This article is the follow up to Agenda 21: Swallowing America, which was originally published in the Winter 2014 edition of RANGE magazine. Penned by the late Michael Coffman, this piece lays bare the countless avenues through which Agenda 21-inspired policies are being implemented into local, state and federal government. With the respect for private property rights diminishing, especially in the operating philosophies of federal regulatory agencies, property ownership and control by private individuals is seen more as a hurdle to international Utopian goals, than a sacred, immutable human right endowed to free men and women by God. In this report, Coffman vividly illustrates stealth implementation of Agenda 21 and the Sustainable America Initiatives using real life examples in localities across the country. After reading this important article you will more deeply understand the threats posed by centralized planning wolves in “conservationist” clothes to our lives, our property, and our liberty. ~ED
“The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”
– JOHN ADAMS, 1787
SPECIAL REPORT: PART II
Implementation by Stealth
How Agenda 21 works. By Michael S. Coffman, Ph.D.
“The federal agencies…express a very different view of property rights:” says Bob Solari, county commissioner of Indian River County in Florida. “In short, they believe that property ought to be used in ways consistent with its best use for the collective. Indian River residents still believe that while understanding and appreciating the needs of the community, it is the individual who should, in the final analysis, determine what is in the best use of her property.”
Agenda 21 is spreading across America like wildfire. It is deeply entrenched within federal agencies and increasingly, state and local agencies and departments. It uses tax dollars to implement “sustainable” federal programs locally that destroy private proper ty rights. Very few of the elected officials embracing the tenets of Agenda 21 and its U.S. enabling policy, Sustainable America, know they are actually implementing an international agenda.
Past articles in RANGE have discussed many aspects of Agenda 21 schemes such as the global warming/green energy and biodiversity debacles. President Obama is dogmatically and recklessly determined to destroy America’s economy by forcing Americans to use the same failed green-energy policies that are destroying Europe. Similarly, millions of acres are being regulated out of human use to satisfy a pantheistic belief that nature is god and her biodiversity must be protected at all costs.
Smart Growth Plus
Smart growth/comprehensive planning and watershed management seek to preserve land in a natural or agricultural state by packing people into denser communities. The problem is that smart growth does none of the things it’s alleged to do and it actually accelerates the ills it is supposed to cure.
For one thing, land-use zoning has a devastating impact on the cost of land. The Harvard Institute of Economic Research showed that city zoning dramatically increases the cost of land in urban areas using comprehensive planning ordinances. Its study found that in cities employing smart growth and comprehensive planning, real estate costs for a quarter-acre lot skyrocketed by hundreds of thousands of dollars.” In these areas:’ the study claims, “only a small percentage of the value of the lot comes from intrinsically high land price; the rest is due to restrictions on construction.
Another in-depth stud y by Randal O’Toole published in “The Planning Penalty” found that, in 2005, smart growth and other land-use restrictions cost U.S. home buyers at least $275 billion. Almost all the 124 metropolitan areas experiencing afford ability problems in that year were directly caused by comprehensive planning and smart growth. Most enlightening, the report found that “more than 30 percent of the total value of homes in this country is attributable to prices inflated by planning-induced housing shortages. “This contributed to the wild increases and speculation in housing prices from 2000 to 2006, which inevitably led to the housing crash between 2007 and 2012,and the financial crash of 2008.
These are only two of many studies that have shown smart growth is a fraud and anything but smart.
Florida’s Seven/50 plan
The Seven/50 plan is supposed to be “A blue print for ensuring economic prosperity and the best-possible quality of life for southeast Florida:’ It is a 50-year plan for seven counties that gushes with emotion-laden slogans like “leverage resources,” “drive competitiveness and prosperity,” “greater opportunities,” “sustained job creation,” “open space,” “transportation options,” “environment-friendly,” ad nauseam.
As with the thousands of other efforts to implement Agenda 2l/Sustainable America across the United States, the process starts with a federal grant or grants. ln this case it was from the federal Sustainable Communities Program of U.S. Hous ing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The $4.25 million grant for the Seven/50 plan sets up a non-elected regional council made up of a federal/state management team and an executive committee comprising non-elected people from within the community.
In other cases across the nation, the council may have one commissioner (or equivalent) from each county or city council. In any event, the council is not accountable to the people who will have to submit to the plans and pay the supporting tax dollars to fund the council’s sustainability plans.
A series of workshops are held in different areas, allegedly to get input from citizens. However, the workshop conclusions are set in advance using the Delphi technique to herd citizens to a predetermined outcome.
The first step is to get citizens to form a “vision” of what they would like to have their community look like in 25, 30, or, in this case, 50 years.
The attendees of the workshops are split up into breakout groups of citizens, government (federal and state) officials, and project supporters. Each group goes through a set of pictures—one aesthetically pleasing matched with a drab, uninviting one. The pleasing picture is invariably picked by the group. Of course the only way the regional government could ever hope to accomplish this vision is by controlling everyone’s property rights.
Commissioner Bob Solari wrote a scathing letter to the executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which sponsored the Seven/50 plan. In it he charged that citizens felt manipulated and “that the entire exercise was simply an attempt to justify the already arrived-at decisions. At no time ‘was there [any] discussion of cost to the community.” It was obvious the workshop organizers had ‘no knowledge of our local community’ and that the goals of the plan ‘are often the antithesis of the values, goals and objectives of the majority of the citizens of Indian River County’…The process was driven by the federal government.”
National Blueways System
Another Agenda 2l /Sustainable America program is the National Blueways System, a part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. Created by former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar on May 24, 2012, the National Blueways System joins water and land together for protection of entire watersheds covering multiple states. It integrates the smart growth/comprehensive planning biodiversity goals of Agenda 2, as well as its freshwater and integrated management. All wisdom, it seems, flows from Washington, D.C.
Past Federal Efforts
President Clinton attempted to implement similar programs in the mid-1990s,including the American Heritage Rivers Initiative (AHRI) and the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP). The AHRl’s objectives were environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation-the same as all Agenda 21/Sustainable America goals, but because of negative citizen feedback, it never got off the ground.
ICBEMP was birthed in l993 and coordinated by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM ). It attempted to swallow up the entire Interior Columbia River Basin and is the biggest effort to date, encompassing 145 million acres that included most of Washington, Oregon and Idaho as well as portions of Montana, Wyoming and Utah. Although people rejected ICBEMP in 1997, the project never died and lived on with insidious malignancy like latent cancer cells. It quietly began to metastasize again when the FS, BLM, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the EPA quietly signed a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2008. The plan was to gradually implement it regardless of citizens’ objections, beginning with federal lands.
The ability to control state and local governments with this feudal like power is exactly why the Founding Fathers restricted the federal government to 18 enumerated powers in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, none of which were remotely related to land-use management.
By mid-2013, only two watersheds had been nominated as a blueway. The first is the 4I0-mile Connecticut River Basin that includes 7.2 million acres of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The second is the 722-mile White River Basin that includes 17.8 million acres in southern Missouri and much of Arkansas. As with all Sustainable America programs, they promise prosperity and enhanced livability. Since private property rights are the foundation to wealth creation, increased livability and prosperity cannot happen if property rights are denied. Many more river basins are undergoing, or will undergo, similar National Blueways programs nominations unless this destructive process is stopped.
Like the rest of the Agenda 2I/Sustain able America ideas, the concept qualifies for motherhood-and-apple-pie status. Yet, like all other federal programs based on Sustain able America, it must destroy private property rights to succeed. After all, to be “comprehensive” the federal government must have the power to force landowners into a very small box of land-use alternatives that protect the watershed and its values for everyone but the landowner.
The program allows a nonelected group of stakeholders, made up mostlyof nonelect ed bureaucrats and nongovernmental environmental organizations, to set priorities and policy. Many if not most of these stakeholders do not live in the watershed itself, yet claim the right to say what landowners can do with their land. And, as with all regional governance resulting from Sustainable America programs, there may be the token representation of a county commissioner or city councilman to give the appearance of accountability to taxpayers.
The National Blueways program has been billed to the public as “voluntary.” However, like so many other things that the federal government does not have constitutional authority to do, it entices the states into doing what the federal program dictates by offering huge financial grants. Even conservatives cannot refuse huge amounts of money dancing before their eyes.
The danger once the program is implemented is that grants for human infrastructure and sustainable programs can be offered to urban areas while grants for, say, highway maintenance and new highways are no longer offered to suburban or rural areas. Only nature-based improvements are funded in these areas. And since human infrastructure improvements must be made to maintain economic prosperity, the theory goes that rural and suburban populations will get discouraged and move into town.
White River Blueway
On Jun e 26, 20I3, the Arkansas Legislature and state agencies suddenly agreed to withdraw from the National Blueways System. No public hearings had been held prior to or after the designation of the White River Basin National Blueways program on Jan. 6, 2013. Neither the Arkansas and Missouri state legislatures nor the affected counties were ever in formed of the designation. Conservativeaction groups found out about it in May. Following a meeting with grass roots on May 30 in St. Louis with this author and Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center, a herculean effort was launched to inform all affected counties within the White River Basin. The deadline in which all comments on the designation had to be in was thought to be July 5.
During the next two weeks, the dangers of the National Bl ueways program were explained to nearly half the county commissioners at their normal business meetings. Of this half, almost all counties in both states passed resolutions strongly opposing the designation. The resolutions caused a political firestorm and Arkansas legislators called for a June 26, 2013, hearing. This author was asked to testify by Secure Arkansas, one of the most active conservative grassroots groups in the state. Unknown at the time, the firestorm led the Arkansas agencies—perhaps on order from Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe–to withdraw from the National Blueways program.
The agency heads were first to testify at the hearingon May 26, 2013. One by one each painfully rumounced his/her withdraw al and the invo lvedfederal agencies regretful ly accepted tbe witbdrawals. The hundred or so grassroots citizens were ecstatic.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the Arkansas hearing were the penetrating questio ns asked by the legis lators of the heads of state agencies on how the pro gram would not affect private property rights. After all, the Nation al Blueways pro gram explanation repea tedly us ed the words “protect” or “restore” back to origi nal condit io ns, or to “manage”some fea ture to a desired conditi on, and mu ch more. With ver biage like that, many le gisla tors embarrassed the agency heads by ask ing how they thou ght this progrrun could ever be”volunt ary.”
The Arkansas experience should provide hope for other grassroots groups which will expose and defeat the Sustainable America programs across the United States. So far, more than 150 communities have been successful in throwing out the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives or Agenda 21 from their state or local governments. Even so, the regional/comprehensive/smart growth zoning that is already in place must be reversed and zoning that does not violate the property rights of citizens must be reinstated. To do any of these things requires that candidates are elected who support private property rights.Perhaps it’s time to think about running for office yourself. ■
“The federal agencies… express a very different view of property rights. In short they believe that property ought to be used in ways consistent with its best use for the collective. Indian River residents still believe that while understanding and appreciating the needs of the community, it is the individual who should, in the final analysis, determine what is in the best use of her property.”
– BOB SOLARI, COUNTY COMMISSIONER, INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, FLORIDA