Brock Evans denies his Tufts "be unreasonable -- take it all"
statements on WEZE radio talk show, Boston, MA, June 18, 1993

This transcript was originally published in The Land Rights Letter

MODERATOR: You're listening to WEZE Boston, and it is one of those things that some of you say, look, you're an environmentalist, or maybe you're not, or maybe you are someone who's in business and you see the environmentalists as a pain in the neck. Many times you will find that these are two camps that are getting more and more strained as they deal with one another.

Ron Arnold joins us, and he is a very wise spokesperson for the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, part of the wise use movement, and he is the author of the book Trashing the Economy. He joins us and continues as we're also -- our next guest joins us from National Audubon and maybe Mark you'd like to lift up that little sign that you have right there so that we can do a proper introductions. Hopefully we've got Brock on the line, maybe we don't have him yet -- as we continue with looking at the environment, whether you think environmentalists have gone too far, and if there can ever be any kind of, any kind of common ground where the two can actually get together.

Ron, do you think there really is a common ground or basically do you see the environmentalists as being unbending -- do you see them as fanatics?

ARNOLD: Well we see them as way out farther on a limb in left field than the general public is aware. For example, Brock Evans -- who I think you're going to bring on the line here in minute -- who is an Audubon Vice President --

HOST: Yeah, we're looking for Brock.

ARNOLD: Well on November 4, 1990 at Tufts University, right up the road from you in Medford, he was talking about this 26 million acres in New England that we -- that this northern forest preserve that we're talking about -- and he said, you know, for a century I think it's safe to say timber companies up there have owned all twenty six million acres, once it was all public domain, then it went into the private domain where it's been for a long, long time.

I don't agree that we can't get it all back. I don't agree that we can't get the social compact back, I don't agree that it shouldn't all be in the public domain.

We should get it, all of it. Be unreasonable. You can do it. Yesterday's heresy is today's common wisdom. It happens over and over again. Our business is changing impossibilities.

Well now nationalizing 26 million acres of private land, you tell me what's that in the mainstream of? Political suicide?

HOST: Now nationalizing -- well, Brock joins us on the other line, and, Brock it's nice to chat with you this afternoon, and hello, welcome.

EVANS: Hello there.

HOST: And we have Ron Arnold. Do you and Ron know each other?

EVANS: Sure do.

ARNOLD: Oh we go back a long way.

Brock: Hey Ron.

HOST: How far back do you two go?

EVANS: Oh I think, well we met each other, what in the late sixties, Ron?

ARNOLD: Something like that, I think it was probably '68, Brock.

EVANS: Somewhere around there, right, right.

HOST: And you both kind of sprouted off into different directions I would take it?

EVANS: Seems that way.

HOST: It seems that way. Brock, what Ron was just saying is that you had made some comments at, I think it was at Tufts University --

EVANS: Hm Hmm.

-- that about the Northern Forest preserve. He had said that this is 26 million acres --

EVANS: Hm Hmm.

-- Can you tell us if he was -- you're saying hm hmm and you're saying yes that's just what I did speak about, correct?

EVANS: I don't know exactly what Ron said, I just got on the --

HOST: Ron could you give me the inflammatory sentence that you used there?

ARNOLD: Yes, I'm reading a direct quote from a transcript taken from a tape made by about half a dozen different people that were in the room on November 4, 1990, and here are the words out of Brock's mouth:

For a century I think it's safe to say, timber companies up there have owned all 26 million acres. Once it was all public domain, then it went to the private domain where it's been for a very long time.

And then he said,

"I don't agree that we can't get it all back. I don't agree that we can't get the social compact back, I don't agree that it shouldn't all be in the public domain."

Then he said,

"We should get all of it. Be unreasonable. You can do it. Yesterday's heresy is today's common wisdom. It happens over and over again..."

"The first time people see it they're going to say this is impossible, we can't do that. But we change those impossibilities, that's all. Our whole business is changing impossibilities."

And those are direct quotes.

HOST: All right, Brock is that what you said?

EVANS: It sounds a little bit like a doctored transcript -- I don't know how easy it is to do those things -- because the whole context is -- Ron wasn't there, but it sounds like his people were -- the whole context of this was what to do about the Northern Forest lands -- mostly in Maine although they're across New York and New Hampshire, in Vermont and also -- most of which are up for sale by big timber companies. And the whole point of that whole meeting was now that the timber companies are offering them for sale, mostly to real estate subdividers and others, wouldn't this be a great opportunity to return these lands to the public domain as they were about 1840.

And that was the context of it. I've seen that mis-quote several times around the country here. And I understand why they want to doctor it up and say it means what it doesn't mean, but the whole context was buying it from willing sellers because this is how it's always done and what I favor. My policy and Ron knows this, because he's known me a long time, and the policy of the National Audubon Society has always been wherever private land is acquired, it's acquired from willing sellers. And that is my view. I do believe we can do that. And I believe that if local people there and the people of New England want to put up the money to return this to the public domain and re-create a northern lands national forest, that's a good idea. And it certainly doesn't prevent hunting and fishing and all sorts of things, even logging, but it might be better managed than it is right now and as long as it's for sale from willing sellers, that's certainly how I feel.

HOST: All right, now even logging? I mean Mass Audubon would go along with such a thing?

EVANS: You mean National Audubon, us?

HOST: Hm hmm, I mean, national would go along with such a thing?

EVANS: Sure. What we've advocated, and Ron -- I don't know if you've read it or not, but I'll be glad to send you some copies of other things I've written on the same subject -- I've advocated creation of a Northern Lands National Forest. It's very similar to the 22 million acres of other National Forests here in the east that were created out of private land. And they were all purchased, as I think Ron knows, from willing sellers over a period of time from about 1911 on. Because of that, now we have about 22 million acres of magnificent National Forest that have come back. These lands are logged, these lands are mined in certain places, these lands have roads, and these lands have Wilderness areas. Uh, sometimes we oppose the logging practices, sometimes we don't, but I would like to see a large part of the northern lands not logged, but I think you could log it in a lot better way than the companies had, and Ron I don't know if you've been there and seen what they're doing to it or not, but I bet you would be not happy with the land use practices you saw up there now either.

HOST: Ron?

ARNOLD: Well I have been up there very recently, Brock. I was up there to debate Dave Brower, our old friend, at Vermont Law School here just a month and a half ago, and I saw a number of thriving firms doing a very good job of forest management. I've seen some places where people do some things that I think are good that you don't think are good, so I think that --

HOST: Like what?

ARNOLD: Well, like doing, clear-cutting and replanting, like we were talking about with your previous guest Chris Lahey. And I don't agree that what comes back is an ecological desert. I think it's just fine. It's a different kind of eco-system; it is not unnatural -- that's a -- there can't be anything "unnatural". This is all nature, whatever comes back is perfectly natural. We've altered it into a different kind of eco-system that has its own values. And I think to say that it's somehow inferior or bad is just flatly false.