“Willing Seller Willing Buyer”


Last August, George Frampton of the Wilderness Society responded in a letter to the New York Times (Appendix 1) to an earlier news article on the risk of condemnation of private land inside the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. Frampton claimed there is no such risk; the federal government will not take land away from Mainers.

The Times had described how private land, some in the same family since the Revolution, had been included inside the expanded boundary of the Moosehorn Refuge, operated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, against the vociferous protests of the owners.

Frampton labeled the fears of unwillingly included landowners as hysteria, whipped up with the help of corporate money. In the previous fiscal year, three federal land agencies expanded without using any condemnation at all, he claimed. And the fourth, the Park Service, used its condemnation power sparingly, mainly in the Florida Everglades.

As Frampton’s claim included all four federal land agencies, maybe the time had come to challenge the old willing-seller saw, for years dinned into readers of park promotion literature, and audiences at hearings and meetings. (Frampton, president of our largest environmental organization, is also a spokesman for 20 such groups advocating federal land expansion, recently recommending one billion dollars be spent annually on taking over private land. Last February, he was nominated Assistant Secretary in Department of the Interior with supervision of the Park Service and Fish & Wildlife.)

A property-rights activist recommended against expending the considerable effort at proving what we already know: that the federal land agencies and their preservationist partners are twisting the facts when they downplay the role of condemnation as an expansion tool. It is true that we long since knew but the general public has been effectively deceived and now could be the time to set the record straight, Time to give the other side—the private landowners—an opportunity to be heard.

To limit the effort, I excluded the Bureau of Land Management from the survey but requested addresses under the Freedom of Information Act of those who had sold to the remaining three agencies. Because addresses quickly become obsolete, I settled on the subsequent fiscal year, ending September 30, 1992. The Park Service responded with a listing without delay but the Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife denied the requests, citing need for privacy. The study began with the Park Service material without waiting for the result of the appeals to the other two agencies.

Next: 3. Survey

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