Columbia River Basin "Ecosystem" Management:
Another Federal Plan to Control American Soil
by Don Harkins
The public commentary period will be closed February 6, 1998, and a consortium of
federal bureaucrats and federally funded scientists will choose one of seven forest
and rangeland management alternatives for federal (and adjacent private) lands in
Though presented in an impressive package of charts, graphs and maps, the true
intentions of this huge, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency project can be
readily interpreted. People who understand the federal agenda to control Americans
by controlling their property will not be fooled.
The Interior Columbia River Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP), the largest
land management proposal in U.S. history, is the result of a 1993 presidential
directive from Clinton. The project, which has already cost taxpayers nearly $30
million in the study phase alone, will directly effect 72,000,000 acres of "federal"
lands in a region which consumes all of Washington and Oregon from the eastern slopes
of the Cascade Mountains to western Montana, all but the southeast corner of Idaho
and pieces of northern Nevada, northern Utah and northeast Wyoming.
The project will also directly effect an additional 72,000,000 acres of private
land. The combined land mass will place 225,000 square miles of American soil under
federal control. By way of comparison, the state of California is only 158,706
Though not shown on the many impressive, scientifically-generated maps published
in the ICBEMP Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Columbia River Basin extends
itself geographically into Canada. Since ecosystems know no man-made boundaries, it
is expected that the management will eventually transcend the U.S./Canadian border--
effectively dissolving an international boundary.
Entitled Upper Columbia River Basin (UCRB) Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS), the document, which can be ordered free of charge from the ICBEMP office in
Walla Walla, Washington, is bound into two volumes. Volume 1 is 723 pages with five
chapters, 102 tables, 66 maps and 80 figures. Volume 2, the appendices, is 372 pages
with an impressive assortment of maps and tables and figures.
The UCRB is the sub-region of the ICBEMP that we know as Idaho, western Montana,
northern Utah, and north western Wyoming.
The EIS proposes seven forest and rangeland management alternatives. The alternative
of choice, according to the federally-funded authors of the project who have been
given the authority to choose an alternative without the vote or consent of citizens
who reside in the proposed management area, is alternative four. "Alternative 4 is
designed to aggressively restore ecosystem health."
Alternatives 1 and 2 are defined as "no action" plans which "continue management
specified under existing Forest Service and BLM land-use plans."
In other words, federal management of "our" public lands has deteriorated the
health of forest and rangelands under existing land management plans. The remedy
for forests and rangelands which became sick under the tender care of the federal
government is a more aggressive approach, a bigger management area, the input and
cooperation of more state and federal bureaucrats, more stringent regulations and
more taxpayer dollars.
According to the EIS, "Actions taken to achieve desired conditions (as outlined in
Alternative 4) are designed to produce economic benefits wherever practical. A wide
variety of management tools are available under this alternative."
A practical translation would be that the primary consideration of Alternative 4
is to implement whatever mechanisms the federal government deems prudent to restore
the health of forests and rangelands which its previous plans had sickened. The
secondary consideration is for the people to be allowed to realize economic
benefits from public lands only when it is deemed practical by the federal government.
The combined total of 1095 pages of the two volumes, divided into the $30 million
it has thus far cost to fund the study, equals $27,397.26 per page.
Since the study was ordered by President Clinton with a presidential directive,
the $multi-million expenditure constitutes taxation without representation as
Congress has played no part in the appropriation of the funds allocated to conduct
the comprehensive, all-encompassing study.
Page 3 of Volume 2 even admits that, "The U.S. House of Representatives has voted
to terminate the Project before its planned completion date."
U.S. Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho) stated in a "Town Hall Meeting" at
North Idaho College last August 14 that she is part of the congressional contingent
working to derail all such federal mechanisms designed to increase federal control
of public lands. Chenoweth was asked what the citizens residing within the management
area can do to stop the largest federal land grab attempt in U.S. history. Chenoweth,
who had been extremely frank throughout the meeting, was unable to provide a
strategy to stop the federal government’s intentions of controlling every rock and
shrub and arbitrarily listed endangered plant and animal species in the "Columbia
River Basin Ecosystem."
"Just keep writing about it, talking about it and contact your congressman and tell
him what you think," Rep. Chenoweth said.
The draft contains language which diminishes the importance of human needs,
magnifies the importance of the needs of species environmentalists have determined
to be endangered and repeatedly acknowledges the responsibility of the federal
government to honor its treaty obligations to American Indian tribes.
Under a heading entitled Human Uses and Values, the draft defines human
uses as, "...characterized by the social and economic components of ecosystems in the
Columbia River Basin."
It is important to understand that the entire study approaches the lives and hopes
and dreams of the humans in the management area as the "social and economic
components of ecosystems."
When the management plan is implemented, without the consent of the governed, the
same definition will be used in reference to the people whose lives will be severely
impacted by federal control of the region.
The draft also defines historical, as used in the EIS, as "...intended to represent
conditions and processes that are likely to have occurred prior to settlement of the
project area by people of European descent."
The politically expedient irony here is overwhelming. For over a century, a federal
government, comprised predominantly of persons of "European descent," have been
actively violating every tenet of every treaty it has signed with American Indian
tribes. And now, in the interest of saving the forests and rangelands from the
ravages of people of European descent, people (largely) of European descent have
decided that it is a sacred obligation of the federal government to honor the
"treaty and trust responsibilities to American Indian tribes."
Legal and scientific justification
Appendix A of Volume 2 begins immediately to describe the scientific background
and legal precedents which justify a multi-jurisdictional and multi-state and federal
agency land management project that will ultimately cost northwest residents billions
of unmandated dollars to facilitate.
Volume 2 cites 34 federal acts, including the Endangered Species Act, the American
Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as legal basis for the authority to control all "federal"
lands in the management area, as well as dictate what private property owners are able
to do on their own property.
Also cited as justification for federal control of every aspect of forest and
rangeland management of the northwestern U.S. are five Executive Orders (EOs) which
range in dates from 1970 to EO 11990 of 1977 which demanded protection of wetlands.
All of these acts are a violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which
reserves all rights not granted to the federal government in the Constitution "...to
the states and to the people respectively."
Therefore, the authors of the EIS are attempting to justify the legal authority to
control the plant and mineral resource rich lands of the northwest, and consequently
the people of the northwest, by citing unconstitutional acts and arguably
unconstitutional presidential executive orders.
To further pervert Constitutional philosophies regarding the separation of powers,
due process of law and state sovereignty, control over lands which, according to
the Constitution belong to the respective states and not the federal government at
all, Congress has had no say in the birth, funding or development of this project.
Congress, which is the only Constitutionally empowered body to make federal law and
to appropriate funds to federal agencies, has had no input into the decision-making
process which will unconstitutionally control millions of acres of American soil
and control the lives of millions of Americans--while costing American taxpayers as
yet uncalculated $billions.
Justification of this unprecedented, un-American and unconstitutional attempt by
the federal government to control the lives of Americans through the medium of
emotional environmentalism is also found in the 74 existing BLM and USFS forest
and rangeland management plans which are smaller and more jurisdictionally and
"Seventy-four separate plan amendment efforts have a greater likelihood of being
inconsistent and lacking comprehensive use of information, than a simultaneous,
multiple-amendment process that applies appropriate direction at appropriate scales
across jurisdictional boundaries," stated the authors of the study.
Throughout the text of both volumes of the UCRB EIS it is mentioned how important
public involvement and input is to the successful implementation of the project.
Why, then, is the existence of the project unknown to most people?
The UCRB EIS was made public with publication in the Federal Register December 7,
1995--over a year after Clinton’s presidential directive to begin studying how to
control all the plants and animals in the Columbia River Basin.
"Given the holiday season, the wide geographic scope of the project (Idaho,
Montana and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah), time constraints and the
difficulty of winter travel," a teleconference from 27 locations was conducted
January 28, 1995.
Originating from Boise State University, the teleconference was connected to 19
cities in Idaho, including Coeur d’ Alene, Sandpoint, Orofino, St. Maries,
Lewiston, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. There were five cities in Montana where the
teleconference meeting was held, ICBEMP Headquarters in Walla Walla Washington and
link to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was also a link to Washington D.C.
The greatest number of teleconference participants were the 75 who attended the
Boise meeting. The rest of the meeting places had turn outs which ranged between
the 65 participants in Missoula, Mont., and nine participants in Council, Idaho.
Since the 1/28/97 teleconference, there have been numerous, barely publicized
meetings in towns all over the effected area. The EIS lists over 200 "briefings
and consultations" regarding the project with persons and groups. Only nine of the
briefings are listed to have involved the press. Many of the briefings were with
concerned members of the mining and timber industry, but the bulk of them were
with environmental groups which are in favor of federal control of public lands.
The Idaho Observer attended a public meeting at the federal building
in St. Maries August 11, 1997.
There were 17 people in attendance--all of whom were opposed to the project. Every
property owner who has been interviewed about the issue is in opposition to the
plan. An overwhelming majority of people who attend the public meetings are also
opposed to increasing federal control of northwest forests and rangelands.
The St. Maries meeting produced more questions than it answered regarding federal
control of the UCRB.
Concerned that the project was more about federal control of public and private
lands than ecosystem health, The Idaho Observer emailed a list of
probative, important questions to the URCB office August 19, 1997. There has been
no response to the questions which are printed below.
The desire for public comment and input by UCRB planners is suspect because most
of the over 1,000,000 people who live in the proposed management area have no idea
that the URCB project even exists. By February 6, a decision will be made that will
likely represent the most all encompassing and unconstitutional invasion of the
federal government into peoples’ lives yet to be seen in American history.
One of the things that the Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental
Statement mentions several times, and even dedicates a chapter to explaining, is
the importance of "public involvement" in what is about to be federal control of
every rock and shrub in the northwest. What they meant, and they should have been
more specific, is that they want involvement from members of the public who agree
that a cooperative of 13 federal agencies should be given the authority to
"manage" "federal" lands and adjacent private lands so that ecosystems can be
nursed back to health. The following questions were emailed to the ICBEMP address
UCRB@Cyberhighway.net. Though I did receive a promise that the following questions
will be answered, the questions have not yet been answered.
To Whom it May Concern:
I recently attended a meeting re the Upper Columbia River Basin federal forest
management project in St. Maries, Idaho. Though I had heard whispers that an EIS
was being drafted prior to implementing a forest management project in the
northwest, I had no idea of the magnitude of the project.
Aside from being rather alarmed that so few people in the northwest realize the
magnitude of this project (or that it even exists), I was rather surprised at how
few people were in attendance at the meeting.
Slowly, I have been reviewing the text of the EIS and the appendices. There are
numerous questions popping into my mind and I hope you will take the time to
respond to them. Before you determine that my position is contrary to your own
and that I am skeptical of such a large federal forest management area, let me
just tell you that all I am interested in is something that works. We have a lot
of problems in our country--social, economic and environmental. It seems to me
that, technologically and common sensically, we could manage our forests into
extremely productive good health and wisely harvest its resources and make
available one of the most beautiful regions on earth to recreation and tourism.
If what you propose will achieve that end result, you will have all my support.
If it compromises the forest, the wise use and harvest of its public resources
and ties the hands of people to live according to their conscience on their own,
adjacent private property, I cannot support your efforts. Nobody can.
Please answer the following questions and help me to understand how the UCRB
project will be good for America, Americans, the forests and the animals and plants:
1. What was the number and date of the presidential directive which started the
study for the project? Where did the reported $30 million to fund the study come from?
2. Is there any published material which quotes the president as to why this project
must be funded and implemented?
3. How will one of the seven plans be chosen? Who will choose? Will the public have
the opportunity to vote?
4. How is the project to be funded once a plan is chosen? What is it expected to
cost over the next five years to implement the plan most likely to be adopted?
5. Considering the potential impact this project is going to have on every citizen
and business and property owner in the northwest, why hasn’t the project been
spelled out in detail as front page material in the large newspapers? I guess I
am interested in why the public knows more about the fate of OJ Simpson’s children
than this project--why is the media so quiet about it?
6. There are a lot of rules, regulations and restrictions which will be placed
upon the public by the federal government as it goes ahead with its plans to
manage a significantly large amount of territory. Is the text of an enforcement
code available? Can I see it?
7. How many employees will it take to manage the area? Where will their offices be
located? Will local companies be contracted to do the work of eradicating roads, etc.?
8. It appears that the plans as proposed will radically reduce commercial use of
the forests (logging, mining in particular) and aesthetics (recreation) is
emphasized. Will permits be required for public access to public land for
recreational purposes? Will the people selling permits be private contractors or
9. How will project affect adjacent private property in terms of property value and
its usage by the owner?
10. Understanding that ecosystems know no boundaries, state or international, when
will the managed area expand to include the applicable areas in Canada?
11. Do you see this 72,000,000-acre forest management project as a project unto
itself or just part of a federal plan to manage large tracts of land in various
parts of the country? The people who moderated the St. Maries meeting indicated
that they had no idea whether or not this project was part of a bigger federal
plan to manage our forests. If it is part of a bigger plan, should not the people
holding public meetings be apprised of this and communicate that to the public
when asked directly?
12. What are the goals of the project? If the goals are met, will the federal
government withdraw its management? Will it place management into the hands of
private industry or the state? Or, is this to be a permanent mandate and, though
the public and congress will never have the chance to vote on this project, is it
13. Concerning the comprehensive list of over 400 endangered plant and animal
species in the area, is the raw data which categorizes their endangeredness
available to the public?
14. Will the public be allowed to vote on any of this? Will Congress be given a
bill to pass or fail which will fund the project into the 21st century?
15. If you adopt a plan by October 14, when will the plan to begin proposed
management begin? Is it immediately or in a year or two?
16. Are any of the areas within the project area Heritage areas? Bioreserve areas?
17. How do plans to burn off "lethal" fire hazard forests square with EPA ambient
air quality standards? Does the federal government have some discretional immunity
from standards private persons must comply with?
18. Please list dates and places of public meetings from 1993 to present.
19. Is a compilation of public response and commentary, in raw text form, available?
20. In your opinion, is public response to the project favorable or otherwise?
21. What is the figure of the total board feet of timber sales in project area from
1995-1997? What is that figure expected to be after project plan is implemented?
22. Using the same question as posed above, what about working mining claims?
23. If the project fails, if communities are devastated, if the forests begin to
suffer from the management, what provisions are rendered into writing which will
protect the affected people and the forests?
24. Please list all of the federal and state agencies which will be working
cooperatively to accomplish the goals of the project. The meeting chair indicated
that there would be a total of 13. What are they?
Please respond as soon as possible. As you can see my concerns are many and, in
my opinion, valid. There are likely to be more as your answers will no doubt
generate more questions, but please be patient and accommodating. This project,
and the other projects like them throughout the country are changing our way of
life radically and we Americans have the right to know every detail of what the
government has planned for us and our property.
One of my main concerns is that the federal government no longer views public land
as belonging to the public.
Post Falls, Idaho
ST. MARIES--As far as District Ranger Brad Gilbert is concerned, there is no federal
agenda to control U.S. resource and mineral wealth while stripping Americans of their
property rights under the guise of federal ecosystem management.
Judging by the look on his face when asked if he had any idea what role he was
playing in the ruination of our country, it was obvious that Gilbert viewed the
Upper Columbia River Basin (UCRB) Environmental Management Project as a public works
project designed solely for the purpose of restoring the health of the forest and
rangelands in an area larger than the state of California.
Looking around the room at the four other federal Bureau of Land Management and
U.S. Forest Service employees, they each appeared equally in the dark about a
federal agenda to control Americans and the American economy through control of the
Gilbert, who chaired the public UCRB meeting at the federal building in St. Maries,
August 11, responded politely and patiently to the overwhelming concern among the
handful of people in attendance that federal control of 144,000,000 acres of public
and private land was going to shut down logging and mining and ruin the lives of
thousands of people through contrived, arbitrary and despotically-motivated science.
Though it was obvious that he was a decent man, Gilbert exuded a calm arrogance
which indicated that it didn’t really matter what the silly people believed, the
draft environmental impact statement and the $30 million of public-funded science,
federal authority and environmental extremist righteousness would make the forests
healthy and happy and we will all thank them someday for taking our rights away.
This is perhaps the scariest aspect of exponentially increasing federal control of
every aspect of our lives: The federal government’s foot soldiers have not even a
clue that they are helping to march all of us down the road to socialistic slavery;
they will go on believing that what they are doing is for our own good until that
moment when we reach the end of the road.
Gilbert was given a copy of the June 10, 1997 address Representative Helen
Chenoweth (R-Idaho) gave to the House regarding the Heritage Rivers Initiative.
Chenoweth’s enlightening address, which Gilbert promised to read, is provided as
a separate September article on this website.