Constitutional crisis may not be too strong a term to describe the
current struggle between the federal government and the rest of us.
Control of the land and its natural resources is the prize. It is not a
new struggle. The federal government has been tightening its grip on
land and its resources for decades. The Clinton-Gore administration has
accelerated the pace dramatically. This administration is bolder, more
aggressive, and perhaps more arrogant, than any before it.
Individual freedom, private property rights, even state and local
governments, are little more than pesky obstacles to be removed from the
path of the land control juggernaut that now permeates all federal
No one should think this is a temporary problem that can be cured by
the next election. A good broom throughout the White House would help,
but this problem was not born in Washington. This administration is just
facilitating a global plan detailed exhaustively in the 1140-page Global
Biodiversity Assessment, which is the instruction book for implementing
the 18-page Convention on Biological
Diversity. The Clinton-Gore
administration is teeming with former executives of Green Advocacy
Groups (GAGs) who, in their prior life, worked through the
International Union for the Conservation of
Nature (IUCN) to create the
Convention on Biological Diversity. They now enjoy positions of power in
the federal government and are implementing the requirements of the
treaty even though the Senate chose not to ratify it.
Through the Carter and Nixon years, the administration was content to
move slowly. Ronald Reagan reversed many of the gains made by his
predecessors. Although Mr. Bush refused to sign the Convention on
Biological Diversity in 1992, he chose as his EPA Administrator the same
William K. Reilly who in 1976, as a delegate to the U.N. Conference
on Human Settlements, signed a document which
said, “… public control of land use is indispensable.”
Bill Clinton did sign the treaty and immediately appointed to high
administrative positions the very people from the World Resources
Institute who had played such a vital role in its creation. Their
aggressive implementation of the treaty’s requirements are now being
noticed by enough people as to create what could become the most severe
challenge to the Constitution since the Civil War.
Elko County, Nev., may become the Fort Sumter of a new war.
The battleground is the South Canyon Road. It was carved out by
buffalo and Indians, used by cowboys, fur traders, and miners long
before there was a Department of Interior. The Wilderness Act of 1964
targeted 113,000 acres, called “Jarbidge Wilderness Area,” which
included a portion of the battleground. Area residents used the road to
access the forest. The “Wilderness” designation denied most uses of the
resources within the designated area. The Forest Service adopted a
policy of low maintenance to discourage motorized access, and in 1970,
stopped maintenance altogether. Local residents maintained the road,
despite the Forest Service’s efforts to close it. And in 1986, after
removing a blockage from the road installed by the Forest Service, they
held a ceremonial picnic.
The Forest Service closed the road again in 1986, and a new
wilderness bill in 1989 expanded the Jarbidge Wilderness Area, including
more of the battleground. Local residents found inventive ways to
continue using the road. But, heavy rains in 1995 caused flooding that
virtually destroyed 1.5 miles of the road. It took two years to get the
District Forest Ranger, David Aicher, to consider repairing the road.
But his decision was overruled by Washington, after Trout Unlimited
protested the road repair.
County Commissioner Roberta Skelton, who represented the portion of
the county that is now the battlefield, sent a letter to Trout Unlimited
explaining that South Canyon Road was a county road and the county’s
responsibility, not the Forest Service’s. A week later, the County
Commission sent a letter to the Forest Service asserting its ownership
of the road.
The Forest Service responded, saying it would be “inappropriate for
us to grant a right-of-way.” Herein lies one of the issues that has been
smoldering for years: who owns the roads and right-of-ways that predates
the federal acquisition of the land? The right-of-way policy is governed
by an 1878 law known as “Revised Statute 2477,” which is supposed to
honor all existing right-of-ways when land is acquired by the federal
government. When the statute was updated in 1976, it stated
explicitly that “Nothing in this sub-chapter shall have the effect of
terminating any right-of-way or right-of-use heretofore issued, granted,
or permitted.” Federal agencies appear to be ignoring this
language of the law.
The county tried to avoid a confrontation. In 1998, the county
officially requested that the road be assigned to the county. The Forest
Service said the road would not be rebuilt, that it would, instead, be
converted to a “foot and equestrian” trail.
The county then adopted a resolution to rebuild the road, claiming it
was the county’s “fiduciary obligation” to repair the road “for the
purpose of securing the health, general welfare and safety for the
Trout Unlimited was outraged, and threatened a lawsuit. The Corps of
Engineers sent a letter to the County demanding a work plan pursuant to
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service
conducted a public hearing to consider listing the Bull Trout as an
Nevertheless, on July 21, 1998, county work crews began
reconstruction of the battleground.
Trout Unlimited wrote to the Fish and Wildlife Service urging an
“emergency” listing of the Bull Trout as “endangered.” Within two weeks,
the Fish and Wildlife Service complied.
Trout Unlimited issued a public statement saying, “It is outrageous
for the county to spend its citizens’ tax dollars to destroy a stream
and a rare trout resource just to defy the forest service and make some
misguided political point.” Such a statement displays utter disregard,
if not contempt, for the legitimate authority of the County Commission,
elected by the citizens affected. Moreover, Trout Unlimited exercised
its political clout with the Fish and Wildlife Service to get the Bull
Trout listed as endangered, when not a shred of scientific evidence had
been presented supporting the
allegation that it might be endangered. As is often the case, an
executive of a GAG collaborated with a federal agency to misuse a law to
achieve a political objective which overrode the authority of local
government elected by the people.
The Corps of Engineers called in the Environmental Protection Agency
charging the county with “flagrant violation” of the Clean Water Act,
and issued a “cease and desist” order.
In support of the county, the National Association of Counties listed
Jarbidge as an “endangered community, due to current restrictions on
federal lands that severely strain the community’s ability to provide
The battle raged throughout the rest of 1998 and 1999, with the
county amassing fines and penalties at the rate of $27,500 per day which
now have surpassed $12 million. Local residents, “sagebrush rebels” as
they are called by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, another batch
of GAGs, decided to open the road. Led by state legislator John
Carpenter, more than 500 citizens, armed with picks, shovels, and
wheelbarrows, planned to remove the boulders and other obstacles placed
there by the Forest Service.
U.S. District Judge David W. Hagen put a stop to the citizens’ action
by issuing a court order. More than 200 people showed up Saturday, Oct.
10, to protest the stoppage. Local citizens vowed to get the road open
one way or the other.
This time, the warring factions are not wearing blue or gray. They
are not yet carrying rifles. But the two sides are nose-to-nose, and
both sides seem determined to win.
South Canyon Road is but the current battleground. In Catron County,
Nev., a county commissioner climbed on a bulldozer and forced federal
officials to scatter as he opened a road there that had been closed by
federal agencies. That event is still being litigated.
These are the battles that make the news. Throughout the land,
thousands of people are being forced from their land by federal policies
that make it impossible for people to survive. Road closures are a
favorite tactic. If people cannot get to their land, they cannot use it.
Diana Luppi is a typical example. She owns land surrounded by the San
Juan National Forest Reserve. Her land was originally conveyed by land
patent number 723501 pursuant to the 1862 Homestead Act. An access road
was on the land at that time. The land she bought included a segment of
the road. She owns the right-of-way.
The Forest Service demanded that she sign a special use permit and
pay a fee to use her own road, which she refused to do. Then they
demanded, a “Forest Road Easement,” which she refused to sign. Now she
is charged with criminal trespass on a road the Forest Service claims,
but which is
clearly her own property. To fight the federal government in court will
cost thousands of dollars which no citizen should be required to pay.
But these individual situations are occurring all over the country and
ruining the lives of thousands of people.
The individual cases never make the headlines and individual citizens
cannot fight the tax-funded lawyers of the federal government. Little by
little, the land, and its resources, are being taken from the people by
a government run by non-elected former executives of GAGs.
They are aggressively implementing a plan published in the Global
Biodiversity Assessment which seeks to convert at least half the land
area of the United States to wilderness — off limits to human beings,
and manage most of the remaining half for “conservation objectives,”
rather than permit private landowners to exercise their God-given and
constitutionally-guaranteed property rights. The only power on earth
strong enough to prevent this inevitable take-over of the land by the
government is the will of the American people. While we still have
access to the ballot box, there is a chance that the Clinton-Gore crowd
can be removed. Unless they are removed, South Canyon Road may be the
precursor of a constitutional crisis of Civil War proportions.