Posted by: Ann Corcoran | June 29, 2012

A history lesson for Greenways/Rail trail opponents (and proponents)

I’ve mentioned to readers here on several occasions that the old conservation movement in America was taken over by political activists and statists (simply put, people who advocate government control of your lives) beginning in the 1960’s.  Nearly fifty years later these greenlines/greenways/rail-trails/PlanMaryland (in addition to expanding federal control of land) are the fruits of their labors.

I knew that Congress had addressed national land-use planning decades ago; and when it was defeated in Congress the statists (political environmentalists) went to work to get control of private property in a piecemeal fashion. 

Now, thanks to Richard Falknor of Blue Ridge Forum who unearthed this 1995 speech by RJ Smith to a property rights conference in NY State which lays out the history of the environmental movement for the last century, I actually have it in writing from someone who was there to witness history in the 60’s and early 70’s.

I first met RJ Smith in the late 1970’s in Washington, DC.  Here is just one portion of his informative speech.  Please note that it was a Republican—Richard Nixon—who was eager to control private property owners.  Most people don’t know that Nixon signed into law the bill that created the EPA!  (emphasis below is mine).

… the new environmental movement, which more or less was a movement that came out of the left of the late Sixties, viewed man as being alien to nature. Man was really not part of nature, and the trick was really to find ways to control man, to get man out of the picture, to reduce man’s influence. This environmental movement also was not a movement that was sympathetic to private property, to free markets or free enterprise, and particularly it was that element that was very worried about private property that led to the situation we’re in now.

So I think you can fairly say that the modern attack on property rights began in the late 1960’s with the environmentalist drive for national land-use control.

Some of you may remember that this focused around the efforts in the late 60’s to pass the Jackson-Udall [both Democrats—ed] national land-use control bill, which was even supported by President Nixon. In fact, Nixon went even further. The White House introduced a bill that was even more stringent in its control on property rights than did Jackson and Udall.

Henry Jackson from Washington State had also been the father of NEPA(1), which was passed in 1969. NEPA created both the Environmental Protection Agency and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality in 1970.

Nixon began a program after he came in of having an environmental message each year, which he delivered to Congress and which was the introduction to the CEQ’s annual reports. In Nixon’s presidential environmental message he said right at that time that the key thing we needed to do in the environmental arena was to stop abusing the land. This was the rhetoric that everyone was using, that every time someone would build a home, this constituted abusing the land.

A National land-use plan was defeated in Congress in 1974!

Now often people don’t take action until their basic core beliefs are threatened. It’s interesting that as the debate over land-use control went on in the early 70’s, despite all this universal government support for universal land-use controls, the legislation was finally defeated in a very close vote in the House on a rule by a mere 7 votes in April 1974. The vote was 211 to 204. In fact, everybody thought it was pre-ordained, and that there was no way to stop land from land-use control.

We are very fortunate that there were two very good Congressmen at the time, Sam Steiger from Arizona and Steve Symms from Idaho, together with two executives with Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Bill Moshofsky and John Thompson, Dan Denning with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce* and Phil Truluck of the Republican steering committee, who put together a coalition at the last moment when they figured out exactly where land-use control was going to take the nation and were able to kill it by seven votes.

The environmental statists learned that they could not win with a frontal attack on private property rights!

Smith continues:

Those of you that follow the history of the environmental movement know this is essentially the only major piece of environmental legislation that’s ever been defeated and the environmentalists learned a very good lesson from that. They abandoned frontal attacks on private property rights, which they learned Americans would defend.

No more frontal attack on private property rights!   That readers, is how we got to Greenways and Rail-Trails—ribbons of government-owned land that will eventually serve as the reason to control more and more land along their borders—and will accomplish the same end someday as national land-use planning sought to do, but will just take longer to accomplish.

While you are busy with your lives, this planning goes on day in and day out.

Sadly, the front men and front women of the so-called environmental movement (the statists) are the members of the Me, Me, Me generation—-wahhhhh!  I just want to ride my bike (and no one better mess up the viewshed)!

If you are a new reader arriving here for the first time, this is a post in my continuing series on the Washington County Maryland Commissioners Rail-Trail Plan.  For background see our category on the trail plan here.

* That was the US Chamber of Commerce of old!  Now the Chamber works in conjunction with the government, with the statists,  against private property rights as we see right here in Washington County!  (Next!)



  1. […] June 29th:  Be sure to see the history lesson about how these land-use control mechanisms came to […]

  2. […] to Greenways  (new readers, first read my post,here, about how  Rail-trails are part of the Greenway […]

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