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Now They Want to Privatize Wildlife Management – No, I’m Not Kidding

The Greedy Green Mafia Strikes Again

Wildlife as Public Trust Resources

In the North American Model, wildlife is held in the public trust. This means that fish and wildlife are held by the public through state and federal governments. In other words, though an individual may own the land up which wildlife resides, that individual does not own said wildlife. Instead, the wildlife is owned by all citizens. With origins in Roman times and English Common law, the public trust doctrine has at its heart the 1842 Supreme Court ruling Martin V. Waddell.[7]  (Wiki)

As if Gov. Christie’s recent privatization of NJ’s water resources wasn’t bad enough, they’ve gone way too far now.

And this one has the Keep It Green Coalition and/or NJ Audubon’s fingerprints all over it.

I am referring to proposed legislation (S2624), sponsored by Republican Senator Kip Bateman, that would establish a “private wildlife” management program.

Repeat: a private wildlife management program.

[*The Assembly version A3133 [1R] (Bramnick) was amended and released from Committee last fall.  I just listened to Bramnick’s testimony on 10/27/14. It is an Audubon bill. Intent is to improve suburban lawns. Bramnick brought his wife, an artist seeking “balance with nature”. She worked with Audubon on a project. She wants to bring native plants and understory to suburban lawns as “gas station stops” for migratory birds. Audubon was kind enough to help Mrs. Bramnick make her front yard a “wildlife habitat”. But the grass is too high and it violates Westfield’s grass code and she is worried about code enforcement. Intent is to avoid disarray in suburbia, but allow a group like Audubon to provide advice (for a consultation fee of course). She is working with Audubon in a park in Westfield, based on native plants & project bird sanctuary as well. A long train of environment groups were sure to be there to support the bill. Groups that are often not in Trenton and do little legislative work. But they found it important to get there to support this bill. Why is that? Mrs. Bramnick’s testimony confirms all the criticism below. And I don’t ever recall a legislator bringing in a spouse to testify on a pet project bill he wrote and all the environmental groups lining up to support it. If Audubon wants to be a landscape design consultant, well have at it. Then just put out a shingle and compete in the marketplace. But please, do not call that work “conservation” – and don’t use law and DEP as cover to promote your business.]

I say it has KIG or NJ Audubon’s fingerprints all over it because they were the groups that have:

  • attempted, but thankfully failed, to establish a private “forests stewardship” certification program on public lands
  • diverted public funds from DEP and State Parks programs to fund among other things, private conservation groups
  • used Senator Bateman to do their bidding

These groups see State government – and public lands and special access to DEP programs in particular – as sources of funding via grants, partnerships, mitigation services, enforcement settlements, monopoly privileges and market development opportunities.

They see DEP regulatory programs as opportunities to negotiate and extract all kinds of corporate deals, from land donations, to cash donations, to consultation fees, and mitigation service contracts.

A perfect example of this “entrepreneurial approach” to conservation is Audubon’s “Corporate Stewardship” program, or the failed “forest stewardship” bill.

That bill would have used DEP programs to provide access to public lands and public funds to “certified” forest stewardship organizations, of which there was only one in NJ: NJ Audubon.

But you don’t have to take my word for it: NJ Audubon’s website openly boasts of their “Corporate Stewardship Council” program.

Even more aggressively, the “entrepreneurial conservation” model is defined and proudly laid out in excruciating detail by Mike Catania, who explains the “business model” of his creation: Conservation Resources, Inc. (see “A Ten- Year Journey: Conservation Resources’ Final Report):

We would also like to acknowledge the handful of farsighted regulators who were open to CRI’s role in matching those members of the regulated community who needed to fund a conservation project in order to satisfy a regulatory requirement with a non profit organization or local government seeking funding for an appropriate project. For their part, the regulated community and their legal advisors and consultants instinctively “got” CRI’s role and welcomed this new way to comply with New Jersey’s stringent environmental regulatory requirements. 

Is that a quid pro quo? A shakedown? Abuse of DEP access and insider knowledge and relationships?

Or is it just good old fashioned networking, opportunism, and entrepreneurialism?

So, regardless of what you think of all that, let’s take a closer look at the provisions of this “private wildlife” bill.

Because if we can’t agree that wildlife is – by definition – a public good to be managed in trust by a public agency and not a commodity or resource to be managed privately or business opportunity to extract a fee- then all is lost.

  • Ignore Public Policy – Because There Is No Public Good To Be Promoted

The bill lacks any legislative findings as to what the problem is or declarations as to what the purposes, objectives, or policy is.

That’s because there is no public policy basis for the bill – it is designed to promote private interests of specific conservation groups who wrote it.

A bill devoid of findings and objectives also avoids any public scrutiny and policy debate, where nettlesome issues arise, like:

who owns wildlife? The public? Or private landowners? Who should “manage” wildlife? A public agency? Or private conservation groups? How should wildlife management be funded? How should wildlife management decisions be made? By Whom? On what basis?

I think you get my point

  • Restrict Access to – or better yet – monopolize the market

At a minimum, the bill would restrict market entry and competition, and more likely grant exclusive monopoly privileges for certain well connected groups:

“Certifying entity” means a nonprofit conservation organization, a for-profit landscaping company, or any other private entity, provided that the commissioner has determined that the entity possesses the appropriate expertise, qualifications, and resources to assess whether a property satisfies the standards and criteria established for purposes of certifying a property as a “certified private wildlife habitat” pursuant to section 2 of this act.

In turn, it is then likely that these “certifying entities” – just like under the failed “first stewardship bill – would be the only game in town and the beneficiaries of regulatory leverage that Mr. Catania so clearly lays out that is the core of his “business model” excerpted above.

  • Use DEP regulatory authority as leverage to lock in your market

Check this out – uses government regulatory power for private gain and makes a business opportunity sound like an environmental program:

2. a. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall establish a private wildlife habitat certification program. In establishing the program, the commissioner may consider any standards used by recognized conservation organizations for purposes of certifying properties as suitable wildlife habitat.

So, not only do you get DEP access and exclusive market privileges, the conservation groups actually write the content of the program, i.e. when  the commissioner may consider any standards used by recognized conservation organizations  of course he looks to your organization, because your organization is the only one.

  • Use private certification to replace public regulation

This was a central debate on the forest stewardship bill, where supporters explicitly designed  the “stewardship” program to rely on private conservation group certification model to replace government regulation – a privatization of regulation!

3. A certifying entity shall issue to the owner of each property that applies and qualifies for certification as a “certified private wildlife habitat” a certificate of registration to be filed by the property owner with the municipality in which the property is located pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of this act, and a sign designating the property as a “certified private wildlife habitat,” which may be posted on the property by the owner.

What a racket – get government regulations to require free advertising signs for your enterprise – now we are forced to look at even more signs? (in addition to the “Private Property – No Trespassing” sign).

  • Compel private landowners to rely on your services, and make sure government get a vig

Same game – corner the market, require your services – nice work if you can get it:

Prior to altering a property for purposes of establishing a “certified private wildlife habitat,” a property owner shall obtain  from a certifying entity a certificate of registration designating the property as a “certified private wildlife habitat” and file the certificate of registration with the municipal clerk of the municipality in which the property is located. The municipal clerk may charge a fee not to exceed $25 for each certificate o registration filed with the clerk.

  • Protection racket: Rely on the program as insulation from enforcement

The real mob has perfected this extortion racket: a small payment provides “insurance” from things like fires or labor unrest:

A person who files and maintains an unexpired certificate of registration with a municipality in compliance with the provisions  of this act, and the rules and regulations adopted pursuant thereto, shall be entitled to an affirmative defense against any liability for violation of a municipal ordinance under which the “certified private wildlife habitat,” or any component thereof, is deemed, or  would be deemed, a nuisance or an otherwise unlawful condition. The person shall be entitled to this affirmative defense from the time of filing the notice of intent to alter the property, provided that certificate of registration is filed within 60 days thereafter

So, to summarize the bill:

Private Property, Private Wildlife, Private Management, Private Regulation – a monopoly created by and paid for with public funds and public legal and regulatory power (with no public participation).

Can it get any worse?

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