On Feb. 23 the Bangor Daily News and Lewiston Sun ran an article, “The good, bad and pricey parts of using public money for land conservation.” This piece started an important public dialogue about conservation in Maine, but the article only opened a small window into a topic that desperately requires in-depth discussion in communities and across the state. Why? Because Maine people have been systematically propagandized by the message “conservation is good” without having a meaningful public discussion about some of the collateral damage the land preservation movement is generating in rural towns.
On Tuesday, March 5 the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on LD 220, “An Act to Ban United Nations Agenda 21 in Maine,” a bill aimed to protect private property rights and Maine communities from the international soft law that has been shaping land use planning, public policy, public education and local sovereignty for decades.
Americans are largely unaware of United Nations (UN) Agenda 21 which dates back to the 1970’s, but got its real start in 1992 with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when President Bush signed onto it. President Clinton took office the following year and created the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, a collaborative of federal agencies, corporations, and non-profit groups, who directed all levels of government to change their policies to comply with UN Agenda 21.
UN Agenda 21 is a worldwide action plan to implement “sustainable development.” Rosa Koire, author of “Behind the Green Mask” and founder of Democrats Against Agenda 21, describes it well:
“Agenda 21 is a global plan to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world. Inventory and control.”
Maine people should know that wittingly or unwittingly, the land trust movement in Maine is implementing UN Agenda 21’s land use goals by creating and controlling through conservation easements a vast, interconnected network of minimally human-inhabited and limitedly accessed land. While some leaders in the land trust movement are well aware that they are implementing Agenda 21 ideals through their work, many local land trust members are completely unacquainted with the UN’s vision.
While the land conservation movement in Maine has a local face — the community-based land trust — the efforts of land trusts around the state are highly coordinated, and they harmonize with regional and national conservation agendas. Local trusts collaborate and strategize with multiple organizations in their region to collectively acquire conservation easements over tens of thousands of acres. These regional undertakings tie into a wider plan for New England and the Northeast, called the Wildlands and Woodland project — one of many large-scale plans currently influencing property and easement acquisition across the U.S.
Nearly 90 land trusts in Maine affect political, economic, social and cultural change. The conservation movement acts politically as one unified force to impact public policy: using an extensive communications network it effectively mobilizes a grassroots movement on hot-button issues at the local level and in Augusta.
The conservation easement — the legal tool used to conserve land in perpetuity — transfers a controlling interest in the land (and reallocates property rights) to a second party. In some cases, the state or federal government is the easement holder. Very often, the easement transfers control to a local or statewide land trust. Land trusts are corporations that have private memberships and are controlled by a board of directors.
Currently, land trusts across Maine and the nation are experiencing a decrease in funding, which has resulted in a shift from buying land outright to purchasing easements or soliciting donations of easements over land that is privately held. This arrangement allows the trust to control the land without assuming financial responsibility for maintenance and ownership for the land.
And as time goes on, the land trust movement predicts that community land trusts will not be able to raise funds to meet stewardship and administrative responsibilities associated with the land they control. “We’re seeing a lot of land trusts that are merging with each other,” says Rob Aldrich, communications director for Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance. These mergers will effectively implement an inventory and control over massive tracts of land — realizing Agenda 21.
This dangerous agenda is bound to change who accesses land in the future, who derives financial benefits and security from owning land, and the succession of land from owner to owner. It also threatens to negatively impact the private natural resource infrastructure in Maine. Unchecked and unquestioned, it threatens to subjugate rural landowners to perpetual subordination to the state, a non-representative corporation or an international entity.
Agenda 21 promises to create a social order that resembles the medieval feudal system.
Those who wish to defend their right to self-determination, private property and their state and municipal sovereignty should carefully consider the activities of their local land trust, monitor the movement in Maine and support LD 220.
Diana George Chapin is a farmer and free-lance writer from Montville, Maine, who authored a series on land conservation for The Maine Wire last year.