Green “PACMAN” Devouring America’s Property Rights

Quietly, almost unnoticed, private property is disappearing throughout America at an alarming rate.

Through an almost unintelligible maze of federal, state, county and local environmental laws, regulations, programs and taxes – combined with a concerted effort by highly-funded and politically-powerful environmental groups – property owners are disappearing like the dinosaurs of another era.

Using regulations and programs like: the Endangered Species Act, wet lands regulations, government land acquisition programs, Clean Air Act, the Biological Service, forest regulations, land trusts, water shed protection, Heritage Corridors, green ways and eco-regions, the federal government is rapidly carving up the nation. In its wake, industries, farms and American dreams are being destroyed.

The main enforcers of these policies are the National Park Service, the Army Corp of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Forest Service, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and 800,000 lawyers. These are aided by the advance troops of environmental radicals who infest every local community by scouting out possible targets, and by creating controversy and legal attacks on businesses, property owners and developers. No stone is left unturned, no scare tactic is too outrageous for these highly funded, politically sophisticated, fanatical societal misfits.

Groups like the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Council provide the legal research and courtroom advocacy to force property owners into submission. These groups have become so powerful and feared that most major businesses will pay them “green mail” and capitulate to their demands without putting up a fight. Smaller property owners, farmers, ranchers and family businesses have little chance to hang onto their property once the attack begins.

This “ecologarcy” is funded through federal tax dollars and through private foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mellon Foundations, Ford Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust, W. Alton Jones Foundation, University grants, the Environmental Grant makers Association and through the selling of taken land – the booty of their legal assault.

As this violence to America’s most fundamental right – private property – grows, however, the average American is unaware of the rapid decline of private property ownership. That’s because the news media manages to either ignore the latest government taking, or describe it in glowing terms as a boon for the environment. Children in classrooms are taught that protecting the environment must take precedent over any human activity. All of this is backed up by a constant flow of unfounded “scientific” reports declaring environmental Armageddon through ozone holes, global warming and human consumption.

The result of this massive assault on America’s most precious freedom is the steady retreat of property owners into what could one day become predetermined human habitat areas, as environmental plans call for more than 50 percent of American territory to be designated wilderness areas – off limits to any human activity.

If all of that sounds too incredible to be even considered in a serious debate, then the reality of what has already been accomplished toward those ends or is well along in the planning stages will truly astound you.


To sustain the highest standard of living the world has ever known, America needs its farms to grow our life-giving crops, ranches to provide beef, mines to provide minerals and timber to provide the materials to build homes and paper to print text books. Without these basic human needs civilization is impossible. It is no coincidence that these vital commodities are the targets of environmental radicals and the federal regulations they’ve created.

But outright banning of these industries would meet with too much resistance. Instead, regulations, guidelines and punitive taxes are used to slowly diminish and then drive out businesses. As an industry disappears from a region, the land it occupied ultimately is removed from any further such production. It will then join millions of other newly non-productive acres under control of the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service. Once there, no human use will be permitted.

Because of federal environmental regulations, very little timber is now permitted to be taken from federal lands, and the numbers shrink every year. This ban even includes the removal of dead trees or those downed by storms. While the sawmills go empty and jobs disappear, the dead trees attract insects and disease, affecting the remaining healthy trees, and endangering the forest more severely than any possible threat from competent logging practices.

As the number of forest acres which permit logging diminishes, prices increase. Environmental restrictions account, on the average, for over 30 percent of the cost of capital construction in the forest industry. In upstate New York, in just one year the cost of raw hardwood jumped 60 percent.

Such a jump drastically affects paper costs, thus

increasing prices in all segments of American society. Housing costs are skyrocketing as well, resulting in building slumps as fewer people can afford new homes. That result is just fine with environmentalists since their stated goal is to stop as much development as possible.

Meanwhile, as the timber industry reels under the regulations and more and more forests become untouchable to human hands, the land holdings of the federal government grow in proportion.

In Washington State, heart of the Northwest timber industry, almost 50 percent of the state is now owned by either the federal, state or county governments. Only half of the land remains in private hands. The total acreage of public land in Washington is 42,606,080. Of this, 2,599,250 acres are controlled by the U.S. Forest Service, 25,492 acres are in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Natural Area Preserves and 46,892 acres are in DNR Natural Reserve Conservation Areas. Citizen access to these federal areas is severely restricted or prohibited.

Meanwhile, under a green-driven 1990 program called the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) the state government is in an all-out drive to buy or take more and more land.

On the Great Plains the battles for water rights and grazing rights (the bedrock of the ranching industry) is little understood but potentially devastating to America’s ability to feed itself.

Water and grazing rights are guaranteed to those ranchers who operate on public lands. Those agreements go back over one hundred years to the days when the western territories became states. They cannot be negotiated away and are just as sacred as any homeowner’s deed.

Yet today, the Department of the Interior is pushing to raise grazing and water fees to levels that would destroy ranching and farming in the areas. If the battle is lost it will mark the end of America’s cattle industry and destroy family farms. The land where those ranches and farms now stand will become unproductive, baron wilderness controlled by the federal government.

Without them, can America continue to feed itself, let alone the rest of the world? Meanwhile, in tandem with this federal assault on cattle ranching, the greens advocate the elimination of meat consumption. This too is no coincidence.

While land is taken and turned into wilderness, many roads, bridges and even some dams are closed and eliminated in the drive to destroy any evidence of man. But, with industry being eliminated and productive land removed from private hands, where will the tax base come from to sustain such programs? It’s not a question the greens seem to care about – with “public good” at stake.

Piece by piece each of these moves by the federal government, aided by the environmentalists, dismantles American infrastructure.


During the 1800’s, as the nation fought to create a national railroad system, farmers and other property owners leased portions of their land to the new enterprise. It was the only way to ensure enough right of way for the railroads and it provided extra income to the land owners. The land was still privately owned and was to revert back to the owner’s use if ever the railroads ceased to need it.

But as railroads began to disappear and old tracks rusted in the countryside, much of the land didn’t revert back to the owners, because federal legislation, supported by environmentalists, overstepped the property owners in favor of the popular Rails-to-Trails program.

The hiking and bicycle crowd knows or cares little about the history of the property rights involved. The greens, on the other hand, have found a bonanza of land that has literally been stolen from property owners to add to the growing behemoth of federal control.

The land is then eliminated from productive use and development. Moreover the trails have become the “blood vessels” feeding the land-control efforts. A tiny path winding through an area is a foot in the door for the demand that more of the land be used for “public” need.

More than 36,000 miles of such trails now crisscross the nation under the direct control of the National Park Service. Long forgotten are the land owners who paid for and supported the land before seeing it stolen for “public good.”


Picture a national park 2,500 miles long and two counties wide, passing through ten states from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Inside that area there can be no commercial development, no housing and no communities. Now picture that area as the mighty Mississippi River, the vital waterway that divides our entire nation and provides crucial commercial traffic, hauling goods and services to keep the nation moving.

Does that sound too radical. Well, Congress has already designated the entire 2,500 miles as a single “Mississippi River Corridor” for a monumental study to make a unified federal program to control the ten-state area. In news items published last summer, it was reported that house boat dwellers who have lived on the river for fifty years were being removed from this “public” reserve.

Worse, there are at least sixty eight designated Heritage Areas and Corridors across the country ranging through nearly every state in the Union. All of them will come under the control of the National Park Service.

Heritage Corridors represent the worst examples of the poison that environmental regulations are seeping into American culture. Landowners are driven from their homes, business are shut down and whole communities are turned into ghost towns.

How do they do it? One small step at a time. In the Mississippi River area, for example, historical studies are being conducted to determine the farthest recorded distance the river has flooded. That distance becomes designated as “river” and it represents the new boundary. Environmentalists are now encouraging insurance companies to deny flood insurance to those who live in such areas. Without flood insurance homeowners and businesses and even entire towns can’t survive. They move. Their homes become federally controlled property. The land becomes wilderness.

Currently two bills, H.R.1280 and H.R.1301, are pending in the Congress intended to speed up the designation of Heritage Corridors. Incredibly, H.R. 1280 is sponsored by Republican Joel Hefley of Colorado, whose state has been a prime testing ground for environmental assaults. In the Senate, newly adopted Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell is the chief sponsor of S.1110, called the National Heritage Act of 1995.


The grandaddy of all federal land grabs is the Biosphere Reserve. A biosphere is an area of wilderness that contains all aspects of biology in a specific area. According to environmentalist theory, if even an insect in the biosphere is damaged then the entire ecosystem is damaged causing immeasurable environmental harm and leading to possible environmental Armageddon.

Of course, so the theory goes, all human activity is damaging to the biosphere. In order to protect such vital and delicate global balance, human activity must be heavily regulated or removed.

What a perfect tool in the environmentalists drive to stop development. Of course none of this amazing theory is driven by an ounce of sound scientific theory, but , none- the-less, it is the very basis for the Clinton Administration’s environmental policies.

A biosphere Reserve works like this: A core area is chosen, usually a current wilderness area, perhaps in the middle of a national park. In that core area, no human activity is allowed.

Around the core is placed a buffer zone. The buffer area may contain some development, some housing and some human activity. However, no new development will be permitted. Eventually, it is planned that existing activity will be strangled and eliminated. Once accomplished, the core area will be expanded to swallow up the buffer and become untouchable to all human activity, including recreational. Humans simply will not be allowed in that area.

Surrounding the buffer zone is a “transition area” where some human activity like tourism, even certain types of limited human settlements may be permitted. But here again, the boundaries of the transition area are not stable. They can be constantly expanded.

Like an insatiable game of “pac man” the transition area grows, and the buffer area grows accordingly and, so grows the core area. It’s like a science-fiction monster movie. But the horrible result is that human habitation of the countryside grows smaller and smaller, literally herding human activity into specifically designated areas.

Biosphere Reserves are not, however, just some environmental pipe dream or part of a wish list. They are being implemented in legislation and policy right now. Both the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity and the President’s Council on Sustainable Development mandate that government be organized into bio-regions. The bio-region plan is the basis for the government’s drive to control larger and larger blocks of land. Already, almost unnoticed, people are being moved and development cut off in direct preparation for the biosphere programs.

In upstate New York, for example, a major fight is being waged to stop the implementation of a biosphere reserve called the Northern Forest Lands. This massive project would create a wilderness that stretches from Maine through New Hampshire through Vermont and into upstate New York. More than two-thirds of the state of Maine would be made off- limits to human activity, plus one third each of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Similar battles are going on all over the nation.

The Sierra Club announced in its national magazine last year that it was devoting its entire effort toward the implementation of the biosphere agenda. The magazine contained the Sierra Club’s new map of America, broken down into eighteen bio-regions nationwide.

The Clinton Administration, within the next few weeks, will announce its report on the President’s Council for Sustainable Development. That plan will become the basis for Clinton’s environmental policy. It will be based on bio-regions and will call for the “rewilding” of at least 50 percent of all of the land in every state. That means there will be no human activity in half of every state in the United States of America.


These plans as described not only exist, but are rapidly being put into place by, not only the Clinton Administration and their allies in the environmentalist movement, but also by the new Republican-led Congress. As mentioned earlier, Republicans are the driving force behind the implementation of Heritage Corridors. More than one-hundred such Corridors have been proposed on state, federal and private property.

Some courageous Congressmen like Helen Chenowith, John Shaddag, Richard Pombo and Don Young are working around the clock to stop this horrifying assault on America’s very core of existence.

For their efforts they have been labeled “extremists” by radical greens and the Clinton Administration. That could be expected from such sources, but the labels have caused the likes of Republican leaders including Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole to back off from attempts to restore property rights and common sense to environmental policy. Gingrich has slowed progress on the Pombo/Young efforts to fix the Endangered Species Act and refused new votes on additional property rights legislation.

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the greens as they continue their unabated grab of private property and their implementation of the biosphere reserve programs.

The media continues to ignore this green holocaust as those who strive to sound the alarm are accused of being “puppets” of big business seeking only to “pave the nation.”

Can America survive such a massive change in its structure? Can the Constitution have a shred of meaning if property rights and free enterprise are eliminated? Is an America in which its citizens are literally herded into special “human habitat areas” without industry, without technology or without joy, a country in which we would care to live?

Most Americans would answer no. But most Americans would also say such an idea is simply ridiculous. It will never happen. Americans, they say, would never stand for it. They would rise up in revolt to save their property and way of life if the government tried to turn 50 percent of the nation into wilderness.

So ask yourself just one question: where have those protests been as we’ve lost the first twenty five percent?

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.