But there is another driving force behind Heritage Areas – something with which all you may very familiar.
I mentioned H.R. 4099, a bill now before Congress to “Authorize a National Heritage Area Program, and for other purposes…” The bill describes the need for Heritage Areas this way: “Certain areas of the United States tell nationally significant stories; they illustrate significant aspects of our heritage; possess exceptional natural, cultural, scenic, and historic resources; and represent the diversity of our national character.”
So, name a section of our nation that doesn’t contain “significant stories.” Or locate a place where people from the past didn’t walk, live or carry out their lives. That definition is simply too broad to be practical – if the real purpose is to honor our heritage.
But the bill goes on to explain: “In these areas, the interaction of natural processes, geography, history, cultural traditions, and economic and social forces form distinctive landscapes that should be recognized, conserved, enhanced, and interpreted to improve the quality of life in the regions and to provide opportunities for public appreciation, education, enjoyment, and economic sustainability.”
Where have we heard these very words before – economic and social forces; conserve; improve the quality of life?
Well, let’s try this quote from the President’s Council on Sustainable Development which said, “Sustainable Communities encourage people to work together to create healthy communities where natural resources are preserved, jobs are available, sprawl is contained, neighborhoods are secure, education is lifelong, transportation and health care are accessible, and all citizens have opportunities to improve the quality of their lives.”
The President’s Council on Sustainable Development, by the way, was organized by Bill Clinton in the 1990’s to create policy to reduce or eliminate “unsustainable” activities by controlling such things as consumerism, high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, roadways, automobiles, dams, pastures, golf courses, and much more.
So, now, wait a minute. Are we talking about historic preservation where we just want to honor our past – or are we talking about a massive zoning process involving central planning? Because that’s what Sustainable Development is. Even the planning groups will admit that.
This is what the map says:
Simulated Reserve and Corridor System to Protect Biodiversity
As Mandated by the Convention on Biological Diversity, The Wildlands Project, UN and US Man and Biosphere Program, and Various UN, US Heritage Programs, and NAFTA
Mapping for the area East of the Mississippi and South of the Ohio Rivers is at various stages of completion
RED: Core Reserves and Corridors – Little to no human use.
YELLOW: Buffer Zones - Highly Regulated Use.
TURQUOISE: Normal Use Zones of Cooperation.
ORANGE: Border 21/La Paz Sidebar Agreement of NAFTA. 124 mile wide International Zone of Cooperation.
PINK: Indian Reservations.
GRAY: Military Reservations.
BLACK DOTS: Cities over 10,000 people.
Some major highways and Interstate rivers are also shown.
So, why is the same language of Sustainable Development in a bill on Heritage Areas? Could they be from the same top down agenda?
In that light, consider this additional quote from the President’s Council: “Private land use decisions are often driven by strong economic incentives that result in several ecological and aesthetic consequences…the key to overcoming it is through public policy.” That means new legislation and government programs. And so, what are Heritage Areas but legislation for a new government program.
Did the people of the affected areas ask for it – or did it just appear for no apparent reason? Is there an emergency? Is there a dire need? If so, can anybody name those needs? These questions must be asked before such policy is put in place.
And finally, there is this quote from the same policy making source – the President’s Council: “We need a new collaborative decision process that leads to better decisions, more rapid change and more sensible use of human, natural and financial resources in achieving our goals.” Better decisions for whom – by whom? More sensible use of resources according to whom?
This description of government leads away from elected representatives doing the people’s bidding. Instead it establishes non-elected boards, councils, and regional government entities in which local citizens have little or no input. My friends, the language is the same between Sustainable Development and Heritage Areas because they are both part of the same “collaborative” process.
As proponents talk about historic preservation and heritage inside the Heritage Area, you will also find the catch words “resource conservation” and “resource stewardship,” for example. It’s all about control. Control of the land. Control of resources, Control of decision making. And how does that fit with the claim of preserving the American culture – which was built on the ideals of free enterprise and private property? The fact is, it doesn’t.
In reality, National Heritage Areas are nothing more than land targeted by NPS for future national parks, historic sites, landmarks, and land acquisition. The Rivers of Steel Heritage Area in Pennsylvania has existed almost exclusively as a NPS lobby—outwardly campaigning for federal land acquisition authority and national park status.
Proponents of NHAs also claim that they are “locally driven” projects. Nothing could be further from the truth. Landowners within the boundaries of proposed Heritage Areas are left in the dark throughout the entire process. Why? Because each and every Heritage Area bill refuses to include simple written notification to property owners. Seemingly the Park Service and their management “partners” are not too eager to share all the good news with the local citizenry.
I have personally been in meetings with congressional staffers to discuss Heritage Areas.
Specifically the staff of Congressman Frank Wolfe. I asked them if they intended to notify affected land owners living inside the boundaries of a specific Heritage Area. They looked at me like I had two heads. They shuffled their feet and looked down at the table and then said “there’s no way to do that.” “It would be too costly.” “How could we reach everyone?” And then they quickly moved to change the subject.
Of course the ability is there. The mailman delivers to each and every one of the homes in the designated area every day. The fact is, they don’t want to tell you in advance. You might object. And that would disrupt the “process.” No matter how noble a project may sound, alarm bells should go off when proponents want to enforce their vision in secret.
If these National Heritage Areas were truly driven by local enthusiasm we wouldn’t even be here today. Instead, local enthusiasm would have attracted and generated local funding to create local Heritage Areas. Such locally-supported Heritage Areas are plentiful across the nation. Instead, National Heritage Areas depend on federal tax dollars because they lack local interest— and not a single Heritage Area has ever succeeded in attracting that interest throughout their entire infinite lives.
The federal money is the villain. If you just wanted to honor an area for its historic or cultural achievements, a simple resolution from congress and a plaque at the county line could do that. But of course, it’s not about that. It’s about money, control and agendas.
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