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The wilderness blob

By Henry Lamb
web posted August 19, 2002

I'd be scared...
I'd be scared...

Kids were scared out of their wits, back in 1958, when a movie called The Blob, dramatized a blob of goo that consumed everything in its path, growing larger and larger in all directions.

The Wildlands Project has become the contemporary "Wilderness Blob," consuming the land in its path, growing larger and larger in all directions.

In California, the the Wildlands Project has laid claim to vast reaches of land to convert to core wilderness areas, connected by corridors of wilderness, surrounded by buffer zones, squeezing people off the land and into high-density, growth-limited "sustainable communities."

The Santa Barbara coast is being gobbled up by what has become known as the "Lynn Scarlett" National Park, so named because Lynn Scarlett, the Budget Director for the Department of Interior, has joined forces with Rep. Lois Capps and the Wildlands Project to designate 215,000 acres of prime real estate as a national park - whether or not the local residents want it.

Senator Boxer's never-ending quest for more wilderness targets another 2.5 million acres of California land to designate as off-limits-to-humans-wilderness, despite her staff's protestations to the contrary.

All this is in addition to the existing wilderness areas and the National Monuments designated by Bill Clinton in his sweeping wilderness expansion program at the end of his term.

The Wilderness Blob is not confined to California. In Wisconsin, state and federal tax dollars are used to consume 35,000 more acres. In North Dakota, the federal government seeks to block road-building on 266,000 acres, making it a defacto wilderness.

In Pennsylvania, the "watershed" approach is used, in New York, they're closing nearly 300 hunting camps on 239,000 acres. In virtually every state, programs with various names are acquiring private land, conservation easements, development rights, or they are simply designating private lands as critical habitat, for some bug or weed, or a wetland, or a heritage area, or a scenic byway - any excuse to limit human use, and expand the Wilderness Blob.

A common denominator in most of these projects is The Nature Conservancy, perhaps the richest environmental organization in the world, with assets in excess of $1 billion, which has received more than $136 million in grants from the federal government since 1996. Partnered with the Wildlands Project, and federal and state governments, these environmental organizations are orchestrating expansion of the Wilderness Blob.

Florida is a high priority target for the Wilderness Blob. Recent efforts to "restore" the Everglades have become a focal point for people all across the country who have been affected by the Wilderness Blob. People who have great appreciation for the environment, many who are practical stewards of the land, have been patient for decades, as ever-tightening land-use restrictions have been implemented.

There is a point, however, beyond which reason vanishes, and idiocy sets in.

The stated goal of the Wildlands Project is to convert "at least half" of the land area to wilderness, off limits to humans, and manage "most of the remaining" land area for conservation objectives. This goal is way beyond reason. Land owners and resource users across the country are coordinating their efforts to make sure that elected officials at every level know their desire to stop the Wilderness Blob.

Steve McQueen, who made his film debut in The Blob movie, spent most of the movie trying to convince officials that the Blob was real. Finally, when the officials paid attention to what the people were saying, they recognized the danger and solved the problem.

Officials such as Barbara Boxer, Lynn Scarlett, and many, many others, have ignored the people who have been warning of the dangers posed by the Wilderness Blob. But enough people have now been affected, who are joining forces and raising their voices together, that their warnings can no longer be ignored.

Under the banner of the Sawgrass Rebellion, these people are forming caravans from the West coast, from Ohio, and other parts of the country, to gather in Naples, and Homestead, Florida on October 17-19, to send an unmistakable message to all government officials, that they want the Wilderness Blob stopped.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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