and designed.

Noss advocates reserves of astronomical proportions: "For a minimum viable population of 1000..., the figures would be 242 million acres for grizzly bears, 200 million acres for wolverines, and 100 million acres for wolves. And of course, it is not prudent to manage down to the minimum!" advocates Noss.(3)

The plan will take not just decades, but "centuries," according to John Davis, the editor of the Wild Earth edition that announced the joint Reed Noss/David Foreman Wilderness Recovery Plan.

David Foreman, the monkey-wrenching founder of Earth First, gave an overview of the Wildlands plan:

"Local and regional reserve systems linked to others ultimately tie the North American continent into a single Biodiversity Reserve—in contrast to the fragmented system of quasi-natural 'museum pieces' in existing National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Wilderness Acres, and other reserves."(4)

In the end a reversal of the process of civilization takes place, and ultimately people live in the isolated enclaves.

This is how the Wildlands scheme would work:

Government agencies working with preservationists like Noss and organizations like The Nature Conservancy, would select core areas where human habitation is to be eliminated in the short term.

Areas already designated as UN Biosphere Reserves would be prime targets. In fact, the system of core areas and buffer zones is taken from the Biosphere Reserve concept.

It would be possible to select these core areas because of the ambitious, computerized biological mapping projects which The Nature Conservancy, and the state and federal governments are carrying out, in conjunction with universities and satellite photography.

Much of the staff of the U.S. Department of the Interior has already been shifted to "biodiversity" mapping projects even though Secretary of the interior Babbitt's National Biological Survey failed in Congress.

This bill defeat was partly because Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA) admitted that the computerized GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping will pinpoint "everything that walks, crawls, swims, or flies around the country."(5) Satellite photos will greatly aid this process of biodiversity study.

The initial core areas would be land masses deemed to have more biodiversity, to have endangered species, to include unprotected vegetation types, or to be those which remain natural or roadless. Wide corridor areas, mainly along rivers, are planned to be "restored" in the very beginning to connect the core areas.(6)

Once these core areas are selected, "land and mineral rights" have to be acquired by government. "I suggest that at least half the land area in the 48 conterminous states would be encompassed in core reserves and inner corridor zones (essentially extensions of core reserves) within the next few decades," Noss wrote.(7)

The corridors are wide strips of land restored to conditions as pristine as the core areas to allow for migration of animal and plant life. Noss considers the corridors an essential provision for global warming, which he expects to occur.

Inner buffer zones around the corridors and cores would be "strictly protected" by government, while outer zones would "allow a wider range of compatible uses."

The idea of a "matrix" is essential to the "wilderness recovery network." Matrix refers to the landscape surrounding the reserve network of cores, corridors and buffer zones, according to Noss.

"(B)ut this is only true in the first stages of a wilderness recovery project in regions now dominated by human activity,"(8) Noss thinks. In the end, the cores and corridors expand so that instead of there being islands of wilderness and natural areas connected by wide pathways, there would be small islands of developed land. These small "islands" would be the only land where human activity is allowed, surrounded by a vast, roadless matrix of uninhabited wilderness.

Noss developed a system of criteria and a methodology for planning the re-wilding of the country, bio-region by bio-region. Biological surveys, criteria, evaluations, regulations, land acquisitions, bulldozing roads, dam removals, stream dechannelization, reintroductions of predatory and important species would feed a process that would stretch on and on.(9) Undoubtedly, the leveling of buildings is among the "other restoration" that is an inherent part of the process.

Noss believes, "(T)he native ecosystem and the collective needs of the non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans."(10)

"Eventually, a wilderness network would dominate a region and would thus itself constitute the matrix, with human habitations being the islands. In regions where wildland is already the matrix, the inverted model would be implemented right away," Noss foresees.(11)

Environmentalists like Noss view private property rights as a "warped" concept, "not in line with what we know as our origin and relation to the earth," as he put it recently.(12)

Noss and those who are presenting these plans to depopulate the country to make room for bears and wolves are intellectuals, with the cold credibility of the university and "scholarship" behind them.

The core-buffer zone concept has been implemented in over 300 United Nations Biosphere Reserves totaling over 400 million areas around the world. One of the largest reserves is the 10-million Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve in New York and Vermont. Designation of an area, which often takes place in top-secrecy, works in conjunction with the National Park Service.

The core, corridor and buffer concepts acting as an ever-expanding PAC-man to eat up civilization were understandable in various journal articles about UNESCO program but these obscure proceedings never saw the light of day. People who exposed what the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve program meant were dismissed as extremists. Main-line environmentalists would not admit to the drift of the UN-NPS program.

Now it is crystal clear that corridors and core areas, greenways, wildernesses, biosphere reserves, scenic areas, recreation areas and all the various trail systems and coastal restorations and the like have the potential for an obvious purpose. This purpose is not for "rural development," "farmland preservation" or "tourism," but for becoming a framework for state and federal land-use controls. Whether under the aegis of "growth management," "regional planning" or "wilderness restoration," the matrix of these corridors and designated natural areas would be the initial infrastructure of a vast and ultimately dominant system of a de-civilized and "re-wilded" world for the pace-setting Nosses of the country.

America the beautiful with spacious shies and purple mountains rising over amber waves of grain and fruited plains would have a new manifest destiny. The home of the brave would become a centrally managed, yet depopulated, country. A nation of ruins, the U.S.A. would be strangely intact biologically,—a country where bear and panther haunt the traces of bulldozed highways and razed villages and cities.

-Carol W. LaGrasse



(1) Charles C. Mann & Mark L. Plummer, "The High Cost of Biodiversity," Science Vol. 260. 25 June 1993, p1868f
(2) Reed F. Noss,
"The Wildlands Projects." Wildearth (approx Dec 1992) p15 + P12
(3) Noss, Ibid, p19
(4) Dave Foreman
"Developing a Regional Wilderness Recovery Plan." Wild Earth. p26
(5) Margaret Ann Teigle
"We Win One-Worst defeat in the history of the environmental movement." Land Rights Letter, Nov 1993
(6) Noss, Ibid, p15
(7) Noss, Ibid, p15
(8) Noss, Ibid, p15
(9) Noss, Ibid, p14-15, 17, 20
(10) Noss, Ibid, p13
(11) Noss, Ibid, p15
(12) unpublished

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