The Clinton/GOP Assault On Property Rights

In separate proposals, the Clinton Administration and the Republican Congress are moving rapidly to increase Federal acquisition of private property across the nation.

Most disturbing about the Congressional effort is the list of co-sponsors. Congressman Don Young, Chairman of the House Resources Committee, and a hero to many in the property rights movement, has taken the lead in building Congressional support for the scheme. In the Senate, Republican Frank Murkowski has already introduced the Senate version entitled S.25 – “The Conservation and Re-investment Act.”

In short, the bill would put almost a billion dollars annually into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The money would be used by federal agencies, without Congressional oversight, to buy more property from private land owners. Those familiar with government tactics for purchasing land know that the feds will surely use their power to force private owners to give way – whether they want to sell their land or not.

And for what reason? With more than 30% of U.S. land now in the hands of the federal government, and with the federal government unable to take care of the park land already in its possession because of lack of funds – why such a massive effort to buy more?

Meanwhile, The White House, through Vice President Al Gore, has announced a new “Livability Agenda” that also calls for a massive federal land acquisition program. The White House program is taken straight from the pages of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 program that came from the 1992 Earth Summit. This massive international program literally dictates complete government control and management of land, industry and development.

For Republicans to help in this effort, especially those trusted property rights advocates like Don Young, has sent alarm bells sounding across grassroots America. But a little research shows there is basis of support for such initiatives because the Congressional and White House actions bring massive amounts of money with them – money that will fall into the pockets of a number of private and non-profit organizations who are now lobbying for the programs.

The following two reports, by Henry Lamb and Joanna Waugh, clearly show the dangers of this massive new federal land grab and it’s connection to previous land grabs like the American Heritage Rivers Initiative and to UN initiatives like Agenda 21. Johanna Waugh’s report shows who will benefit financially, despite the loss of private homes and liberties caused by this next phase of a seemingly never ending federal land grab.

Tom DeWeese

The Great Federal Land Rush

by Henry Lamb

Suddenly, there is an all out, visible effort to buy-out America. There is nothing “sudden” about the bye-out; heretofore, however, it has not been widely publicized, nor promoted from the President’s bully-pulpit. On January 11, Vice President, Al Gore, announced a new “Livability Agenda.” The next day, both the President and Vice President announced a new “Lands Legacy Initiative.” The White House issued two press statements the same day, and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt and George Frampton, Acting Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, staged a press briefing. All this to announce publicly that the administration is launching a campaign to set up a permanent billion-dollar-per-year fund, dedicated exclusively to the purchase of private property.

Ironically, two powerful Republicans are introducing legislation in both Houses of Congress to implement the Administration’s buy-out of America: Senator Murkowski of Alaska, and Congressman Don Young, also of Alaska, and Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The titles chosen to describe the two new initiatives, “Livability Agenda” and “Lands Legacy Initiative” are euphemisms for Agenda 21 and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Gore’s Livability Agenda, to be funded at $1 billion, is the implementation of the “Sustainable Communities” recommendations of Agenda 21. The Lands Legacy Initiative is designed to achieve precisely the objectives set forth in Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

There is, of course, no reference at all by the Administration, that these programs are designed to bring America into conformity with the global management principles set forth by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Quite to the contrary, the programs are being presented to preserve “irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen.” And, as Gore described his Livability Agenda, “In too many places, the beauty of local vistas has been degraded by decades of ill-planned and ill-coordinated development.”

In other words, free people who elect county commissions and city councils, to plan communities, regulate through zoning, and promote economic development — have degraded the beauty of local vistas. Gore went on to condemn free people for “burning a gallon of gas to go buy a gallon of milk,” and for having to call their children by cell phone to explain that they can’t get home to read a bedtime story because they are tied up in traffic.

Gore’s Livability Agenda will cure all those ills. The Agenda was described fully in a report prepared by Andrew Euston for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at the request of the United Nations Conference of Human Settlement (HABITAT II) which met in Istanbul in 1996. The report spelled out the Administration’s plans to implement programs which would have the effect of achieving the recommendations in Agenda 21. Virtually every element of Gore’s Livability Agenda is set forth in Chapter 7 of Agenda 21.

Limiting “urban sprawl” is a major objective of the Livability Agenda (Chapter 7.18 of Agenda 21). What that means is that, most often, unelected government administrators, working in “partnership” with NGOs (non-government organizations), quite often funded by grants from the federal government, draw an arbitrary line around a municipality. That line represents the limit, beyond which, economic development can not take place.

A caller to a radio program recently, who lives in Oregon, described how the “sustainable communities” program in his town forced his family farm into bankruptcy. When the “public/private” partnership drew a line on a map around the city and declared that in order to limit urban sprawl, no development could occur beyond the line, the value of the caller’s land plummeted below the level of debt for which the land was pledged as collateral. The farm was lost, but sprawl was limited.

The Livability Agenda will transform communities to conform to what Agenda 21 has declared all “Human Settlements” should be: a place for humans to live when they can no longer live where they choose to live. Those who have chosen to live in rural areas, and earn their livelihood from the natural resources are the people who are, or soon will be, looking for a new place to live.

The Lands Legacy Initiative is a program to accelerate the take over of the private property of those who have chosen to live in rural areas. The Administration claims that property will be bought only from “willing” sellers. People who are caught in situations similar to the Oregon farmer, for example. He would surely be a willing seller. Champion International is another example of a willing seller. Some 300,000 acres of privately owned forests are being sold to the Conservation Fund, for $76.2 million. Since cutting a tree has become a mortal sin, and punishable by jail and fines, should it be in what the government has declared to be a “critical habitat,” or a “wetland,” there’s little reason to own the land just to continue paying taxes on it. The President’s program would create a $1 billion-per-year fund, forever, to be used to acquire private property from “willing” sellers. Sooner or later, there will be no more private property and America will be, in fact, a socialist state. Nearly 40% of the total land area is already owned by government.

The President’s program will also add another five million acres to “wilderness” designation in order to, as the President says: “preserve irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen.” While the President was making his statement at the National Arboretum, Secretary Babbitt was answering press questions at the Department of Interior. Babbitt was asked: “What is the wilderness protection for the national park areas? Does that mean no roads, no commercial development, nothing?”

Babbitt replied: “Yeah, the essential add-on, from a wilderness designation in a national park, is precisely that. No more roads; no motorized intrusions. No snowmobiles, jet-skis, ORVs.” America has become accustomed to hearing the President say one thing, while knowing full well that what he is saying bears little resemblance to the facts.

The facts of the wilderness expansion agenda are detailed extensively in Section 11 of the Global Biodiversity Assessment, published by the United Nations Environment Program for people who are involved with the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The management policy adopted by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and implemented through its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program, calls for continual expansion of wilderness areas, pushing ever-outward adjacent “buffer zones” which are stringently managed for conservation objectives, and to connect the wilderness areas with “corridors” of wilderness. Nowhere did the President give credit to the Wildlands Project, which he is implementing under the name of Lands Legacy Initiative, and Ecosystem Management.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 set aside 9 million acres of wilderness so, as Hubert Humphrey put it, future generations could see what their forefathers had to conquer. The Executive Director of the Wilderness Society, Howard Zahniser, worked for five years to get the original Wilderness Act into law. The founder of the Wilderness Society advocated the nationalization of all forests back in the 1930s. The Wilderness Society was a leader in the Spotted Owl listing that devastated the Northwest. The Wilderness Society has been trying to reclaim all the forest in the Northeast for more than a decade. George Frampton was the President of the Wilderness Society until Bill Clinton appointed him to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He is now Acting Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality. Bruce Babbitt was head of the League of Conservation Voters when Bill Clinton appointed him Secretary of the Interior. These, and many other radical environmental organizations, helped to develop Agenda 21, and the Convention on Biological Diversity during the process leading up the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Now, these very same people stand beside the President of the United States to announce they intend to implement the very plans they made years ago.

Henry Lamb is one of the foremost experts on United Nations environmental programs including Agenda 21. He is the Executive Vice President of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO). For more information about the entire UN’s international environmental agenda visit ECO’s web site at or contact ECO at P.O. Box 191, Hollow Rock, TN 38342

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.