Delmarva “Wildlands” Corridors

(With a Little Help from The Nature Conservancy)

Buried in an astounding amount of unconstitutional pork within the new Farm Bill (signed by President Bush May 13, 2002) is a key provision, the brainchild of Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican from Maryland’s 1st District. In the works for over two years, Gilchrest’s “project” would create the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) Conservation Corridor(s).

Ostensibly designed to “find a way to help sustain agriculture…and help guarantee the environmental integrity of the Delmarva Peninsula for generations to come”, according to Gilchrest, “…the Secretary of Agriculture will be able to direct conservation funding on a priority basis to the most economically and ecologically valuable land on Delmarva.” A “framework” will be set up giving the three states and the USDA the “flexibility” to carve out a “network of land” where “states and local governments, farmers, wildlife enthusiasts, sportsmen, planning and zoning commissions, and land trusts (will) carry out this vision.” Gilchrest stated it was important conservation corridors be established which would be vital to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and to “reunite fragmented habitats” on the Eastern shore. “Many of these people have been working toward this goal for years, but there’s been no coordinated effort to link all of these efforts together in one coherent plan. Now they’ll be able to work together more effectively,” he said, referring to government agencies and environmental groups.

The controversial Chesapeake Bay Program is being used by the EPA and other federal, state and county agencies, as well as environmental groups and taxpayer funded land trusts, as a means of controlling land use throughout the Bay Watershed. The Bay Program has negatively impacted all taxpayers, and burdened agriculture, timbering and business with regulatory costs. It has contributed to the demise of agriculture throughout Delmarva, all in the name of improving water quality and the environment.

The 64,000 sq. mile Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Gilchrest claims farmers are “under constant development pressure, and the economics of farming have been working against them…We are not only losing farmland, we’re losing our culture, our heritage, and our history”, while hypocritically supporting the very legislative measures which drive families off the land and increase pressure for subdivision and development. Problem, reaction, solution-- it’s the old totalitarian Hegelian Dialectic at work, and the Gilchrests of Congress, who have created the problem, want us to know they just happen to have the convenient solution: a government Farm (control) Bill.

Details of the program and exact boundaries of the corridor(s) remain undefined at this time, perhaps purposely so. But the plan may create two huge “conservation corridors”, swaths of land where, according to Gannett reporter, Carl Weiser, “landowners wouldn’t be subjected to any more regulation [?!]…The designation could also reduce red tape in applying for federal money. When government agencies look for land to protect, by buying it or its development rights, supporters hope land in the corridors would be first in line.” (emphasis added)

No land in Virginia is currently part of the proposed corridors, but Gilchrest said he hoped to some day create a “conservation corridor from Virginia to Pennsylvania for wildlife.” The Sierra Club’s Mike D’Amico and other environmentalists see the corridors as an opportunity to “re-wild” sections of the Delmarva Peninsula. D’Amico is director of the Sierra Club’s Wild Atlantic Project.

American Farmland Trust’s Mid-Atlantic director, Mary Heinricht, said “farmers would be more likely to stay in business if they could get more conservation money from Washington or Annapolis or Dover.” Sally McGee, a Gilchrest aide working on the project, said, “The goal is to make it easier for landowners to enroll in the different programs that USDA currently offers. It’s all entirely voluntary, just as all ag conservation programs are.” Do Delmarva farmers believe such nonsensical statements?

Gilchrest also indicated the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources would coordinate with the EPA, USDA and the land-grabbers at Interior. The Corridors “would be like the veins and arteries of the peninsula,” he said. “Some large tracts of land have already been protected. The state of Maryland purchased 58,000 acres of forested land near the Nanticoke River in 1999. In Queen Anne’s County, there’s Chino Farms, a 5,700 acre farm that will forever be preserved as agriculture land. And the Nature Conservancy just announced purchase of 3,500 acres in Worcester and Wicomico counties on the Lower Shore. Similar projects are under way in Delaware and Virginia.”

One can imagine leeches lining up to spend the 80% increase in “conservation funding” under the Farm Bill, bleeding the “veins and arteries” of more Delmarva property owners. Chesapeake Bay Commission and regional ag officials are already licking their chops. Funding for the Environmental Quality Enhancement Program, providing cost-share support to farmers, could grow from $6 million to $24 million per year for the Bay states alone, and money for purchase of conservation easements may grow from $2 million to $30+ million per year!

It is no accident The Nature Conservancy has recently launched its $67 million “Campaign for Conservation: Largest in Chesapeake Bay History”. TNC’s Maryland and Virginia Chapters are collaborating in a three-year campaign, with $34 million already committed to the effort, to take “dramatic steps” within the Bay Watershed. Nat Williams, Director of the Maryland/D.C. Chapter, notes 94% of Maryland and over half of Virginia lies within the Bay Watershed. “(W)e are working to ensure that this region remains a place where our children, and our children’s children, will have the opportunity to appreciate nature.” The $67 million Campaign is designed to contribute to the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Compact, signed by officials of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and The District of Columbia. The goal of the Compact is to have 20% of the total Bay Watershed under preservation by 2010.

In Virginia, The Nature Conservancy recently purchased the 9,000 acre Warm Springs Mountain tract in Bath County, adjacent to The Homestead, a historic resort for the wealthy and elite. This is TNC’s largest single acquisition ever in Virginia. TNC worked hand in glove with Celebration Associates, a real estate development company with ties to Disney and the development of the Disney “company” town of Celebration near Orlando Florida. (Disney has been involved in several land “preservation” deals with TNC: i.e., the Walker Ranch when developing Disney World.)

In a $22.2 million deal, Celebration Associates purchased 12,300 acres in Warm Springs from Virginia Hot Springs Co., the former owner of The Homestead, and simultaneously sold 9,000 acres to TNC for $6.3 million, retaining the 3,000+ acres for an “upscale” housing development in the rural, Allegheny Mountain county which is 52% National Forest.

It is interesting to note Celebration Associates was hired by the Close family of Ft. Mills, South Carolina, heirs of Spring Industries Textile Mills, to build the Clear Springs-Village of Baxter twenty-year “smart-growth” development project (which received the Sierra Club’s “thumbs-up”). 2,300 acres of a 6,200 acre tract was “set aside to be preserved and protected in perpetuity” as a “greenway” by the Close family. The Close family’s head, Anne Springs Close, is a Trustee of The Wilderness Society, a Director of the American Farmland Trust, and has been very active in support of environmentalist causes.

The Celebration development “model” appears to be a classic example of the ‘incestuous’ relationship between wealth, elitism and the environmentalists. Also apparent is the symbiotic relationship between wealthy land trusts, such as TNC, and real estate developments designed for those who are willing and able to pay for exclusive “nature preserves” as part of the protective ambience surrounding their pristine country estates and retirement villas. These exclusive communities are, in truth, subsidized by the taxpayer: requiring increased county services from a decreased real property tax-base due to property or conservation easements held by a land trust, and at the state and federal levels due to the special tax status afforded the land trusts.

Buyers of exclusive developed properties in rural America, in mainly agriculturally based communities, are generally “outsiders” who have little understanding of or appreciation for rural values. The influx of substantial numbers of residents and voters from urban and suburban backgrounds results in social, political and cultural upheaval and conflict. With views and goals often diametrically opposed to the culture of generations of families who have made rural areas so appealing, the well-connected and wealthy have the time and political savvy to influence, if not control local decisions. They become active in local historical societies, arts councils, the chamber of commerce and civic clubs; are appointed to planning and zoning commissions, form special-interest groups, and run for county offices. The result-- increased local taxation, restrictions on use of private property, implementation of anti-job, anti-growth, anti-industry, anti-agriculture agenda, and displacement of traditional means of earning a living-- can be seen in hundreds of rural communities throughout America.

The 9,000 acre tract now owned by TNC is “one of the most significant forested properties in the region” connecting undeveloped public lands with 170,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest and clearly meshes with the proposed Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition’s Central Appalachian Wildlands Project as shown on the map above. TNC’s new direction in land preservation is based on targeting specific properties, many of which fit into the Wildlands scheme. Having established a huge base of operations in Warm Springs, and with plans to open an office, the mountainous region of western Virginia can expect additional land acquisitions.

The Nature Conservancy is also a partner with the State of Maryland, the Conservation Fund and the Town of Vienna in Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program. A $750,000 state grant was awarded for the Nanticoke River Project, to be augmented by other private and government sources, for the “protection” of a “remarkable community of productive farms and working forests,” according to Elizabeth Zucker, director of TNC’s Nanticoke Project office. Most of the grant funds will be used for conservation easements and outright purchases of land along the “continuous 45-mile river corridor.” The Conservation Fund’s Tim Connelly believes the project will someday be considered a “conservation model on the national level.” The Rural Legacy Program is part of the state’s “Smart Growth” initiative and is funded from general obligation bands, taxes on real property transfers, and from Maryland’s Open Space program.

Maryland’s DNR GreenPrint Program, “a bold new direction in land conservation” is designed to “build upon existing conservation programs” mentioned above. Using computer mapping, the program links “important unprotected natural lands…through a system of corridors or connectors (and saves) those lands through targeted acquisitions and easements.” “Green Hubs” are identified and connected with “Green Links” which serve as “Habitat Highways.” Existing programs were apparently not effective, as only 26% of “the identified green infrastructure is already protected.” The new program is designed so that “Private land trusts will have another tool at their disposal.”

Maryland’s DNR, Delaware’s DNREC and both states’ Departments of Agriculture have been working to identify Delmarva Conservation Corridors. Initially the focus seems to be on the Nanticoke Broadkill and Marshy Hope corridors, according to Delaware’s Biodiversity Steering Committee.

There is no doubt Delmarva farmland and timberland, river corridors, wetlands and large natural areas within the Bay Watershed are specifically targeted for acquisition and control by government agencies, environmental groups, historic preservationists and land trusts. The new Farm Bill provides a tremendous increase in funding. American Farmland Trust’s lobbyist, Ross Sargent, stated, “It’s a quantum leap in terms of money the federal government has dedicated to farmland protection.” In Delaware, the state expects to “protect 30,000 more acres with just the federal money.” “Matching” funds could double the acreage. The federal government provides up to half the funding for “local non-profits or governments to buy conservation easements.” Unless private property owners are educated about the true nature of the huge land-grabs now being planned under the Farm Bill, the next several years bode ill for private property rights in every section of the country.

There is also little doubt all these new initiatives to control private property are linked to and modeled upon The Wildlands Project. The vast majority of Americans, especially those living in Delmarva, have never heard of this Project, nor do they realize the objective is to convert half of the land area of America into “core wilderness areas”, under government management and off limits to man. The remaining lands are to be managed by government “for conservation objectives” as “buffer zones”, “zones of cooperation” and as “sustainable communities.” In other words, through the use of “smart growth” programs, “sustainable agriculture” and a myriad of other programs such as Maryland’s GreenPrint, people will be gradually forced into “islands of human habitat surrounded by wilderness,” according to Science Magazine.

Control of land use, control of individual mobility, control of the environment, population control, pollution control, gun control and all the other “controls” being imposed by the federal government are part of the sovietization of America being implemented under plans published and coordinated by the United Nations. The U.N. now manages and controls over 400 U.N. Biosphere Reserves worldwide, 47 of which are located in America covering over 73 million acres-- a larger area than Kentucky and Tennessee together. The Reserves are managed by 34 foreigners, unknown and unaccountable to federal, state or local legislative bodies, and are chosen by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The managers follow rules set out by the Man and the Biosphere International Coordinating Council. The Wildlands Project plan is laid out in the 1,100 page U.N. Global Biodiversity Assessment, and is being carried out in conformity with the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity even though Congress has never ratified this treaty.

The Wildlands Project was originally conceived by Reed Noss and Michael Soule of the Society of Conservation Biology, sponsored through the U.N.’s International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First! It was Foreman who summarized the concept: “It is not enough to preserve the roadless, undeveloped country remaining. We must re-create wilderness in large regions: move out the cars and civilized people, dismantle the roads and dams, reclaim the plowed land and clearcuts, reintroduce extirpated species.” Funding for conceptual development of The Wildlands Project was provided under contract with the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.

The Wildlands Project is dismissed by mental midgets, fools and ignorant people as “conspiracy theory” or the “ranting of the lunatic fringe.” Whether motivated by stupidity, ego, selfishness or altruistic idealism, there are people in the media, academia, the environmentalist movement and in government who promote the goals of The Wildlands Project. Lenin called them “useful idiots.” But the wealthy and elite, in positions of influence and control, are not motivated by altruism. Multi-billion dollar power brokers such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Turner Foundation, W. Alton Jones Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts have provided funding grants for the Project. Because of the funds available from these and other tax-exempt, taxpayer-supported “non-profits”, there are more than 35 “collaborators” working to implement the Project, including The Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy.

Those who “sign the checks” believe in a “new” form of feudalism where, according to the U.N., “Land, because of its unique nature…cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market…Public control of land use is therefore indispensable…” Marx expressed the identical idea in the Communist Manifesto. The idea is to transform the productive capacity of the natural resource base, and wealth based in individual private property rights, into a system controlled by government for the benefit of a wealthy elitist class.

Former Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage calls it “green fascism…which relies on taxation and regulation, rather than outright expropriation, to destroy property rights…If a property becomes so heavily taxed and regulated that the burdens of ownership outweigh the benefits, then the owner ‘voluntarily’ abandons it, or becomes a ‘willing seller’--usually selling to the government, of course, or to one of its eco-pirate collaborator groups.”

Americans must reaffirm the basic premise of our Constitutional Republic: that government is instituted for the sole purpose of protecting “Life, Liberty and Property”, and we must hold all elected officials accountable when they deviate from that premise. Our Liberty, and the Liberty of our children rests on the sanctity of those three God-given rights which supreme Court Justice George Sutherland stated “are so bound together as to be essentially one right.”