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Challenging 'Biosphere Reserves'

Posted By Henry Lamb On 05/26/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The U.S. Senate is holding hearings today on the American Land
Sovereignty Protection Act of 1999 (S510), which will be televised on
C-SPAN at 2:30 p.m. EST. The measure passed the house last week, despite
several efforts to kill, or weaken it. The bill is expected to meet
stronger opposition in the Senate. Sponsored by Senator Ben Nighthorse
Campbell, R-Co., the bill would require that all 47 U.N. Biosphere
Reserves, and 16 U.N. Ramsar Wetlands sites (named for Ramsar, Iran,
where the treaty was signed in 1971), be approved by Congress by 2003.
Any future U.N. designation would also have to be approved by Congress.

Opponents of the bill have consistently sidestepped the controversial
issues surrounding the U.N. land designations, choosing instead to
characterize the bill’s supporters as “conspiracy theorists,” or
“extremists.” Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Wash., said the bill should be
entitled “the American land paranoia act.”

Few people are even aware that since the 1970s, the United Nations
has designated 47 Biosphere Reserves, 16 Ramsar Wetlands sites, and 20
World Heritage sites on American land. Even fewer people know what those
designations mean.

Originally, the World Heritage Sites were authorized by the World
Heritage Treaty, and intended to identify places of global significance.
The Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and Yellowstone
National Park are among the World Heritage Sites. These sites are
subject to the provisions of the treaty and are of considerably less
concern than biosphere reserves and wetlands sites.

There is no treaty that authorizes U.N. Biosphere Reserves. The
program was initiated by UNESCO in 1971 through its Man and the
Biosphere Program. The United States entered into an Executive Agreement
to participate, and set up its own Man and the Biosphere Program in the
U.S. State Department in 1973. With no congressional involvement at all,
the executive branch has allowed the United Nations to designate 47
Biosphere Reserves in the United States. The bill now in the Senate
would require that the executive branch ask Congress to review and
approve each of these designations — and all future designations.

Why should Congress approve such designations? Because Congress has
the constitutional responsibility for managing federal lands, not the
executive branch. The executive branch is responsible for executing the
land management policies enacted by Congress, not those policies
dictated by UNESCO. Moreover, the U.N. Biosphere Reserve land management
policy threatens private property rights, and, indeed, private property
ownership in America.

Here is where the bill’s opponents scream “extremist,” and
“paranoia.” But, one of two things is true: the opponents either do not
know the published land management policies of the U.N. Biosphere
Reserve Program, or they do not want their constituents to know.

America’s 47 Biosphere Reserves are only a part of a network of 328
reserves in 82 countries around the world. At the first Conference of
the Parties of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (also
referred to as the Biodiversity Treaty), held in 1995, Peter
Bridgewater, chair of the International Biosphere Reserve Council, told
the delegates that UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve network would be the
starting point for implementation of the treaty. The U.S. Senate did not
ratify the treaty.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) then published the
“Global Biodiversity Assessment,”
an 1140-page instruction book for the
implementation of the 18-page treaty. Page
of this massive document
clearly states that “The Wildlands Project” is “central” to the
implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Wildlands
Project, written by Dr. Reed Noss (with grants from The Nature
Conservancy and the Audubon Society), seeks to set aside “at least” 50
percent of North America as “core wilderness areas,” off-limits to human
beings, and then “manage” most of the rest of the land as “buffer zones”
around the core areas.

Extreme? Absolutely, but the extremists are those who support such
measures, not those who want to protect private property that now lies
in the path of these expanding Biosphere Reserves.

The Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve was one of the first
designations. Originally, it consisted of 517,000 acres within the Great
Smoky Mountains National Park. Today, the U.S. State Department
publishes maps that show the reserve, including two types of buffer
zones, to stretch from near Birmingham, Ala., to Roanoke, Va. Continual
expansion of the core wilderness areas, as well as expansion of the
buffer zones, is the published policy of the U.N. Biosphere
Reserve Program.

The executive branch is currently implementing the objectives of the
Convention on Biological Diversity through what it calls the “Ecosystem
Management Policy.” Congress seems to be oblivious to the similarity
between the administration’s ecosystem management policy and the
requirements of the un-ratified treaty. The American Land Sovereignty
Protection Act will force Congress to review each of the U.N.
designations and see exactly how much influence the United Nations has
already exerted over domestic land use policy. Biosphere Reserve
designation does not give the U.N. ownership or direct control of U.S.
land. It does, however, set the land use policies for designated areas,
which the executive branch has agreed to follow.
Congress must get involved, and reclaim its right, and meet its
responsibility to manage federal land, and protect private lands from
U.N. land use policies.

Land use management policies that are subject to the World Heritage
Treaty and the Ramsar Treaty are being revised to embrace the policies
set forth in the Global Biodiversity Assessment. A gold mining operation
on private property near Yellowstone National Park was shut down by the
administration, which called upon UNESCO to visit the site and pronounce
Yellowstone to be “endangered.” The mining company had already spent
nearly $30 million attempting to comply with the permitting
requirements. Once private property falls under one of the U.N.
designations, its use must be brought into conformity with the policies
established by the U.N. The administration uses its ecosystem management
policy — and a variety of other regulatory mechanisms — to restrict
private property rights far beyond what America’s founders envisioned.

The U.N. policy on land use was established in 1976 at the U.N.
Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT I). This excerpt from the
preamble sets the tone for 65 pages of specific policy recommendations:
“Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by
individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the
market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of
accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to
social injustice. … Public control of land use is therefore
indispensable. …”

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