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Old 05-18-2003, 07:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Things Aren't Always What They Seem!!

Long but interesting.


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Nature or nuture?
Conservancy loses its way
Sunday May 18, 2003




MANY Americans who support the Nature Conservancy like its moderate approach. No Earth First! radicalism here, thank you very much. The Conservancy chose cooperation over confrontation in the struggle against pollution and degradation. It attempted to work with corporate America to find a middle path to environmental protection.

But a series in The Washington Post examining practices of the Conservancy raises suspicions that, perhaps, the increasingly wealthy organization has strayed too far from that path.

The Post points out the millions of acres the Conservancy has preserved, then goes on to say: “Yet the Conservancy has logged forests, engineered a $64 million deal paving the way for opulent houses on fragile grasslands and drilled for natural gas under the last breeding ground of an endangered bird species.”

Its governing board and advisory council include executives and directors from oil and chemical companies, auto manufacturers, mining companies, logging operations and polluting electric utilities, including corporations that have paid millions of dollars in fines.

The Conservancy gets almost as much money from corporations as it does individuals. It has risen from humble beginnings to become a $3 billion behemoth and it has expanded its mission beyond nonprofit attempts to preserve land to questionable for-profit ventures.

Its president, Steven J. McCormick, also lives a corporate lifestyle. His compensation in 2002 totaled about $420,000. The Conservancy lent him $1.55 million to buy a home, and pays him a $75,000 annual living allowance.


Not bad for a nonprofit devoted to conserving “special places.”

However, the Conservancy hasn’t done such a hot job on that end, either. The Post found that the Conservancy often sold some of its “preserved” land to supporters and trustees for less than its purchase price. Those buyers usually donated an amount to the Conservancy equal to the difference. Those donations, of course, are tax-deductible.

While the deeds limit some development on the land, they allow construction of huge homes, landscaping and other intrusive and destructive construction.

The most surprising revelation from the newspaper series, though, was this: After the Conservancy accepted the donation of a parcel of land that was the last native breeding ground for an endangered bird, the Conservancy drilled for oil on the land. Though the Conservancy insisted that it was drilling in an environmentally sound manner, the number of endangered birds nesting on the land fell by half.

The Conservancy was begun with the best of intentions. However, it appears that its leaders have gotten too cozy with, and learned all the wrong lessons from, the corporate interests they were trying to reform.


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Old 05-18-2003, 07:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Fighters for Canaan Valley cite betrayal
They get their wildlife refuge, but new restrictions on its use leave them feeling stung
Sunday May 18, 2003

By The Associated Press



DAVIS — To residents and environmentalists who fought for decades to protect Canaan Valley’s unique wetland environments, establishing a national wildlife refuge seemed like the perfect idea.

After starting with only 86 acres in 1994, the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge has steadily increased in size, jumping to more than 15,000 acres with the purchase of 12,000 acres from Allegheny Energy Inc. in February 2002.

But as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to enact an interim management plan governing the refuge’s preservation and use, some residents say they feel triumph while others say they were betrayed.

In an area far from the distractions of big-city life, the valley has been the source of entertainment, and restrictions have been minimal. Even when the power company banned wheeled vehicles on its former holdings in 1994, locals say, the rules were rarely enforced.

Yet, in November 2002, it became clear that a new order was coming, when refuge managers released their first draft of an interim management plan. The early draft designated about 13 miles of trails for biking and about 23 miles for hiking throughout the entire refuge.

The final draft, which is expected to include additional trials, should go into effect before month’s end. The plan will control how the refuge will be managed until a long-term conservation plan is written.

A number of residents who initially supported the refuge say that even doubling the number of trails falls short of their expectations, because many of the trails are under a mile in length and not enough of them connect.

Alice Fleischman has owned a printing business on Davis’ main street for 21 years, and was one of the original supporters of the refuge.

An avid recreationist, Fleischman used to ride her mountain bike daily through lands now owned by the refuge. And her son, Nick Waite, learned the skills there that put him on the state’s mountain-biking team.

When wildlife representatives approached her and other recreationists during planning stages for the refuge in the early 1990s, they were led to believe that a similar level of access for outdoor activities could be counted on, she said.

“I remember it being a pretty warm, fuzzy time,” said Fleischman. “They may not have come out and guaranteed anything to us, but it sure sounded like it.”

Matt Markus, president of the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association, said he thought he got the same guarantee.

“We’ve been fooled into supporting them,” Markus said. “And now we’ve been ditched.”

One factor in the conflict, say wildlife officials, is a policy shift.

After the refuge’s initial management plan was written in 1994, the law changed, said Tony Leger, northeastern regional chief of the national wildlife refuge system. “I think that really complicated things for Canaan.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 required refuge managers to develop management plans that focused on the preservation of fish, plants and wildlife. The law also created a list of six priority uses for refuges: hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

After 1997, “We were maybe not able to be as flexible,” said Leger.

This change wasn’t effectively communicated to citizens, said Elliot Ours, president of the Friends of the 500th, a citizen’s group connected to the refuge.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm inside the area and outside the area,” said Ours. “But things did not materialize the way people had expected.

“Really, there was a lack of communication. Some people just got turned.”

Although the 1994 plan does not explicitly say that all current trails would remain once the refuge was established, it does say they would be “considered.”

However, some of the spots routinely traveled by recreationists were not trails, said Ken Sturm, a biologist at the refuge.

“If you think about a trail that’s made to be a trail — it was simply a scar through the wetland,” said Sturm.

Many of those areas need to be rehabilitated, he said, not reused.

But the refuge also has tried to meet as many of the community’s needs as it can, said Troy Littrell, the refuge’s interim manager.

After reviewing public comments on last year’s interim plan, the number of trails has been increased. Managers will look at adding more trails when they start working on the refuge’s long-term conservation plan, Littrell said.

Ben Stout, associate professor of biology at Wheeling Jesuit University, authored the study that lead to Allegheny Energy banning wheeled vehicles on its property. He said the area is recovering well.

“The plants get much more abundant, of course, because they’re not getting run over,” Stout said.

However, he objects to the refuge’s order of the priorities.

“The only real problem is that you have to be carrying a gun or a fishing rod to go anywhere in the valley,” said Stout, who describes the refuge as a great place to get lost in nature.

Under current U.S. Fish and Wildlife rules, only hunters and fishermen are allowed to walk off trails.

“Hunting is a totally different situation,” said Jacqueline Burns, who heads visitor services at the refuge. “You cannot hunt an animal and stay on a trail.”

Fisherman also must travel to ponds that have no trails leading to them, said Burns.

And even these uses will be reconsidered, in terms of potential negative impact on the environment, as refuge managers work on the area’s long-term conservation plan.

“The primary focus on a wildlife refuge is wildlife,” Burns said. “And the primary focus on parks is people.”

Linda Cooper of Morgantown has been fighting to spare the refuge’s newest 12,000 acres from development since the 1970s, when Allegheny Energy proposed flooding it and creating a hydroelectric plant. Once the refuge arrived, Cooper said, it was a tremendous relief.

She said that the issues currently being discussed seem smaller than what was happening decades ago.

“They’re very important, but they’re not life-and-death-of-a-natural-area kind of things,” Cooper said.

Despite the problems she has with the refuge, Fleischman said she supports the mandate to preserve the environment. Like most of those who voiced objections to the management of the refuge, her feelings are mixed.

“I guess I’ll just have to learn to birdwatch — and like it.”


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Old 05-19-2003, 06:34 PM   #3 (permalink)
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tnc is a bad group . thanks for the well done article . maybe some folks will see the light.
the second article should get the hikers scared too. i have been speding the word that even they are in danger
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