Unmasking the Green

Mary Adams recently asked me to attend the Maine River Summit, held at the Sebasco Resort in Phippsburg. I suppose I was a logical choice, not only because I live nearby, but also because I have attended many conferences like this one when I spent a year of my life working for People for the West (now People for the USA), a coalition of miners, ranchers, loggers, and recreational land users.

Upon arrival at the “river summit” we were greeted, signed in, and given coffee and donuts. As with any large group, conversations started and old friends were greeted. As I circulated around the room, I was struck at the nature of the conversations. At conferences out west, I heard many intriguing stories about how the weather is affecting the wheat, how the financial winds are blowing, what the new Forest Service people are like to deal with, which new “endangered” species was likely to become a surrogate for preservationists, and similar concerns. The conversations of small business people.

At the River Summit, I heard no one talking about how hard it is to make a living. The dominant topic of conversation seemed to be the closing up of camps and summer homes. I believe there was a tie for the second most common subject of conversation – between getting the boat out of the water for the winter (a trailer comes to mind, but apparently the boats being discussed here were a little large for that) and junior’s high tuition bills. I was at a conference of the moneyed elite, no question about that.

And these people are not nearly as much fun as the hard-working men and women I worked with out West. Conversation was very dark and serious, with dire consequences hanging over everyone – consequences that could only be avoided if these “good-thinking people” can monopolize political power. Indeed, the only laughter I heard was during the speech of Donald Hooper, a political operative who is New England Regional Organizer for the National Wildlife Federation. He mentioned the ideas of limited government and sitting down to compromise with business (he called it having a “love-in”). My fellow attendees found these ideas uproariously funny.

As I wandered around the various exhibits, I did overhear one interesting tidbit. Sara Faulkner Leff, Executive Director of the River Alliance of Connecticut was bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t get such a large turnout of people in Connecticut. It appears that using the concepts of “watersheds” to put vast areas off limits to any kind of business is a practice that is okay for hillbilly states like Maine, but not real popular when done in Connecticut.

For in the end that’s what this conference was about. It was a political strategy session – a place for environmental professionals to learn a new technique. The technique is “the watershed address.” Mr. Hooper told the gathering: “Watersheds take in everything from agricultural practices to Midwestern power plants.” In other words, we are dealing with the next Endangered Species Act here.

We are all familiar with the devastation that has been wrought on our resource industries by the green tactic of finding an endangered species and then using the ESA to shut down resource producers and change communities from places where things are made to destinations were the elite are served.

The greens know that they can not succeed if voters are aware of their policy ends (e.g. the transformation of the North Woods into a playground for those rich enough to have the time to walk from Greenville to Allagash). Their successes have come when they use an act such as the ESA to mandate wrenching social change. They are starting the process here now, with their efforts to make the Canadian Lynx Maine’s spotted owl. And, of course, their efforts to protect “watersheds.”

The “watershed” concept is another attempt to sneak their radical beliefs into public policy without having a debate about those beliefs.

Chris Brown, of the National Park Service, said that now “most federal agencies are organized around watersheds.” Despite the fact that this man has a position of great responsibility in the federal government, he made no pretense of being impartial in any way. He spoke of environmentalism as being “the business we are all in.” He said: “the watershed is the best geographical unit to give citizens a sense of place – remember recruitment is essential.” Mr. Wallin, the keynote speaker and the founder of the River Network in Portland, Oregon, said: “you can’t conserve a river without managing the land,” as well as “a river is more than water, it is an ecosystem with a headlands forest and riparian areas.”

The “watershed” scheme goes like this:

  • First use the concern everyone has for the beautiful river near where he or she lives to get people to buy into the idea that they belong, not to a town, a county, or a way of life, but to a watershed.
  • Second, use that concern to pass laws “protecting” the “watershed,” but keep quiet about ideas like regulating all riverfront property and the forests at the river’s head while doing so.
  • Third, once the laws are established use them against activities the greens are hostile to, such as forestry and agriculture.

In the end, of course, “watershed protection” will lead to zoning and administrative rulemaking, which will accomplish what the greens can not accomplish straightforwardly – the destruction of the American resource producer.

Those of us whose living depends on using the land, or those of us who just don’t want to change the communities of Northern Maine, need to fight the concept of “watersheds” from the start.

If the traditional political parties don’t have the gumption to fight this moneyed elite, then we need to rally around fighters like Mary Adams. Make no mistake about it – “watersheds” are just another tool to turn Northern Maine into a park.

The best example of the attitude of the greens didn’t come from this conference. I read it in the Boston Globe in an article about the pending sale of the SAPPI property. A man sitting on the porch of his camp on Moosehead said to the reporter: “I look across the lake at all that empty land and I am afraid that it will all be developed into camps.” My reply is simple: “Fine. We’ll take yours out first.”


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