Conspiracy Theorists who believe Biosphere Reserves are UN plots are getting stronger

The following is from A CLEAR View, Vol. 4 No. 10, 8/19/97. They track the antics of anti-environmental conspiracy theorists. It seems to me that some folks need to believe that there is an enemy out there, and in the wake of the end of the Cold War some Americans are desperate for an enemy.  The choice of the United Nations seems wildly inappropriate to me, the weak organization it has always been, but then political beliefs that fulfill psychological needs follow psycho-logic rather than formal logic. . . . Ralph Maughan



Hysteria Topples Biosphere Reserve Consideration in
Ozarks.
The United Nations has recognized forty-seven U.S.
biosphere reserves (324 in 84 countries) through its "Man
and the Biosphere" (MAB) education and research program.
The program, along with the U.N's World Heritage
Convention initiative, was created three decades ago and
conveys "world-class" status on premiere ecological sites.

Sites chosen for designation, however, have increasingly
become targets for zealous anti-environmental groups.  In
November 1996, for example, Missouri and Arkansas area
federal conservation officials were compelled to withdraw
the Ozark Highlands of northern and southern Missouri
from reserve consideration.  Anti-U.N. hysteria fomented
by private property groups forced the move, according to
George Oviatt, division chief of Resources Management
with the Buffalo National River office in Harrison, AR.  He
notes "the U.N. recognized the highlands as a unique
biological area within the world.  We were really excited" by
the acknowledgment.

Propaganda Spearheads Campaign.  Yet groups formed
by timber and large real estate companies like the Arkansas
based Society for the Preservation of Ozark Culture, allied
with Take Back Arkansas and other anti-environmental
organizations -- led a public campaign erroneously claiming
MAB designation was a first step to international forces
confiscating private property and depopulating the region.
Many Osarkians, especially those wracked by economic hard
times, accepted the anti-MAB propaganda "lock, stock and
barrel," says Howard Kuff, president of the Newton Co.
(AR) Wilderness Association.

MAB and the ruse of it as a threat to private property,
screened the groups' real agenda, Kuff asserts: to do away
with environmental regulations they see as blocking total
exploitation of the Osarks.  He adds that their MAB
campaign, including public forums and local newspaper
blitzes of misinformation, fueled a "witch hunt" mentality
targeting environmentalists.  And it's "an atmosphere of
paranoia" which persists today.  In June, Arkansas Gov.
Mike Huckabee succumbed to the hysteria, abolishing the
state designation of "wild and scenic rivers."

Tactics, Targets and Allies. For insight into the anti-
environmental groups, it's worth noting a few of the tactics,
targets and allies in their MAB campaign.  Typical of their
advertisements was one which appeared in a March edition
of the West Plains (MO) Quill, inviting citizens to a
public meeting in a local church.  "You've heard the
rumors and denials; now hear the facts," it extolled in a
headline directed to "property owners, elected officials,
truckers and loggers."  Among the "facts" asserted in the ad:
"the federal government is currently giving U.S. parks and
national forests over to the United Nations!"  At least three
anti-MAB public meetings took place in southern Missouri
(organizers estimate nearly 1000 people attended) and
several in Arkansas -- some months after the November
1996 decision to withdraw from reserve consideration.  The
groups clearly thought the topic remained prime for stirring
anti-environmental sentiment.

Memo  to Rep. Emerson.   The anti-MAB's count among
their allies elected officials like U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson
(R-MO).  An aide to the representative in a February memo
to her (reprinted by the Quill) noted MAB no longer was
being considered for the two states and that "the program
does not have regulatory authority and the state and federal
governments retain all existing control."  Regardless, "the
local folks were effectively stirred up," aide Greg Branum
wrote, to believe the entire 55,000 square mile area would be
depopulated, including Springfield, a city of more than
100,000 people.  "I recommend," he wrote, "doing a
populist-style column talking about the threat of additional
burdensome regulations and additional United Nations
involvement in U.S. government."

Sara Bantz, of Columbia, MO, with the Heartwood Alliance,
discovered that Emerson, perhaps not coincidentally,
received more than $12,000 in campaign contributions from
lumber and mining interests in 1996.

Uncertain Economy Fuels Insecurity.    Kuff with the
wildlife association says that the groups have lumped
environmentalists together with communists and demon-
worshippers in a "bizarre" global, Jewish-inspired
conspiracy.  He also said that it would behoove
environmental groups to continually focus on the causes
for uncertain economic reality in U.S. rural areas.  Anti-
environmentalists build on a community's insecurity to
inspire hysteria and provoke panic.   For example, Fred
Follis, an organizer of the anti-MAB meetings in MO,
contends MAB was merely _part_ of the "master plan" for
global domination.  Another element is the drain of U.S.
industry and jobs, including the relocation in recent
months of three large area factories (which employed about
600 people) to southern hemispheric countries.  Follis
genuinely seems convinced the shadowy conspirators are to
blame rather than profit-addicted corporations.

Regional residents seem especially susceptible to anti-
international hyperbole since many people over the
generations have retreated to the Ozarks to get away from
the cities and big government.  Kuff says they have almost a
"prideful ignorance" of the rest of the world.  Many
Ozarkians, he adds, see the increased number of tourists
and environmentalists coming to the area as threatening
rather than enhancing their way of life.
(by Jeff Stack, Chinquapin Forest Alliance)

A CLEAR View Interview: U.N. "Scare" Stories
A CLEAR View talked with Joe Mosby of the Arkansas Game
and Fish Commission about some of the rumors he has
heard concerning the Biosphere Reserve and a "government
takeover."  Similar "scare" stories have surfaced to thwart
other other conservation efforts as well, such as the Arkansas
Streams Team effort.

He said the "government takeover" stories started circulating
during a Fall 1996 election campaign for a constitutional
amendment.  The amendment called for a 1/8th of 1% sales
tax, with the proceeds to go to four state agencies, including
the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  Mosby also said
that fear is at the root of the stories.  According to Mosby, the
Buffalo River National Park in Northern Arkansas was
created in the late 60's and early 70's, displacing some local
residents.  Although they were compensated for their land,
some of those residents and their friends continue to resent
the U.S. government.

ACV: What stories have you heard concerning a Biosphere
Reserve in the Ozarks?
JM: One story said that there was going to be a large segment
of the Arkansas Ozarks screened off and set aside as a
Biosphere Reserve, and it would be administered by the
United Nations and not by the state of Arkansas or the U.S.
They would take people's land.

Another story said that the government has black helicopters
flying around at night spying on people.  Yet another rumor
was that the United Nations troops are already in the woods
in Northern Arkansas and have brought in Russian troops.

ACV: Has your agency attempted to counter the stories?
JM:  We just say the Arkansas Game and Fish are not
participating in the Biosphere Project.  I have talked to a few
of these people, though.  They have gotten in my face and I
have had some confrontations when they accused me of
lying when I said the Game and Fish Commission are not
participating in the Biosphere project.

ACV: Can you give us details?
JM: The latest incident occurred during the month of April
[1997], at a meeting where the Arkansas Game and Fish, along
with other sponsors, were creating a program called Arkansas
Streams Team, a voluntary effort to look at, study, preserve
and -- at times -- to clean up the various streams of the state.
There were several people there -- three or four -- that went
to the meeting (it was public) with signs.  They were not
disruptive, but the protesters pushed a concept of the Streams
Team as a government takeover issue: "They [the sponsors]
are trying to take people's lands who live along the streams."
That was not the case.  I was at that meeting, I didn't seek
these people out, they sought me out when they saw my
name tag and saw who I worked for.  They were pretty
abrasive.  They accused me of being part of the cover up of
the Biosphere Reserve.

ACV: Could you convince them otherwise?
JM: It was like talking to a fence post.  I talked to them for
awhile, more or less shrugged my shoulders and walked off.

More U.N. vs. U.S.
The Michael Coffman-fueled hysteria over American
sovereignty gained a sense of legitimacy as the House of
Representatives voted July 15 to severely limit participation
in the United Nation's World Heritage Convention and
Biosphere Reserve programs.  Led by Rep Tom Coburn (R-
OK), House Republicans and some Democrats (including
James Barcia (D-MI) and Marion Berry (D-AR)) voted 222-
203 to ban future federal funding for these initiatives.

During the debate, opponents to the amendment derided
supporters as pandering to the conspiracists who spread
tales of black helicopters and U.N. troop maneuvers on U.S.
soil.  (Source:  The Washington Post 7/17) (MS)
 
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