Assault on Maine Landowners

by Erich Veyhl, Land Rights Letter, April 1993.

“Outlandish, untrue claims of imagined federal intervention”?

Hatch didn't tell his readers that his Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has quietly promoted the infamous Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon and Washington as a Greenline model for the 26 million acres of mostly private land in New England and New York targeted in the preservationist Northern Forests Lands Campaign. He didn't mention that the Columbia Gorge “model” – based on a combination of Federal and state law authorizing the U.S. Forest Service to spend hundreds of millions on land acquisition in conjunction with a bi–state land use control Commission – has taken the property rights from tens of thousands of people and, in conjunction with the loss of the land and tax base to Federal acquisition, destroyed the local economy.

Planning and building political momentum for a New England Greenline was part of CLF's goal in supporting the failed Northern Forests Lands Act that the “motley citizens” in New England stopped in 1991.

And it still is. The preservationists' arrogant plan to turn 26 million acres of northern New England into what amounts to an internal Federal colony under their control was roundly rejected by the residents of the area, so the preservationists are now engaged in what they see as a ten or more year campaign [see box on page 5] to take it over piecemeal. One of their first actions is targeting the large commercial timberland holdings in Maine, which is leading to a stranglehold over both the economy and a large part of the targeted land base.

In 1991, for example. Hatch channeled $50,000 (just part of the project's kitty) of his Merck money into his CLF – whose purpose is described “to improve forest management practices in Maine's Northwoods, much of which is owned by the paper industry, by making sustainable land use a condition for federal relicensing of corporate hydropower facilities.”

“Sustainable land use” turns out to be the naked extortion of several million acres of land in exchange for being allowed to stay in business: current CLF strategy includes threatening the Maine economy and Bowater/Great Northern's timber operation (on their own private land) through protracted legal harassment on behalf of American Rivers, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Maine Audubon Society. The strategy: block the needed Federal relicensing of the Great Northern hydro system to force the company to give up all development rights on millions of acres unrelated to the power generation system [LRL 8/92]. Preservationists want the land as part of the Greenline.

Bowater is currently “negotiating” the preservationist demands, just as timber companies in the Pacific Northwest cut deals with the environmentalists, leaving the local population to strangle. Several other hydro sites have also been attacked, leading to the high legal costs being passed on to rate payers. The strategy has gone national as environmentalist lobbyists and their friends in Congress are now pressuring the White House to appoint environmentalists to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to force such concessions nation–wide.

Hatch also channeled $50,000 from the Merck Fund back to CLF in 1991 “to require the Dept. of Commerce to develop a plan for reversing the decline of Georges Bank [the fishing grounds off New England] food fisheries.” “The resulting “plan” would have put Maine lobstermen out of business in droves and led to a storm of protest. Ongoing CLF legal activism continues to incite the wrath of Maine fishermen.

Political leverage based on the failure of the government to recognize private property rights – in these cases rights to the power in water flow or fishing rights – is a common theme in environmentalist strategy nationwide. Dependence on “Federal lands” is used on a large scale to manipulate timber and grazing dependent communities in the west where the Federal government controls most of the land and there isn't enough private land left to support the economy.

The general strategy is to leverage dependence on government permissions wherever they occur to control the local population and undermine otherwise protected private rights. (Recall Callahan's strategy of calling Federal ownership “public” to hide the consequences of Federal control [ LRL 3/93]).

Hatch's other organization, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust(MCHT), was caught secretly promoting a National Natural Landmark intended to encompass over 120 miles of winding, privately owned coastal land in downeast Maine. The advocacy of Federal intervention was part of a “reference” report MCHT produced at the request of the National Park Service, which has no jurisdiction over the area. The report decried that private activity (people's homes and businesses) interfere with the “visitor experience” of tourists on their way through Maine to the Roosevelt Campobello International park in Canada. MCHT urged Federal and State legislation prohibiting homes outside of approved “settlement clusters.”

The National Parks and Conservation Association subsequently used the MCHT report as the basis for one of its “priority” promotions of a sweeping National Park Service takeover of most of Washington County, Maine (which led directly to the formation of one of the citizens groups Hatch smeared, the Washington County Alliance, and the beginning of the revolt against the preservationists' plans for Maine.)

Hatch's article, however, said only that the local landowners (acting as “fronts” for “corporations” and the “Moonies”) “opposed preservation of scenic areas and open space.” He didn't describe the content of the plans or mention that the people opposing the plans own the property the preservationists want to take.

There are other plans for Federal intervention in Maine, some already in effect; the ones cited above just illustrate direct promotions by Hatch's own organizations – suggesting that he should have known he wasn't telling the truth when he accused the “motley crew” of spreading “outlandish, untrue claims of imagined federal intervention.” [For more on Hatch and the EGA strategy in New England see Assault on New Hampshire.}

Copyright © 1993 Erich Veyhl and Land Rights Letter. All Rights Reserved

Page last updated: 6/13/05