Saturday, May 17

A lifeline hidden in the farm bill

Ok, so the farm bill is chock-full of earmarks. Let's admit it. The very members of congress who valiantly stormed into Washington to "rid it of special interests" all have their hands in the goody bag. The House and Senate are now both thoroughly behind it, and Bush's veto will be nothing but a speed bump. Until this morning, I would have had nothing good to say about the farm bill - lavish subsidies forked over to large agribusiness lobbyists, which make it even harder to be the family farmer from the actual photo ops used to sell the bill.

But this may have changed when I heard of one goody in particular added by Montana's senator Max Baucus: a chance to buy up $250 million worth of Plum Creek land to prevent real estate development.

Max doesn’t want to see these prime hunting and fishing lands turned into golf courses, condos and strip malls,” said Baucus spokesman Barrett Kaiser. “Private timberland is being gobbled up for development, and this provision gives states the tools they need for land conservation.”

I've previously blogged about the dilemma Montanans face when it comes to curtailing sprawl. Many communities have little power in deciding how their cities grow, because so much of the land is owned by a single landowner. Missoula county, for example, cannot impose any zoning regulation without the full consent of Plum Creek, who doesn't have much of an incentive to cut off their real estate options. We're stuck in a frustrating situation.

So, leaving aside the fact that this legislation is buried in a "farm" bill, it's hard to pass up on this valuable tool to conserve some of the most threatened open space and help our cities to stay compact and vibrant. Understandably, critics from out of state are pointing to the money trail between Plum Creek and senator Baucus. David Freddoso writes in National Review Online,

"However green it may seem, this provision is little more than a massive corporate subsidy for a single company."

fair enough. But isn't the reverse just as true?

"However much like a massive subsidy for a single company it may seem, this provision is green."

In other words, it's both. It doesn't just seem green, it is an important conservation tool. And it leaves us in a funny spot between taking the ideological high ground of denouncing these sneaky methods and pragmatically availing ourselves of whatever lifeline is thrown to us in a desperate situation.

I think I'd take the lifeline.


Unknown said...

The hidden earmark may seem like a lifeline, but in fact it is not. What this Bond program does is allow The Nature Conservancy yet another opportunity to increase its wealth, while at the same time increasing its control on select properties aorund the world, under the guidance of the UN's Biodiversity project.

The Nature Conservancy has a proven history of manipulating land deals and selectivly selling off the higher profit wildlands to developers and hoemowners ultimately barring access to the public on these lands.

Spend some time researching all of the timberland deals TNC has been involved in and you'll soon see the pattern. The ultimate goal is not conservation of habitat, but control over select lands.Many people who have bought into the allure of listening to TNC in the false belief that TNC has the environment at its best interest. Later, when they have found out the truth behind their actions, they've regretted the deals.

Daniel Nairn said...

"The ultimate goal is not conservation of habitat, but control over select lands."

What exactly is TNC doing with the lands they acquire that is against their stated purpose to "preserve our lands and waters for future generations to use and enjoy."

I feel like it would be a big deal if they took public land and sold it off to developers. Their reputation would be irreparably damaged. When did they do this?

You're not talking about easements are you? That's a different case.