National Natural Landmarks Program of the National Park Service
The National Natural Landmarks Program is a government land-use prohibition scheme run by the National Park Service in conjuntion with environmentalist activists such as the Nature Conservancy and university environmentalists. Millions of acres are targeted in this national campaign.
Property targeted for preservation is “designated” as a National Landmark as a means to gain control of the property. The landmark evaluation process is a feeder program for eventual takeover of the property for a National Park or other government program. Activists quietly reconnoiter land they want locked up and write a report for the Federal government rationalizing in the name of a “study” why they claim the property should be preserved – and therefore not used by its owners. The activists control the entire process, including all aspects of the so–called “study”. The National Park Service takes the report as an official government document and designates the property as “Nationally Significant”.
The designation and the reports are used by the National Park Service in planning for new Federal park takeovers of private property, and by environmentalist activists and state planners for imposing state and local restrictions and prohibitions on land use. When property owners find out about the “studies” too soon, the Park Service and its collaborators routinely deny their goals and claim the program is “voluntary”.
Once property is fingered as “Nationally Significant” the designation has both legal and political impacts for owners of designated and nearby property. The designation is used as a criterion in the implementation of other preservation programs and land use controls and to manipulate public perception so that the allegedly “scientific”, intrinsic ”national significance” of your property for perservation is regarded as more important than your property rights.
In March 1990 I went to Washington, DC and testified before a Congressional oversight committe on the abuses of the National Natural Landmarks Program and environmental writer Alston Chase broke the scandal in his nationally syndicated column. Following his expose&rsquote;, the National Parks and Conservation Association (the private lobbying arm of the National Park Service) published a mendantious denial of Chase's expose, evidently not realizing the existence of the extensive documentation. Chase responded with a second article on the scandal and the attempted cover up.
Our grassroots organization in downeast Maine, the Washington County Alliance, submitted detailed comments on the proposed regulations for the public record.
- New Regulations on the National Natural Landmarks Program Perpetrate the Abuse
- Nationwide Hearings Oppose the Natural Landmarks Program
- FAQ: Question and Answers on the Natural Landmarks Program
In early 1994 I received a call from frightened and angry rural property owners in the Canann Valley, West Viginia, who were threatened with a Federal preservationist takeover by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and viro pressure group lobbyists. The government and environmentalists had once again secretly used the National Natural Landmarks Program to reconnoiter the targeted area and declare it to be "nationally significant" as a rationalization for the Federal government takeover.
This article in Land Rights Letter sunmarizes the the 20-year-old (at the time) mostly secret takeover campaign and the contents of a leaked USFWS internal memo acknowledging agency dishonesty and the threats to local people deliberately hidden from them in a whitewash PR campaign.
- Federal Officials and Environmentalists vs. the People of the Canaan Valley
- Hocutt memo (pdf) The full 14 page internal "Hocutt memo" written by Refuge Manager Grady Hocutt, Dec. 6, 1993. The scandal revealed in the memo (and the North Atlantic Regional Director response below) includes major elements also commonly experienced in Maine and elsewhere nationwide:
- Secret planning by government agencies and viro pressure groups targeting for acquisition a large area for perservationism and removal of the people.
- A political motive of removing a large industry, in this case a power company.
- The intension for government acquisition of a much larger area than publicly admitted in the promotional campaign.
- Disingenuous promises of friendly relations, assuring local recreation and access to land in fact intended to be under severe government restrictions from use by the people, whose objections would not be "seriously entertained".
- Unpopularity of ongoing state restrictions and public controversy and harm to people from additional Federal restrictions.
- Deceptive political manipulation to gain local support through "actions ... callously opportunistic and deliberately misleading in a single-minded effort to tell whomever whatever they wanted to hear in order to build and maintain support for the refuge proposal."
- Single-minded pursuit of agency power in the name of claimed "biological values" regardless of human values and property rights.
- Collaboration between Federal government, state-funded acquisition and land trusts to further the long term preservationist agenda where full Federal acquisition in one step becomes too controversial and expensive.
- Deceptive "creative financing" maneuvers to fund the start of a new National area with no way to pay for the subsequent management, maintenance and acquisition, leading to increasing deficits.
[The viros have been planning and lobbying for on an expansion of the 1960s Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund into an off-budget Federal land acquisition "trust fund" entitlement to billions of dollars a year to bypass the necessity of Congressional appropriations].
- The political role in planning and public deception by viro activists entrenched as government officials within the Regional office in Masssachusetts. Bill Zinny, in particular, who played an equivalent role in the acquisition expansion of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Maine, is singled out in the Hocutt memo.
- North Atlantic Regional Director four page response (pdf) by Ronald Lambertson, Feb. 9, 1994, denounces the leaked Hocutt memo, dismissing it as a "professional disagreement" and "internal diaglogue", disclosure of which had a "chilling effect" on the internal agency planning process.
Lambertson acknowledges that the plan to acquire land throughout the Canaan Valley was the result of a 20 year (at the time) "process", which he characterizes as self-justifying based on "biological importance of habitat". The long term agenda will accordingly not be rescinded regardless of public controversy, which he sees as only a "management problem". Lambertson, who was also responsible for imposing the forced acquisition of private property for the Moosehorn NWR expansion in eastern Maine, mentions "willing sellers" in passing, but does not rule out agency use of condemnation, when politically feasible, against property owners who do not willingly submit to agency demands for how the land is used.
Back to PROPERTY RIGHTS home page
Last Update: 12/22/14