Land Use Control

By: Henry Lamb -

Ownership of land is the foundation of freedom in America.  The hope of owning even a small plot of ground compelled our forefathers to brave incalculable risks crossing the ocean and challenging the wilderness.  Land ownership was so cherished by our nation's founders that they guaranteed that government could not take private property without just compensation paid to the land owner.  This founding principle has eroded dramatically over time, especially since 1976.
The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT I) met in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1976.  Agenda Item 10 of the conference report was entitled simply "Land."  Here is an excerpt from the Preamble to that item:
"Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market.  Private land ownership  is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes.  Public control of land use is therefore indispensable...."
This policy document was agreed to by the United States.  Among the U.S. delegates were William K. Reilly, former EPA Administrator, and Carla Hill, former Trade Negotiator in the Bush Administration.  Since the mid 1970s, both the United Nations and the United States have been moving toward ever-tightening "public" control of land use.
One of the first evidences of tightening land use control came with the emergence of the nation's wetland policies.  Until the 1971 UN Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (known as the RAMSAR Treaty because it was signed in Ramsar, Iran), wetlands were thought to be swamps, breeding grounds for snakes, mosquitos, and other disease-carrying vectors.  A massive public relations campaign convinced the public that swamps were "fragile ecosystems" that had to be protected by law.  Consequently, more than 200 million acres of private property came under the control of the EPA simply by the EPA's designation of private property as a wetland.  Ironically, the law on which the wetland policy was based, the 1972 Clean Water Act, did not contain the word "wetland."
Endangered Species
The Endangered Species Act became law in 1973.  It was seen as necessary to protect the Bald Eagle, and a few other species that were endangered.  Few, if any, Congressmen in 1972 ever imagined that in less than 25 years there would be thousands of species listed, and thousands more waiting to be listed.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the law covers, not only endangered species, but the habitat that may be used by such endangered species.  Private property on which an endangered species is found is immediately under the control of the federal government.  The Department of Interior may declare private property to be "critical habitat" even if no endangered species has been spotted.  The Endangered Species Act, too, became law in order to conform domestic law to the requirements of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Scenic Rivers & Byways
American rivers designated as "scenic," under the American Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, are controlled, ultimately by the federal government, including private property that fronts the river.  Land owners are denied the use of their own property by the federal government without compensation or recourse.  The Scenic Byways program of the U.S. Department of Transportation is not authorized by a particular law.  It is a program of the Department.  When a highway is designated as a "Scenic Byway," everything within the viewshed of the highway is subject to the control of a "stakeholders" council created by the designation.  The stakeholders council may prevent the land owner from using his land if the council determines that the proposed use diminishes the viewshed.

American Heritage Rivers Initiative
The American Heritage Rivers Initiative was announced in 1997.  It was said to require no new legislation nor any new appropriation.  Its purpose was simply to recognize selected rivers as "American Heritage Rivers" that would be governed by a stakeholders council that would be assigned a federal employee called a "River Navigator."  One of the objectives of the program is to designate buffer zones on either side of the river which would be controlled by the stakeholders council rather than by the land owner.
American Heritage Areas
Still another mechanism for "public" control of land use is the designation of Heritage Areas.  Congress has enacted several laws that create special Heritage Areas that provide for public control of land use.  The Mississippi River Heritage Corridor is one such designation.  For several years, stakeholder councils have been inventorying resources throughout the Mississippi River corridor in preperation for designating appropriate uses of private land, as determined by the stakeholders council, not by the private land owner.
The Bigger Picture
All of these programs are eroding the value of private property ownership.  It becomes meaningless to own land if the owner can use the land only as prescribed by, and with the permission of the federal government.  The land owner who must continue to pay taxes on the land, but cannot use the land to produce an income soon finds land  ownership to be a burden rather than the foundation of freedom.  This is precisely the strategy to achieve "public control of land use" as described in the 1976 UN document.
To bring control of the use of land to the United Nations, several international treaties and UN programs have been developed.  The most important are: The World Heritage Treaty; The Convention on Biological Diversity; The Convention on Desertification; The Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol; and UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program.
World Heritage Treaty & Biosphere Reserves
When the World Heritage Treaty was adopted in the early 1970s, it was intended to simply designate places and structures of international significance.  The Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, and Yellowstone National Park, are among the 20 World Heritage Sites in the United States.  At about the same time, UNESCO launched its Man and the Biosphere Program, designating vast areas of wilderness as "Biosphere Reserves."  In the 1980s, the influence of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a non-government organization (NGO), headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, convinced UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee (operated under the auspices of UNESCO) to rethink the management of both World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves.
The new management concept evolved for more than a decade and was finally articulated in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED - Earth Summit II).  The 18-page treaty is quite bland in its language, expressing objectives in a very general way.  For example, Article 8 simply requires that each nation shall create a system of protected areas.  Article 25 requires the the Conference of the Parties created by the treaty conduct a "global biodiversity assessment."
Before the treaty was even presented for adoption, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), with a $3.3 million grant from the UN's Global Environment Facility, launched a global biodiversity assessment.  At the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties, UNEP presented the 1140-page document entitled "Global Biodiversity Assessment."  Section 13 of the massive document describes in detail how to create the system of protected areas called for in Article 8.  On page 993, the document says the "Wildlands Project," published in the United States in 1992, is the ideal plan to protect biodiversity.
The Wildlands Project was conceived by Dave Foreman and eloquenly articulated in his book Confessions of an Eco Warrior.  The plan was professionally written by Dr. Reed F. Noss and published in a special 1992 edition of  Foreman's Wild Earth.  The plan calls for converting "at least half" of the land area to core wilderness, off limits to human beings.  The core areas are to be interconnected by corridors of wilderness, all of which is to be surrounded by "buffer zones" with only  limited human activity.  People are to live in "islands of human habitat" surrounded by wilderness.  The politically correct name for these islands of human habitat is "Sustainable Communities." 
Rivers, with buffer zones on either side, are seen to be ideal corridors to interconnect the core wilderness areas.  Scenic Rivers, and American Heritage Rivers take on a new purpose when viewed in the context of the Windlands Project.
Climate Change & Desertification
The United States Senate did not ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Until it does, the UN has no enforcement power of land use under the treaty.  Not to be outdone, however,  the Kyoto Protocol to the Climate Change Treaty, requires in Article 2, that "carbon sinks" be used to absorb carbon dioxide.  Carbon sinks are vast areas of vegetation, such as bioshpere reserves, and forests.  This requirement gives the UN a basis for dictating the management of carbon sinks.  It is not as powerful a grip of land use control as would be provided by the Convention on Biological Diversity, or by the Convention on Desertification, but it is a grip nevertheless.
The Convention on Desertification has been embraced by the Clinton/Gore White House, and will be sent to  the Senate for ratification before the end of 1998.  The treaty potentially affects virtually all of the United States and has the power to govern the use of all land that contains or needs water.
Behind the screen of protecting the environment, the United Nations, with the full cooperation of the United States government, is very rapidly gaining control of the use of land as the 1976 UN policy document directed.  Private property ownership is seen as an "obstacle" to be overcome.  The principle of land ownership on which the United States was founded is being eroded by a global agenda.  We hope the information provided here will help you protect your land and your country.

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