Guest view

Just how un-local are local policies

Guest Commentary:

Elizabeth Nickson

Undiscussed in our island’s rural resistance is just how un-local Trust policies are. Say you are dropped into Lordsburg, New Mexico today, and you attend a county commissioners meeting. Guess what they’re discussing? Buffers. Yup. 100-foot setbacks. Same in the San Juans, same in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Arizona — buffers are the game right now in the environmental movement. And no matter where – the set-back is 100 feet, and the goal is 60 per cent of the county or island.

Where do these ideas come from and how are they implemented? One thing we know is that the big environmental NGO’s – Greenpeace, Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society – there are hundreds, insert paid operatives into every rural community the movement feels is valuable. One or two per county, or, in our jurisdiction, one per island or cluster of islands. We know this because they cop to it. The Sierra Club has told us, boasted even, that in some places, they are so hated, they have to arms-length their activities, and pay him or her through another environmental outfit.

What do these people do? They join everything. They start organizations. They become grant getting machines. They go to every single meeting. They look for the frailty. And they agitate. They write letters and columns about ecosystem collapse. They do “studies.” They scare the pants off us – everything is in decline, the forests, watersheds, lakes and creeks and all the lovely critters and plants so treasured, are at risk. They go to the schools and scare the kids, then trot them out like little puppets to plead for more protection. And they promote planning ideas based on ecosystem theory.

The Nature Conservancy, (assets, $7 billion, annual budget $1.9 billion, owner of 100 million acres around the world) has settled upon us, and 40 per cent of the rest of the planet their ecosystem mapping system, which is held, in our case, in B.C.’s Conservation Data Center. Upon this data, all rural and resource land use planning is based. Conservation Data Centers exist everywhere – the mapping system was paid for by the Ford, Rockefeller, Pew Foundations and the U.S. government and donated to is. It is NOT local. It is internationalist in orientation and it provides the rationale behind the planning. The data is often wrong, and heavily publicized to promote no-use.

The plans – our OCP’s and Land Use bylaws – are based upon templates from elsewhere. They came out of the U.N.’s International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Sonoran Institute, Agenda 21, the American Planning Association and ICLEIm all of which collude in devising planning templates. The plans by which our communities are managed were given to us by people who think they are our betters and have the right to tell us how to manage our lands, water, forests, ranges, fields, and communities. Look at the activists on your islands. Are they from the States or Britain? Ask them where they get their money. It’s a fair question, they seek to determine the shape of your life

Why don’t we know about this? Because if we knew, we’d hate it. So everything is secretive, genuine decision making takes place behind closed doors, and the only invitees are fellow-travellers. Documentation obfuscates and confuses. Procedure is thorny, complex and created to bewilder the average citizen. That’s because every by-law advances a hidden agenda, which is drive people from the countryside, and let everything go wild. As Salt Spring Trustee Christine Torgrimson said in April, the countryside is “our rural air-conditioner.” Or as her colleague just to the south of us said, “We need to drop the Iron Curtain. No more rural development.” In fact de-development is the goal. Water is a surrogate, buffers are surrogates, threatened species are surrogates, forests are surrogates. To the movement, they mean nothing. What matters is control, what matters is that our communities become unliveable because the economy is declining, housing is too expensive, young people have fled, and activity severely restricted. In every community these people have entered, the result is a fractured, angry and polarized community.

Here’s the kicker. Where activists have had their way, the environment is in decline. Everything they do destroys the forests, waters and fields of the natural world. You can’t manage nature from Geneva or Washington. Every watershed is different, every forest and every community. Ecosystem management creates disaster. The only people who can caretake the land are the ones living on it, who love it, own it, and depend upon it for their futures.

Time to kick the green carpetbaggers off our islands.

Reprinted from the Island Independent with permission of Elizabeth Nickson.