It’s about time. For years now, we have claimed that the 47 U.N.
Biosphere Reserves in the United States are the work of the government,
and that local people had little, if any, involvement in their creation.
Finally, there is a study available, conducted by the University of
Missouri, that confirms our claims.
The study was commissioned by the U.S. State Department and the U.S.
Man and the Biosphere Program to find out why their most recent
nomination went down in flames.
The Ozark Man and the Biosphere Reserve was first proposed at a
meeting sponsored by the U.S. Man and the Biosphere Program, for state
and federal resource agencies, in Kentucky, in 1988. The effort was
spearheaded by David Foster of the National Park Service until his
retirement. George Oviatt, also of the National Park Service, then led
the effort until its final demise.
The study was conducted by Theresa Goedeke of the Department of Rural
Sociology at the University of Missouri. The funders of her study will
not like what she reports.
According to the study, “The OMAB Steering Committee wanted to avoid
difficulties arising from the inclusion of a variety of stakeholders
early in the nomination process.” To explain why the public was
excluded, the report quotes a member of the steering committee who says:
“You get a bunch of citizens on this main steering committee who had
votes [and] who knows what issues might come up. They say whatever the
hell they want.”
The study also reveals and documents a deliberate effort by the
steering committee to manipulate a feasibility study to produce evidence
of public support of the project when there was none. Only one public
meeting was scheduled to promote the nomination. It was advertised in a
small rural newspaper that was in business only four months. The meeting
had 40 to 70 participants (conflicting estimates), most of whom were
employees of government agencies or officials from local environmental
organizations. The report blisters the steering committee for trying to
keep the nomination “out of public view until after the designation.”
The study praises the opposition for its “phenomenal” effectiveness
in disseminating information and urging citizens to decide for
themselves. The report says clearly that the opposition was doing what
the steering committee should have been doing.
Organizations such as Take Back Arkansas, and Missouri’s Citizens for
Private Property Rights led the opposition to the Ozark Man and the
Biosphere designation. While the study was conducted so that the U.S.
MAB could learn how to avoid similar defeats in the future, it also
provides valuable insights for other organizations that need to learn
how to defeat such proposals.
The 47 Biosphere Reserves in the United States are part of a network
of more than 300 reserves around the world. UNESCO has presented this
network to the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological
Diversity as the “beginning point” for the implementation of the
Convention. The U.S. Senate chose not to ratify this Convention.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Man and the Biosphere Program continues to
promote additional nominations of Biosphere Reserves in the United
States. The problems associated with U.N. Biosphere Reserves will not go
away just because the Ozarks project was a flop.
Through a 1974 agreement between the U.S. State Department and
UNESCO, Congress, which has constitutional responsibility for managing
federal lands, has been completely sidestepped. The executive branch is
implementing U.N. land management policies in Biosphere Reserves. The
objective of the Biosphere Reserve management scheme is to continually
expand the Biosphere Reserves, connecting the reserves with corridors of
wilderness, until virtually all the land area falls within one of the
three zones of land-use stipulated by the U.N. All the areas are to be
“managed” by government.
The U.S. MAB insists that the U.N. Biosphere Reserve designation
carries no regulatory authority, a theme that was echoed by the Ozark
steering committee. According to the report, opponents were not
convinced. “This is absurd. What possible use is a program with no
regulatory authority?” asked one opponent.
Another is quoted as saying, “The notion that the U.N. MAB is a
toothless document is patently absurd. Has anyone ever seen a government
program that carried no weight of law or regulation?”
The U.S. MAB can deny all it wants to, but the official
documents which set forth the Biosphere
Reserve land use policy are the tools used by local organizations and
individuals to defeat the nomination. The most frequent challenge raised
by the opponents was “… please read the documents and decide for
yourselves.” In Arkansas and Missouri, a sufficient number of citizens
did read the documents. They did decide for themselves. That’s why there
is no U.N. Ozark Biosphere Reserve today.