Included in Hatch's hit piece against property owners was an attack on the New Hampshire Landowners Alliance (NHLA), another alleged “front group” that Hatch said “was formed to fight scenic river designation for the Farmington River.” Hatch apparently doesn't know where the river is – or perhaps New Hampshire: The Farmington River is in Massachusetts and Connecticut. NHLA is a group of local New Hampshire citizens opposing a concentrated, high priority preservationist/National Park Service attempt at Federal designation of their land along their own Pemigewasset River under a proposed new Wild and Scenic River under National Park Service authority [LRL 6/92, 10/92, 3/93].
Local Massachusetts landowners along the Farmington, who are similarly smeared by environmentalists, are opposing the Park Service in their own towns because, according to Hatch, they were “stirred up by a drumbeat of deliberate misinformation that had been systematically spread by a small cadre of non–New Englanders.”
The local landowners on both the Farmington and the Pemi rivers noticed that the Wild and Scenic River Act gives the National Park Service (in these cases) the authority to dictate land use by demanding provisions in local zoning and authorizes Federal acquisition of private land and easements through eminent domain within a corridor along the river averaging over 1/2 mile wide if the towns don't do what the Park Service says. They didn't need to be – and were not – told by “outsiders” to oppose the Federal intervention; they just read the law.
The local property owners are caught in the all too common position of trying to counter a well–funded national environmentalist campaign for control over their land.
Like others across the country, they are frightened by the enormous power of the environmentalists and the Federal government. They are desperately trying to inform their neighbors of the long history of abuse of the civil rights of landowners by the National Park Service bureaucracy and its surrogates – while the Park Service uses tax money to widely distribute euphemisms papering–over the actual meaning of designation under the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. (The Park Service told the Boston Globe that the purpose of the Act is to protect local communities from the Federal government!)
One of the lobbyists for designation of the Pemi River corridor in NH is the Merrimack River Watershed Council, a regional preservationist organization acting on behalf of the Park Service. The Watershed Council, like other preservationists, claim publicly that the ongoing Park Service–led “study” to justify the pre–conceived agenda of Federal designation is an objective study. The Council self–righteously proclaims, “rather than cooperating in good faith to prepare recommendations for improved management of the river by communities, they [NHLA] work very hard to disrupt the study process, spreading half–truths, exaggerations and outright lies through the media.” Another preservationist group falsely accused (in an article entitled “Muddying the Waters”) that NHLA threatens violence through a “motorcycle gang.” (These, along with the Hatch article, are only a few of many such examples of the abuse.)
But an internal January, 1993 “Briefing Paper” from Watershed Council president Ralph Goodno to his Board of Directors provides a different explanation: The Council was paid by both the National Park Service and national EGA funding to promote the Federal designation. Goodno wrote:“We are a technical cooperator to the National Park Service (NPS) and the Pemi River Study Advisory Committee for the study. Our work is primarily in public outreach in including preparing newsletters and designing and carrying out a public survey for the study. Under our agreement with NPS, we have received financial support for these efforts through our Cooperative Agreement. We are also an independent advocate for the study, but have played down any role as an advocate in order to maintain the appearance of objectivity.”National Park Service contracts show that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests received $7,500 and the Watershed Council received $15,000 in Federal funds for “workshops” and “education” promoting designation.
Goodno also revealed,“In addition to the public outreach work that the Council continues to do, a statewide coalition has been formed funded by the Merck Fund through the Appalachian Mountain Club. This coalition's purpose is to coordinate actions to counteract the wise use group in New Hampshire. Similar coalitions are being formed in other northern New England states. A statewide coordinator is in place and a paid community organizer is working in each of the Pemi communities to rally support for designation. This work is being coordinated in New Hampshire through the Society for the Protection of NH Forests and a working committee, including our staff person, Dijit Taylor.”The Watershed Council and other preservationist groups also revealed at a recent meeting that they expect to receive continued funding from the National Park Service if the river corridor is designated.
The exposure of the Merck funding confirms statements made at the EGA conference last October that such tax–exempt funding is being channeled into New England preservationist political activism to lobby for Federal legislation [see also LRL 2/93]
Park Service “outreach” funding? “Appearance” of objectivity? Paid community organizers? Planned McCarthyite smear campaigns? National EGA money laundered through layers of networked environmentalist political organizations? Post–designation public payments to Park Service surrogates? All for Federally–imposed land use prohibitions and condemnation authority? This is democracy?
But despite the Strategy and its big money attempting to overwhelm local landowners with a blitz of public relations tactics and paid “community organizing” to manipulate local elections, local voters overwhelmingly rejected the plan: six of the seven New Hampshire towns on tha Pemi River affected by the proposed Federal designation voted against the Wild and Scenic River proposal at their town meetings last month. (The Massachusetts towns on the Farmington did likewise last year, but landowners along a stretch of the same river in Connecticut either have not caught on or are willing to submit to Federal control and will probably be designated.)
Designation of Federal areas is by act of Congress and cannot be legally stopped by local town meetings, but the New Hampshire Congressional delegation made an earlier commitment to oppose Federal designation if the towns voted against it. The landowners are now working against preservationist lobbying pressure to ensure that the commitment is kept.
Copyright © 1993 Erich Veyhl and Land Rights Letter. All Rights Reserved
Page last updated: 6/13/05