Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Funding... (final chapter)

A New Definition of Wildlife Watching

The millions of dollars spent by the federal and state agencies to promote non-consumptive wildlife-related recreation did not halt the decline in wildlife watching reported in the 1980-1996 Surveys. But DOW and IAFWA convinced every state, including Idaho, to change the definition of “wildlife” watching to include, not only traditional bird watching, whale watching and viewing big game animals, but also the following activities:

· Photography of animals, plants and landscapes
· Wildflower walks
· Plant or mushroom identification
· Watching salmon or other fish

More Deception About Wildlife Watching

DOW selected coastal states like Washington, Florida and California with several hundred thousand tourists who came to view the unique scenery, and convinced the state wildlife agencies to also consider these tourists as wildlife watchers. Now, in addition to backyard bird feeders and visitors to the city park, virtually every camper, hiker or tourist can qualify as a “wildlife” watcher.

Idaho’s neighboring state of Washington was listed in fourth place among the top “wildlife” watching states in1997. After six years of working with DOW to make wildlife watching pay, the Washington Department of Wildlife’s website says, “Over $1.7 billion is spent annually in Washington on wildlife watching activities.”

It says the money is spent locally on food, lodging, transportation and equipment and credits wildlife watching with supporting 21,000 jobs. Yet on another page it admits that most of the wildlife watching is incidental “while engaged in some other form of tourism, and/or outdoor recreation.”

Washington is one of a small group of traditional “tourist” states that conducted research into the economic value of wildlife watching (“nature” watching) and then supplied the info to the BSFW Survey to estimate how much “wildlife” watchers spend. Of course most tourists and other travelers enjoy seeing wildlife, but the claim that all the money most of them spend results solely from watching wildlife is a gross exaggeration.

When the 2001 Survey data was released in 2002 anti-hunting groups and state nongame biologists praised the small increase in total wildlife watchers compared to a decrease in hunters since 1996. They ignored the fact that the number of wildlife watchers (and feeders and photographers) had steadily declined since the 1980 “watcher” survey.

New MOU Adds Agencies, New NGO

In 1999 DOW and the three other NGO groups that had signed the 1990 MOU decided to form a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit corporation called “Watchable Wildlife, Inc.” (WWI). On October 16, 2002, they signed another MOU with the eight original federal agencies and four new ones* plus IAFWA. (* National Marine Fisheries Svc., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

The new MOU gave WWI increased powers and says, “Watchable Wildlife Inc. is dedicated to advancing wildlife viewing as a viable economic and conservation enterprise for communities throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico. WWI is committed to helping communities realize the economic potential of nature-related recreation while conserving native plants and animals in their natural habitats.” (emphasis added)

FS, Others Teach UN Biodiversity Agenda

The Forest Service “NatureWatch” website advertises that its 192 million acres (300,000 square miles) of habitat for thousands of species of wildlife, fish and wildflowers offers thousands of “NatureWatch” Viewing Sites. Its Mission: “To provide children and adults the opportunity to safely view, and participate in, activities and programs that raise their level of awareness and understanding of wildlife, fish and plants, and their connection to ecosystems, landscapes and people.”

Along with 11 other federal agencies, the FS is teaching the UN biodiversity message to the urban American tourist. First-time watchers are provided a viewing guide and ethics information with the “look-from-a-distance-but-don’t-touch-or-feed wildlife” message (a similar message is available from other agencies for observing marine mammals, etc.).

Check Out IDFG’s Nongame Website

If you have internet access check out the IDFG “Nongame” and “Watchable Wildlife” website to confirm the activities “wildlife” watching includes. Then click on “Wildlife Viewing Tips and Ethics” to get the same “look-from-a-distance-but-don’t-touch-or-feed wildlife” message.

You’ll learn not to walk through grass or water or off of established paths because “damage to the habitat affects all species in the ecosystem.” Continue to read “Don't alter the environment by feeding the animals. Feeding wildlife supplies more food than would normally be provided by nature.” (emphasis added)

Now you know the real reason IDFG wildlife “managers” refuse to feed mule deer that are obviously starving to death during extreme winters. During the August 4, 2007 Mule Deer Management Workshop in Pocatello, County Commissioner (former Idaho Sen.) Lin Whitworth asked why, if they refuse to feed starving deer with the dedicated fund provided by sportsmen, F&G does not give the money back to hunters. He got no answer.

Biodiversity To Trump Other Resource Use

Whether you are a member of the Alternate Funding Committee, an Idaho F&G Commissioner, a Legislator representing your constituents, or a frustrated mule deer or pheasant hunter, the following statements in the 1140-page UN Global Biodiversity Assessment explain how protecting biodiversity will limit human harvest of natural resources:

“Plants and animals are objects whose degree of protection depends on the value they represent for human beings. Although well intentioned, this specifically anthropocentric (man is superior) view leads directly to the subordination of biological diversity, and to its sacrifice in spite of modern understanding of the advantages of conservation.

“We should accept biodiversity as a legal subject, and supply it with adequate rights. This could clarify the principle that biodiversity is not available for uncontrolled human use. Contrary to current custom, it would therefore become necessary to justify any interference with biodiversity, and to provide proof that human interests justify the damage caused to biodiversity."

Palouse Prairie SAFE Program

From Agenda 21 to UN Heritage Sites, the Treaty that was never ratified is being implemented by every state and federal agency involved in natural resources. By the time you read this issue the “Palouse Prairie SAFE program” will have been initiated, signing up a small number of growers to convert their cropland to fields and corridors of permanent native grasses, forbs and shrubs.

The program is designed to convert only one percent or less of the Palouse cropland to native species, yet the estimated minimum cost of the 10-year project is $11.2 million. A survey of sample fields for savannah sparrows and grasshopper sparrows will be conducted three times to see if they were attracted by the plantings.

According to IDFG CWCS data, this project will recover populations of these and other declining birds, including non-native pheasants, “which will provide more local economic benefits.” A similar multi-million dollar habitat project designed to save declining pygmy rabbit populations in Washington during the past decade resulted in predators killing all of the remaining wild rabbits (see “A Wasted Effort” in the Oct-Nov 2007 issue).

Because many Idahoans dislike the impact development has on our traditional rural areas, some are willing to close their eyes to reality and pretend that by spending billions of dollars nationwide we can turn back the clock a few centuries and re-create so-called “native” ecosystems. But, unless we allow the UN to overrule our Constitution, these lands remain in private ownership and will ultimately be sold.

Sustainable Development – UN Agenda 21

The United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies, a “virtual” university headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, continues to provide direction for “Sustainable Development” for thousands of U.S. cities. This implementation of UN Agenda 21 purportedly addresses both “Brown” agendas to improve air and water quality for the poorer cities, and “Green” agendas to reduce damage to ecosystems by more affluent cities.

In 1993, 25 days after President Clinton signed the UN Biodiversity Treaty, he signed an executive order creating the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Consisting of 29 non-elected federal officials and representatives of major environmental organizations (including the National President of TNC), the Council adopted the UN's definition of sustainable development and translated Agenda 21 into 154 public policy recommendations to be implemented throughout the United States.

Missouri Promotes UN Agenda

In November 1995, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) issued a “Coordinated Resource Management Plan to sustain our natural environment” which also endorsed the creation of a “UN Biosphere Reserve” in the lower Ozarks. The Reserve was promoted by TNC and by agency officials who were members of the President’s Council.

But Missouri residents, who own 93% of the land, discovered that the language and methods in the Resource Plan were similar or identical to those in UN Agenda 21. They objected vigorously to the Plan and former IDFG Director Jerry Conley was hired as MDC Director to use his experience in Idaho to implement the plan.

Conley Denied UN/NGO Influence

But Missouri residents convinced their legislators the Plan was designed to implement the mandate in the UN Biodiversity Assessment and Conley was forced to cancel it on March 19, 1997. In a March 27, press release, Conley ridiculed citizens' groups that had expressed concern about the United Nation's influence on the CRMP as "pure unadulterated bunk." He said concerns about shifting governmental authority over to non-elected groups was "absolute hogwash."

Yet three years later in 2000, Congress gave IAFWA, assisted by DOW, the authority to administer the newly enacted State Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program which directs state wildlife agencies to support biodiversity as dictated by DOW. The “unholy alliance” of this state wildlife agency lobbyist with DOW and other predator preservationist groups also convinced Congress to enact the Multistate Conservation Grant (MCG) Program.

MCGs are also administered by IAFWA, but unlike SWGs its program allows IAFWA to award $6 million from the previously-untouchable P-R and D-J sportsman excise tax funds to any state(s), agency or nongovernmental group. The only requirement for the NGOs (including anti-hunting groups) to receive a grant is that they must submit a statement agreeing not to use the grant money for any activity that promotes or encourages opposition to the regulated hunting or trapping of wildlife or the regulated taking of fish.

The Truth

The IAFWA, DOW and other NGOs are neither elected nor accountable to American citizens yet they continue to promote the “restoration of native ecosystems” agenda espoused in the UN Global Biodiversity Assessment. The results of their efforts to de-emphasize hunting, fishing and trapping are immediately apparent when you view and explore the Missouri Dept. of Conservation website.

From its “Grow Native” biodiversity program (a collaborative effort with the State Ag. Dept.) to its “Master Naturalist” program, the emphasis on “preserving sustainable native plant and animal communities” and providing present and future generations with “diverse and balanced outdoor recreation opportunities” brings home its real agenda. Hunting, trapping and fishing are briefly mentioned as a necessary tool in providing money and controlling some wildlife and fish populations, but “preserving our ‘outdoor recreation’ heritage” is the central theme.

Public Funding Leads To Other Activities

During the IDFG July funding meeting Senator Cameron expressed concern that the Department would become like Parks and Recreation and that is exactly what has happened in states like Missouri after they received additional funding from sources other than hunters and fishermen.

In 1975 the MDC and its NGO support group, the Missouri Conservation Federation, decided to seek additional funding from the general public with a 1/8 of one percent sales tax. It enlisted help from licensed hunters and fishermen who traveled from house to house convincing the public to amend the State Constitution to help fund fish, game and timber management.

The amendment, approved by voters in 1976, provided that the sales and use tax money, and all other MDC income, must be used “for the control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of the bird, fish, game, forestry and wildlife resources of the state…and for no other purpose.” The purchase or other acquisition of property for said purposes was also allowed. (emphasis added)

The amendment was originally very popular among sportsmen and timber interests because it offered a Constitutional guarantee that fish, game and timber would be restored and conserved. County and State officials supported it because it also provided that a portion of the money must be used to pay the full tax value (in lieu of taxes) for any property acquired by MDC.

Missouri Ignored Spending Restrictions

The wording in Article IV Section 43(b) has never been changed yet MDC now spends millions of the sales tax dollars every year on providing elaborate camping facilities, bicycle, hiking and horseback trails, interpretive centers and wildlife watching facilities. Disgruntled sportsmen point out that it was hunters and fishermen who campaigned, knocked on doors and drove people to the polls for this tax to pass - yet none of these programs make any effort to recruit a new generation of hunters.

In 2003 Missouri Senators proposed SJR 103 to divert half of the $96 million annual sales tax revenue from MDC to education, and implement a sunshine clause that would require the tax to be re-approved every four years. It was defeated by lobbying from those who benefit from the programs.

Missouri Legislator Cites Abuses

In 2005 the sponsor of SJR 3 praised increased timber, hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching revenues, but cited examples of inappropriate use of the tax fund. These included excessive payment for land purchases, expensive conferences (one costing $30,000 for several employees), $900,000 spent for catering in 3 years, no cost reports or use records for 1,300 highway vehicles, and ownership of three airplanes and one helicopter.

SJR 3 proposed a re-authorization of the tax once every 10 years with the following explanation from its sponsor:

“Unfortunately, this is the only department in the state that does not have a system of checks and balances. They can spend their money and regulate what they want without one person making them accountable for the spending of our tax dollars. In the unlikely event the conservation tax is not approved by voters, this will not end the department because federal regulation ensures hunting and fishing license fees will not be used for any purposes other than funding state fish and wildlife agency.”

The Same Thing Could Happen Here

The Missouri Senator could have been describing IDFG with its history of unlawfully using dedicated emergency feeding and fish hatchery funds for non-game/fish activities. These fees and the matching P-R and D-J funds are use taxes that hunters and fishermen pay.

Unlike MDC, IDFG has not yet reached the stage where it purchases and sets aside core areas in a “Natural Areas System.” But its willingness to misappropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars, with approval of its Deputy Attorney General, indicates that lack of unlimited funding is the only thing that’s stopping it.

In its Five-Year Accomplishment Report titled “Idaho State Wildlife Grant Success Stories,” the IDFG biodiversity team brags that it spent $6.8 million during the first five years of its existence. The result of this expense was recommending that sagebrush habitat be preserved (duh!) and IDFG purchasing a 101-acre lease to protect Idaho habitat used by the Columbia Spotted Frog.

Wildlife Watcher Subsidies Expensive

But now that it must match the SWG money 100% rather than the 33% match required through FY 2006, it’s asking for another handout because, unlike hunters and fishermen, nongame wildlife watchers will not pay for the “free” programs they receive. But what about the National Survey that claims wildlife watchers contribute billions of dollars?

Although the Preliminary 2006 Survey Report claims another small increase in their numbers, it admits there are still fewer wildlife watchers than there were in 1991 – and far fewer than existed in 1980 (which it says shouldn’t be used for comparison). If that is true how can the state and federal agencies justify their multimillion-dollar expenditures for Watchable Wildlife facilities, birding trails, and massive promotional campaigns for the past 17 years?

Grossly Exaggerated Biodiversity Losses

Despite its obvious inaccuracy and bias, the Report admits that state wildlife agencies use it to justify their requests for additional nongame funding. But even if we ignore the high cost of Watchable Wildlife, how can we ignore the claimed loss of up to 140,000 native species from native ecosystems every year?

The short answer is that is an absurd exaggeration with no basis in fact. If you run a Google search on “biodiversity loss” you will come up with about 1.9 million responses. If you spend a few weeks verifying what has actually been documented you find that the accepted figure of verified life forms on the planet (animals, plants, fungi, protozoans, bacteria, viruses, etc.) is 1.4 to 1.9 million.

Most of these have not been classified but more than half are insects, which make up 73% of the known “animal” species. The estimated total of all life forms based on this known number is 3.63 million – far fewer than the 10-100 million claimed by the doomsayers.

During the last 504 years the known number of just birds and mammals that have gone extinct worldwide is 136. That represents a loss of only about one every 3.7 years, which hardly qualifies as a biodiversity “crisis”. Remember that most of the world’s life forms are insects with little or no species loss (except minor losses in small isolated environments).

The known number of all species (including microscopic) lost in the last 504 years is less than 800 (<2 align="center">
Listing Restricts Human Activity

Yet the IUCN and its ardent followers continue to perpetuate the unsubstantiated claim that thousands of native species are in danger of being exterminated. For example, Germany listed 34% of its insect species as threatened in spite of the fact that many of those listed are abundant and widely distributed.

Each time a new species is classified as “endangered”, “threatened” or “a species of concern” by a state it opens the door for more restrictions on human activity, including hunting and trapping. While there is little doubt that humans are responsible for some of the native biodiversity loss there is no doubt that the benefits to humans from much of this activity far outweigh any alleged benefit from preserving some “native” species.

For example, Florida listed 634 species in these three categories, including the endangered malaria mosquito Anopheles albimanus, in 1994 and reaffirmed the listings in 2004 and 2006. The philosophy that protects the animal and insect carriers of multiple deadly diseases and such organisms as the smallpox virus, would appear to violate American citizens’ rights and human decency, and fly in the face of reason.

Team Members Suggest Resource Foot the Bill

Instead of making the biodiversity advocates pay the cost of and accept responsibility for their activities, the Idaho F&G Commission and the Funding Committee are exploring new ways to make the resource foot the bill. Commissioner Wright suggested that sportsmen be surveyed for their input but Rep. Wood correctly stated that the same special groups always respond to the F&G surveys with the same answers.

The Funding Committee is fortunate to have Rep. Wood as a member, with his years of experience as a F&G Commissioner who learned firsthand how public opinion is manipulated by the agency to suit its private agenda. There is little hope for realistic solutions to the funding problem until the Committee looks beyond the rhetoric and addresses that agenda.

Rep. Stevens and Sen. Cameron both suggested the Committee explore selling special (trophy) hunts, which can generate up to one hundred thousand dollars or more. Tracey Trent responded that in his 24 years with the Department sportsmen have never approved that practice and he said they never will.

Idaho Trophy Units Don’t Produce Trophies

Rep. Wood reminded them that it takes eight years to grow a trophy and you can’t kill all of the male animals before that age (as is being done now) and still sell a high-priced hunt. Outdoorsman Bulletin 23 documented the overcrowding of hunters and poor harvest success in other units that result from managing even one unit for “trophy” hunting.

And although certain Idaho units are called “trophy” units because there is a higher percent of 4-point bucks or 6-point bulls, the odds of killing an animal that meets the Boone & Crockett minimum score for entry are extremely poor. Wealthy sportsmen will not pay the higher prices unless they know there are bona fide trophies to be had (as in the Unit 11 sheep hunt where IDFG carefully monitors the rams and allows only two sheep hunters).

One obvious solution to increase funding by sportsmen is to eliminate extended-season special draw hunts and hunting in the rut for mule deer and elk. This, plus temporarily halting antleress mule deer harvest, is the quickest way to insure a significant increase in mature bucks and bulls that are available for every hunter (which always results in increased purchases of licenses and tags).

Duplication of Effort is Part of the Problem

However this will not solve the dilemma of how to fund IDFG constructing and maintaining wildlife/nature watching facilities, campgrounds, hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, or improving wildlife habitat and wildflowers. These are functions of Parks and Recreation and the federal and state land management agencies and should be returned to them rather than perpetuate the expensive duplication of effort.

UN Definition of “Wildlife” Inconsistent

When the Idaho Legislature approved IDFG replacing the dictionary definition of wildlife in I.C. Section 36-202(g) with the UN definition (see “What’s in a Name?” On page 4) it used the definition of “animal” that refers to the “animal kingdom” consisting of all living things that are animated (mammals, birds, fishes, insects, crustacians, etc.). But throughout the rest of the F&G Code, “animal” means only “mammal” (a class of higher vertebrates, comprising man and other animals that nourish their young with milk and with skin that is more or less covered with hair).

Since it first began selling hunting licenses 104 years ago, IDFG has managed the “mammals birds and fishes hunted by man” and the major predators that must be controlled at times in order to perpetuate those mammals, birds and fishes. Other species that were protected by federal or state law were not managed, but laws prohibiting their harvest were enforced.

When IAFWA and FWS first created “nongame” funding, IDFG convinced the Legislature to let it raise matching money to obtain the federal handouts. When its fund raising efforts failed to meet increasing demands for matching funds it began to misappropriate license dollars.

Both the Nongame Staff and the CWCS staff use the UN “wildlife” definition in 36-201(g) to justify their existence and funding. Yet they admit there are too many nongame species for them to manage any of them.

The UN definition of wildlife (“any form of animal life”) includes insects that sting or bite, mosquitoes that transmit West Nile Virus, ticks that transmit Lyme disease and two forms of tick fever, and countless other insects rodents, etc. Many of these species destroy our trees, our animals, our crops and plants, and even us.

The logical way to correct this inconsistency is to re-define wildlife in I.C. Sec. 36-202(g) as “mammals, birds and fishes traditionally harvested or protected.” This would again reduce the number of managed species to a reasonable number while still protecting (but not managing) the countless birds and other species that have been or may later be protected by state or federal law.

I.C. Sec. 36-201 could also be amended to remove the Commission’s authority to classify or re-classify one or dozens of species by temporary rule without public input as occurred in March 2004. This secretive scattergun approach, allegedly implemented in order to possibly help prevent one or more species from being listed under the ESA, violates the principles of open government and creates more problems than it solves.

Is CWCS Really Preventing Species Extinction?

Even if Nongame/CWCS efforts to restore a few token pre-Columbian plant communities are eventually successful, there is no evidence that alone will prevent any species from becoming extinct. The Funding Committee will have to examine the evidence and determine whether this is a UN agenda, a federal agenda, an IAFWA-DOW-TNC agenda, or just an incredible coincidence.

Regardless of whose agenda it has become the Committee needs to know exactly how much it is costing and where every dollar of the money comes from as Sen. Cameron suggested. Based on past performance it is doubtful that IDFG will include all of the costs such as prorated overhead, administrative and logistical costs, and the nongame/CWCS portion of amortization and/or depreciation of capital expenditures.

The Committee members will also need to evaluate the impact that replacing productive land with native plant communities will have on Idaho’s economy, customs and culture to see if they really want a state agency to continue to pursue the radical preservationist agenda.

TNC Says It Can’t Be Done

The Nature Conservancy, which founded the Natural Heritage Program (Conservation Data Center) and the NatureServe network (that tells IDFG the status of all Idaho species) has used the CDC for its “Conservation By Design” program for more than 10 years. The goal of the program is to “ensure the effective conservation of places that represent at least 10 percent of every major habitat type on Earth.”

The TNC website provides comments by its Chief Scientist Peter Kareiva explaining its conservation agenda:

“No conservation organization can honestly claim it is halting extinction. We have to stop defining conservation success exclusively in terms of species loss. We have to start defining it in terms of functioning ecosystems, and functional variety and intact native animals and plants.
“That we can find grizzly bears and wolves and higher predators in the wild landscapes of the Yellowstone to the Yukon is every bit as special as any long list of species.”

TNC explains: “The Nature Conservancy’s strategy along the Rocky Mountain Front is to secure habitats used most heavily by grizzly bears. An ever-widening network of partners – including local landowners, government agencies and Native Americans – are working together to protect this magnificent habitat” (see Y2Y map below).

Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Map

Conservation Easements Protect Grizzly Range

In the U.S. portion of the Y2Y, the three major “core ecosystems” are the Greater Yellowstone of northwest Wyoming, southwest Montana, and eastern Idaho; the Salmon-Selway of central Idaho; and the Northern Continental Divide of northwest Montana. In several locations at its website TNC cites its acquisition of conservation easements on two Montana ranches in 2005 to insure an extension of grizzly bear habitat forever.

According to its website, TNC owns 232,325 acres of conservation easements on private land in Montana, with 1.4 million additional acres of easements owned by other local land trusts or government agencies. In Idaho TNC says it owns only 25,370 acres of private land conservation easements, with another 25,798 acres of easements owned by local and regional land trusts.

About 10,000 of the 25,370 conservation easement acres owned by TNC were obtained from landowners along Silver Creek, the world famous fly-fishing trout stream 15 miles southeast of Bellevue in Blaine County. TNC also owns and operates the 883-acre Silver Creek Preserve, which reports populations of rainbow and brown trout* at ~5,000 per mile of stream.
(* Both are classified as Idaho “invasive species,” which would appear to conflict with TNC’s emphasis on eradicating invasive species elsewhere)

TNC’s Bill “To Protect the Family Ranch”

Although TNC sells or otherwise transfers most of the private land and/or conservation easements it acquires it still owns 3.2 million acres of private land conservation easements just in the United States. Idaho easements make up less than one percent but that is about to change if TNC is successful in convincing the Idaho Legislature to pass its “Ranch, Farm and Forest Protection Act” in 2008.

In the 2007 Session, Idaho TNC Executive Committee member and Conservation Committee Chairman Laird Noh introduced its bill (House Bill 262) to familiarize Legislators with the bill and its supporters. Touted as “a measure to save the family farm and ranch from developers,” the TNC proposal would provide up to $500,000 each in tax relief to selected landowners who donate (sell) a conservation easement to groups like TNC.

For example, when TNC or another qualified NGO or government agency selects a parcel of private land it wants to preserve, it will offer to pay the landowner up to half the appraised value of the parcel in return for granting a conservation easement which prohibits improvement or development forever. However the landowner must continue to pay property and income taxes which will quickly erase much of the benefit of the cash received.

TNC has already convinced lawmakers in some states to waive tax payments over a period of years so the landowner gets to spend most of the money. But there are serious downsides to this proposal.

Taxpayers Would Subsidize Easements

Idaho taxpayers are being asked to pay up to three million additional dollars each year to subsidize a few selected landowners who agree to limit certain uses of their land and not allow it to be developed. But as with Idaho’s original 1% sales tax, once the bill passes, justifying future increases will be relatively easy.

In many cases taxpayers are already subsidizing TNC with federal and matching state grant money that it often uses to purchase those easements. And, to add insult to injury, federal money is sometimes used to buy these easements from TNC at a profit later on.

Practical Solution – or Added Liability?

Receiving a substantial sum of operating money without parting with the land may sound like the answer to a cash-strapped ranching family’s prayer. But it can turn into their worst nightmare when they find they can’t build new fences, roads or buildings or even remodel their home to accommodate their growing family.

Some states, including Montana, have been forced to attempt to amend similar existing laws to prevent widespread abuses from over-restrictive easements that even prohibit necessary home repairs or modification of farming methods. Sometimes TNC simply acts as a broker, quickly selling the easement for a profit to the federal government or other powerful entity.

Then by declaring the landowners in default on some minor technical aspect of the easement they can be forced to defend themselves in expensive legal actions. When the powerful easement owner or grantee prevails, the landowners are forced to also pay its legal costs which can easily result in loss of the property in a negotiated settlement.

Easements Destroy Property Value

Once a perpetual conservation easement becomes part of a property deed the resale value takes a nosedive. Despite recently enacted federal income and estate tax benefits for granting conservation easements, major agricultural financial institutions have discontinued the practice of making loans on any property that has been encumbered by a conservation easement.

Even if the small farm, ranch or timber family is allowed to retain enough unencumbered acres to meet zoning requirements for their children to build houses and access roads, the easement lands generally represent a financial liability for their heirs and will probably end up in government ownership within a generation.

TNC uses sophisticated global satellite imagery and helicopter surveys to predetermine the lands it intends to protect as part of core areas, buffer zones or wildlife corridors. Unless private land meets its special criteria (e.g. part of a high biodiversity ecosystem, special grizzly habitat, a chance to turn a quick profit, etc.) it may show no interest in purchasing an easement.

Millions of Rural People Displaced

It is difficult for the average person to imagine how rich and powerful The Nature Conservancy and a handful of other international conservation (preservation) NGOs have become. With board members or close allies in high places they manipulate governments and international banking systems to agree to forgive nations’ debts in return for their establishing a vast network of parks, reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and corridors.

In the past four decades the number of these protected areas has increased more than a hundred fold, with more then 12% of the earth’s total land mass protected as wild lands by the end of 2005. Instead of benefiting the indigenous people of these lands as TNC and the other preservationist groups claimed it would, millions of native people have been driven from lands they occupied for centuries and forced to survive in crowded refugee camps.

Estimates of the number of rural people displaced by NGO efforts to preserve biodiversity in Africa alone range as high as 14.4 million! Yet the UN Study on Biodiversity reported that 90% of the current biodiversity in Africa is found outside of the protected areas – mostly in places occupied by humans.

UN Claims Undocumented Species Losses

Despite admitting the reality that human activity is also responsible for increased biodiversity in many rural areas, IUCN, TNC and other NGOs continue to provide the UN Commission on Biodiversity with material to support its claim that “the sky is falling.” In its 92-page “Global Biodiversity Outlook 2” report issued in a March 2006 meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, the UN charged that humans are responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of earth - the greatest since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.

The report estimates the current rate of extinctions is 1,000 times greater than historical rates, yet cites only the IUCN Red List of 844 animal and plant species that are believed to have gone extinct in the wild during the last 500 years. That figure includes every living organism that was ever reported on land or sea from 1500-2004, except protozoa, bacteria and viruses, and which has not been documented recently.

For example it includes “Bennet’s Seaweed” reported at two isolated locations near islands in Australia in the 1800s and not seen since. It is defined as having different characteristics than plants, animals and fungi and is the sole example of a separate species that has never been seen by a human that is still alive.

The 844 includes 60 animal or plant species such as the Hawaiian Crow that have not been documented in the wild recently, but which exist in captive breeding programs. The last time said crow was reported seen in the wild was in 2002 and captive crows that were released have either disappeared or been recaptured.

TNC Scare Tactics Raise $1.4 Billion

South African Richard Leakey’s unsupported claim that the rate of species decline is 1,000 times greater than historical rates is just as absurd as the predictions only 10-20 years ago that millions of species would go extinct by the year 2000. Yet Leakey’s irresponsible claim is repeated by the UN and TNC in pleas for funding and by the media that thrives on sensationalism, without offering even a single fact to support it.

In 2000 when TNC announced its campaign to raise one billion dollars for its U.S. Campaign for Conservation “to ensure lasting protection of our natural heritage” it used the same scare tactics to raise the money. Using its own staff, now called NatureServe, and its “green” publisher, the Association for Biodiversity Information, it published “Precious Heritage” claiming that 1/3 of the plant and animal species found in the U.S. are in peril.

TNC’s scare campaign was so successful that it raised $1.4 billion by 2003, and by 2005 questionable investments and property transactions which had been under IRS, GAO and Congressional investigation for several years, increased TNC’s net worth to $4 billion. Wealth begets power and in June 2006 President Bush appointed, and the Senate unanimously confirmed, TNC Board Chairman Henry Paulson as the new Secretary of the Treasury.

IUCN Suggests Much Lower Extinction Rate

The IUCN Red List published in 2004 mentions the claimed 1,000 times historical rate of increase in extinctions, but suggests it is probably nearer 2-4 times as great as the fossil records of known species indicate. It correctly points out that the evolution of new species and the extinction of others is a natural ongoing process but also says “the high number of recent extinctions suggests that the world might now be facing a rapid net loss of biodiversity.” (emphasis added)

Because the IUCN Red List is the accepted worldwide list of known species as well as those that are reported to have become extinct, logic dictates we use its data to see what we really know.

Extinction Rate Declining

According to IUCN, the fossil records indicate a rate of extinction equal to one species per year out of every one million species that existed. Thus if there are five million species, the average annual total of extinction dating back to the periods we can identify is five species per year.
The 1,413,247 animal and plant species known to exist in 2004 can reasonably be compared to the 784 animal and plant species listed as having become extinct by 2004. If there were no new species added to the existing 1,413,247 plus the 784 known extinctions over the 504 year period, the annual known extinction rate per million would be only 1.04 (almost exactly the average extinction rate from the fossil records).

Now let’s examine “Extinctions in Recent Time” documented by thousands of botanists, entomologists, etc. in every state and country during the 20-year period from 1984-2004, and discussed thoroughly in the IUCN Red List. Of the 10 animal species listed, there were six tropical frogs or toads, one newt from China and three tropical birds. The remaining five species listed were four tropical plants and one Asian plant.

Despite all the efforts to confirm additional extinctions, there were no mammals, fishes, turtles, lizards, snakes, bivalves, gastropods, branchiopods, crustaceans, arachnids or insects found to be extinct anywhere in the world during the two decades! In fact the rate of extinction declined to only 3/4ths of one species per year per million species – 25% less than the average from both the fossil records and the previous 504 years!

But because IUCN also depends on large sums of money to exist, it suggests that the extinction rate of yet-to-be-documented species may be much greater than the rate for the known species. In reality, a smaller percent of insect species have been documented and insects make up the majority of all species, yet they are also less likely to be driven into extinction.

IUCN admits that most species that have become extinct existed in small, isolated tropical environments and evolved into a separate subspecies, often with significant color differences from similar species found in abundance elsewhere in slightly different habitat. The fact that these species will appear and disappear over time as they always have is used as an excuse to lock up vast areas of the earth to humans who were stewards of the land for centuries.

But the harsh reality that forcing these rural humans off of the land is destroying – not preserving – biodiversity was driven home to so-called conservationists at Bangkok in 2004. Maasai leader Martin Saning’o from Tanzania, patiently explained to 6,000 wildlife biologists that his people were the original conservationists yet their lives and cultures have been destroyed by people who call themselves “conservationists.”

Implementing “Wildlands” is TNC Goal

All of the major conservation NGOs quickly admitted that the Maasai and countless farmers and ranchers around the world make a valuable contribution to conservation of wildlife species. Yet they continue to aggressively pursue their agenda of transferring private rural land to government ownership and protection.

Calling itself “Nature’s Real Estate Agent,” TNC could better be described as “the government’s real estate agent.” Buying or receiving gifts of millions of acres of land in the guise of “species conservation,” it has reportedly sold over 10 million acres of private land to the federal government for huge profits.

With the admission by TNC Chief Biologist and former Board member Peter Kareiva, “No conservation organization can honestly claim it is halting extinction,” (see page 13) it appears that pretending to prevent species extinction is just a gimmick to facilitate removing ownership or control of private land from rural dwellers. Other remarks by Kareiva and TNC make it clear that TNC’s goal is implementing the Wildlands agenda described in the UN Biodiversity Assessment.

TNC and Global Warming

Using “NatureServe” it tells the IDFG CDC and its other CDC groups what species to consider as threatened to support its increased land acquisition as well as its strong opposition to crop irrigation projects. Operating in their usual crisis mode, TNC, IUCN and Al Gore claim human-caused carbon emissions and greenhouse gases are largely responsible for global warming which (they say) is a primary cause of current species extinctions.

However, nearly 20,000 scientists have reportedly signed a statement that cooling and warming of the earth’s crust are natural cyclic conditions created by factors in the universe beyond human control. According to them, there is no convincing evidence that human activity is causing or will cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere.

Depending on interpretation of theory, we are either in the warm-up stage of the most recent “ice age” or else that age ended about 10,000 years ago following extinction of the mastodons in the Midwestern U.S. and emigration of U.S. camels to Asia 13,000 years ago.

Pests and Weeds Will Dominate”

A group of Cornell University ecologists and evolutionary biologists say it would be more realistic to attempt to re-introduce Indian elephants, African cheetahs and Asian Bactrian camels to the U.S. and allow them to “re-evolve” as they were 16,000 years ago, than continue to attempt to emulate conditions in 1492 A.D.

They claim the end result of the current biodiversity plan will be a return to a landscape dominated by “pests and weeds” (rats and dandelions). They insist there will be even fewer species than existed 10,000 years ago when species were just beginning to recover from the last ice age.

Neither side offers proof that reintroducing their choice of protected mega-fauna in a man-made wilderness (where humans have lived since the ice receded) will provide so-called “healthy” ecosystems or increased biodiversity. Yet TNC continues to use questionable tactics to expand artificial wilderness while increasing its assets.

TNC’s Woodpecker Hunt

Another of TNC’s “unique” acquisitions of private land in the U.S. began in March 2004 when it hired a university photographer/computer specialist to photograph an Ivory-billed Woodpecker reportedly seen in Arkansas’ so-called “Big Swamp.” On April 24, 2004 the photographer produced a 4-second videotape of what he claimed was a female Ivory-bill, a species that was last reported seen in Arkansas in 1910.

TNC kept the information and the existence of the videotape a secret from the general public for a full year while it arranged for ~$20 million in federal funding to expand the search and to acquire conservation easements from local farmers. When the Cornell University Ornithology staff released the information and blurred 4-second videotape on April 28, 2005, it was initially heralded as a great conservation achievement by scientists.

But once experts on Ivory-billed Woodpecker identification examined the video and audio tapes offered as proof, they concluded the bird was simply a common Pileated Woodpecker. Even when he was forced to admit that the object “confirmed” as an Ivory-bill in one frame was actually only a tree branch stub, the head of the Cornell Lab Team insisted the blurred videotape confirmed the woodpecker still exists in the wild.

FWS Creates Woodpecker Recovery Plan

Apparently unwilling to admit that it has already spent millions of dollars trying to locate a live bird and acquire land and conservation easements based on what may be a hoax, FWS recently prepared a 183-page “Draft Recovery Plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker” dated August 2007. The plan lists recovery costs (including money already spent) totaling $27,785,000 for the 5-year period from 2006-2010 - with delisting scheduled to be initiated in 2075 if recovery criteria are met.

A Feb, 20, 2007 article at the TNC website entitled, “Save of the Week,” explains how TNC teamed with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to secure an additional $7.1 million from the USDA CREP Program “to acquire* (another) 6,250 acres along the Cache River where the ivory-billed woodpecker was re-discovered in 2004.” (*the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program leases the farm croplands for 10 or 15 years and TNC acquires perpetual conservation easements on the farms.)

The farms are retired from producing crops and the Arkansas G&F monitors them to see that they don’t violate the restrictive easements. Meanwhile, TNC adds another 6,250 acres of conservation easements to the more than three million acres of easements it already owns, thereby increasing its net worth without paying income or property taxes on any transactions

Governor Praises Elimination of Farms

The TNC website quotes Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe; "For farm producers in the project area, it will provide significant financial incentives and rental payments to retire their low-yielding, hard-to-farm croplands. Equally important, it will serve to restore premium wetland and wildlife habitat within the Cache River and Bayou DeView watershed. It’s a win-win-win partnership."

Rather than save the small farmer as TNC claims it will do with its tax relief bill in Idaho, it did just the opposite in Arkansas. Now the Arkansas Governor is telling even more farmers that they shouldn’t be farming or managing their own land but should give those rights up to TNC or a government agency in return for receiving 10 years of subsidy payments courtesy of the American taxpayer and licensed sportsmen.

In Idaho, “the restoration of premium wetland and wildlife habitat” praised by Governor Beebe, usually results in massive infestations of noxious weeds such as yellow starthistle and spotted knapweed that quickly become too costly to control – much less eradicate.

Is TNC Really Helping Farmers & Ranchers?

Most Idahoans are not surprised to learn that a group of former “Earth First!” activists were largely responsible for adoption of the Wildlands agenda by the UN in 1992. But the fact that TNC, with help from our natural resource managers, is the primary force facilitating the re-wilding of North America is difficult for many people to accept.

After all, TNC has acquired and preserved many of our natural scenic attractions for citizens to enjoy, while allowing limited sport hunting and fishing to continue on selected preserves. Yet there is little evidence that TNC is trying to encourage small farmers or ranchers to remain on the land and provide forage for wild game that hunters hunt.

Its website describes how it identifies target properties that will become Wildland Core Areas or Buffer Zones and, using cash and the lure of conservation tax savings, convinces a farmer, and then his neighbors to sell their lands to TNC below its appraised value. Then it advertises the lands for sale, to a selected list of “Conservation Buyers” and real estate brokers, at a substantially reduced price once the value of the conservation easement granted to TNC is deducted.

The federal tax savings are huge and, if the Idaho Legislature passes former Sen. Noh’s tax proposal, up to half a million dollars each in state tax savings may be allowed for such purchases in Idaho. Unlike many of the easements negotiated with ranchers or farmers, the conservation buyers are normally allowed to exclude property from easements which can be utilized to provide a new home site and other developments.

Yet the land covered by the easement still qualifies as “agricultural land” for the tax savings if the new owner receives a minimum of only $1,000 per year in gross income from a small grazing lease - or temporarily idles fallow land (see I.C. Sec. 63-604[b][ii]). The tax perks plus the ability to enjoy a private game preserve or even a fishing or hunting lodge make this an attractive investment.

Representative Wood described to his fellow funding committee members how the purchase and lockup of large Idaho acreages by wealthy nonresidents has created a major loss of hunting access. But that is not the only way TNC and other non-hunting NGOs are adversely affecting hunter harvest of wild game in Idaho.

IDFG Preaches, Follows TNC Agenda

From IDFG Director Groen down through the biologists and C.O.s in the field, a repeated reference to “restoring native vegetation” as a substitute for active species management parrots the TNC agenda. As students, IDFG biologists were taught that passive hands-off wildlife management is practiced only in national parks which have become “nature’s classrooms.”

Yet wild game management elsewhere has now been replaced with people manipulation – the eco-religion of every game department employee in every state and province who wants to keep his or her job and advance in their chosen profession. That philosophy allows IDFG biologists to manage so-called “invasive species” such as yellow perch in Cascade Reservoir and pen-reared pheasants in WMAs, but does not allow management of native species like mule deer and grouse.

“Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act”

Few Idahoans seem aware that TNC’s efforts to restore 15th Century flora and fauna are also destroying rural America’s customs, culture and economy. Fewer still are aware of HR 1975 the “Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act” introduced in Congress on April 20, 2007 and reportedly supported by 187 Congressmen (only 31 short of the majority needed to pass).

This bill complements the Wildland acquisitions by TNC in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and would create 25 million acres of new wilderness in these three states, including 5 million acres in Wildlife Corridors connecting larger wilderness areas and 4 million acres of developed land that would be allowed to return to a “natural” state. This would nearly triple the amount of wilderness in the three states and would include the Greater Salmon-Selway and Hells Canyon Ecosytems in Idaho (plus some lands in Washington and Oregon).

The bill also adds 2,056 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and creeks in the three states and would halt timber harvest and road building on every piece of roadless USFS land in the five states totaling 1,000 acres or more for potential wilderness consideration by the founders of the Wildlands Project.

Finally, this bill, which creates the “National Wildland Restoration and Recovery System,” and a “Wildland Recovery Corps,” has been introduced in similar form in the past eight sessions. Thanks to well-funded lobbying, it gains new Congressional supporters every month.

Undue Influence

A recent off-the-record boast by an IDFG official that the Commissioners take no action that is not approved by the Department reflects the agency’s attitude that they are running the show and the Commissioners are just a figurehead to provide the appearance of complying with Idaho law. When a new Commissioner is appointed by the Governor, Department employees conduct a training session telling him what his responsibilities are and how he must do his job.

From that point forward biologists and other employees feed him limited information, often in the form of a power point presentation which appears to support their recommendation, rather than provide all the facts and the time necessary to make an informed decision. Commissioners don’t know enough about wildlife ecology to demand a forage inventory when declining populations are blamed on lack of habitat.

In fact the Commission spends far more time debating which special interest group gets the biggest slice of the pie or whether side-locks or in-lines are more effective, than demanding proof that creating wildlands benefits Idaho wildlife.

Hopefully, this lengthy discussion of biodiversity, species extinction and wildlands agendas will allow the wildlife diversity funding committee to take a closer look at what you are being asked to fund. New Jersey agreed to use general fund money to match the million or so dollars provided each year in federal SWG funds but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

If the CWCS program is not going to save any species from the massive extinction that isn’t really happening, does it make sense to continue subsidizing it? And if we do, should it remain under the Fish and Game roof? Senator Cameron asked some valid questions that deserve answers before we decide to pour more $millions into what appears to be a bottomless pit.