Anti-Conservationism is active in varying degrees throughout the upper midwest. That activity ranges from near invisibility in Illinois, where there are no self-identified Anti-Conservation groups, but where Big Agriculture, in the form of the National Cattlemen's Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau Federation, has long been a major player in state politics, to Minnesota and Michigan, where proponents of the so-called "county movement" seek to repudiate the legitimacy of federal authority over federal public lands.
The following is a state-by-state account of the issues which have attracted Anti-Conservation activity, the nature of that activity, the groups and individuals involved, the issues around which they are active, their tactics and their effectiveness. This information was gained from interviews with people active to varying degrees in conservation and environmental organizations throughout the region.


Anti-Conservationism is alive and well in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. In the Upper Peninsula, the more sparsely populated and less developed part of the state, it is most prominently represented by advocates of county supremacy - the 10th Amendment Argument. This argument employs substantial legal and logical gymnastics to reach the conclusion that specific, local applications of such federal legislation as the Endangered Species Act or the National Environmental Policy Act must conform to "local custom and culture."9 In practice this means that if local custom and culture includes acceptance of clear cut logging or dumping mine tailings into the nearest body of water, then those practices should be allowable under federal regulations which would otherwise prohibit them.
According to County Supremacists a critical element of the plan is formal adoption of a "county custom and culture plan" designed explicitly to guide the county's natural resource decisions. Once this plan is in place, strict enforcement of federal policies concerning natural resources must yield to local custom and culture as expressed in the local plan. The potential for conflict between these ordinances and national law is obvious; that's the whole idea. Courts that have reviewed these ordinances have been unanimous: they are unconstitutional attempts to disregard federal authority. But this hasn't deterred hard-core supporters of the 10th Amendment argument.
Such a plan is under consideration in Ontonagon County, on the Keweenaw Peninsula of northern-most Upper Michigan. The Keweenaw is a naturally beautiful but economically depressed area with a history of boom and bust economic cycles attributable to the extractive industries of logging and mining. Despite the nature of these industries and their inherent cycles, the residents of this area have been quite receptive to the argument that federal regulations operate to the disadvantage of the local citizenry, and must therefore be weakened, if not eliminated altogether.
The introductory language of Ontonagon County's Model Interim Land - And Water-Use Policy Plan, attached as Appendix B, contains the following statements of policy:
The obstructionist intent behind this proposal is unmistakable, and it has the support of the support of County Planning Commission Chair Douglas Johnson. However, according to the Ontonagon County Clerk, the plan has been stalled in the proposal stage for nearly a year while the County Board attempts to determine whether enactment would be too costly for the county. A group calling itself the Great Lakes Property Rights League surfaced in the Houghton-Hancock area of Upper Michigan in late 1994. It held a few meetings at which radical takings reform was advocated - compensation for any reduction in value, but hasn't been heard from since approximately May, 1995. This organization seems to have been the brainchild of former State Representative Stephen Dresch. Mr. Dresch is a professor at Michigan Technological University, in Houghton. He has frequently been publicly involved in environmental and conservation issues, usually advocating protection of resources and the environment. Yet some observers describe his approach to such issues as unorthodox and essentially Libertarian.
Wetlands, including the administration by the Department of Environmental Quality of programs designed to protect them, is a focus of property rights activity in Michigan. One person who has created a furor over wetlands laws, and who is a recent cause celebre of Stephen Dresch is an individual named Richard Delene. Mr. Delene apparently authorized himself to construct certain ponds and make certain improvements on his land. This activity brought him into conflict with the DNR over the application of certain wetland regulations, and resulted in Delene being ordered to restore the land to its original condition. Mr. Delene chose not to participate in the judicial process, and as of this writing (Nov. 1995) he is a fugitive.
Elsewhere in Michigan Anti-Conservation activity takes a variety of forms. Legislatively the agenda is being furthered by attempts to pass takings compensation legislation that has been literally copied from bills offered in other states. This compensation bill is currently stalled in the legislature for a thorough review of its fiscal implications. In its place a substitute bill has been offered which does little more than pay lip service to the icons of property rights and takings: it would require only that the Attorney General provide guidelines to the Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Quality and Transportation for assessing the consequences of proposed regulations. However, the bill does not actually mandate assessments in any particular cases, nor does it expand in any way the concept of a taking beyond what exists in case law interpreting the Fifth Amendment. As of early March, 1996, this bill had been passed by the Michigan House and was awaiting action by the Senate. The Michigan Legislature is likely to adopt another anti-conservation proposal - an audit privilege bill. "Audit privilege" is an innocuous sounding term which essentially means "immunity from disclosure." Under such a bill, when a person or business conducts a self-audit to determine compliance with environmental protection laws or regulations the results would be privileged - their disclosure could not be compelled, regardless of the nature or severity of any violations. Nor, under most audit privilege bills, would a polluter even be required to remedy any deficiencies in compliance. The resulting report could simply be locked safely away. The bill currently under consideration has the support of the State Chamber of Commerce and the entire spectrum of the business lobby. As in many other states and regions the issue of public lands and access to them is a rallying point for anti-conservationists. Between state and federal holdings, there are currently 7.5 million acres of public land in Michigan - more than any other state east of the Mississippi. This is partly attributable to the strong public support enjoyed by the state's Natural Resources Trust Fund, a program designed to apply state funds to the protection and preservation of unique and endangered natural areas. Consequently, another manifestation of Michigan's Anti-Conservation activity is an effort to achieve a policy of no net gains in state public land holdings. Championed by State Senator George McManus, this proposal would require that for every new acquisition of state public land an equal amount of land would have to be sold back into private ownership. At present this suggestion is overmatched by a strong public sentiment in favor of maintaining and even increasing public holdings. Anti-Conservation activists have also focused their attention on access to a pair of federally designated National Wilderness Areas in Michigan. In the Sylvania, located in the western Upper Peninsula, ten years of deliberation by Congress and study by the National Forest Service resulted in a wilderness designation which included restrictions on motor boats. As in the dispute over opening up Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area to multiple use, certain local groups and individuals appealed the restrictions, but their efforts were in vain. The Forest Service refused to make any modification to the "electric motor only" and "low speed/no wake" provisions. However, challenges to protections in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area were more successful. The Nordhouse Dunes is the largest area of dunes abutting fresh water in the United States, and includes several distinct ecosystems. The Forest Service purchased the rights to the surface land in this unique area, but the sellers retained the subsurface mineral rights. Certain oil and gas companies subsequently leased these rights and challenged in court the Michigan Department of Natural Resources ban on drilling in the Dunes. The Michigan Court of Claims and Court of Appeals agreed that the prohibition was a taking. In the fall of 1995, while a decision determining damages was pending Gov. John Engler "negotiated," and the legislature ultimately approved, a settlement which paid Miller Brothers Oil, the primary plaintiffs, $60 million. Gov. Engler claimed a savings of $40 million off the $100 million claimed. But it did not go unnoticed that the recipients of the settlement, Miller Brothers Oil Corporation, had been a major contributor to the Governor's campaigns and to the state Republican Party. Be that as it may, the bottom line is that the taxpayers of Michigan paid $60,000,000 to a single special interest, nearly $100,000,000 total to all parties, essentially as blackmail to prevent the destruction of a priceless natural asset.
Despite this level of activity, the Alliance for America identifies no Michigan residents among its core activists.


Proponents of Takings legislation point to Indiana as a victory - a state in which property rights have been protected by the enactment of a takings bill. Reality, however, falls slightly short of this boast. In fact, Indiana's takings law is virtually toothless and is the result of closed-door caucus politics of the worst kind. In 1993 a takings bill was introduced which died in committee. Shortly thereafter, during a closed caucus of a Conference Committee considering an unrelated bill addressing administrative rule language changes, a single line was inserted which required the Attorney General to assess every bill for Takings implications. This bill managed to sneak through, but it contains no compensation provision and there has been no further effort to enact takings legislation since. Anti-conservation activity in Indiana is most noticeable in the Northwest part of the state surrounding the efforts to preserve and expand the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Together the Indiana Dunes State Park and the Dunes National Lakeshore protect 15,000 acres of unique and fragile habitat for a rich variety of plant and animal species. Local observers and activists report that they first became aware of Anti-Conservation efforts in 1989, when the most recent proposal to expand the Lakeshore was made. At that time an organization called Stop Taking Our Property (STOP) appeared on the scene. STOP is based in Porter County, Indiana, an overwhelmingly white enclave sandwiched between Gary and Michigan City. The County is home to both a strong John Birch presence10 and an active militia. In this fertile environment, STOP publishes a quarterly newsletter and claims 500 members. However, because the organization is not incorporated it must satisfy no disclosure or reporting requirements. Therefore its organizers, membership, leadership, and funding are all incapable of verification or confirmation. Of interest is the observation that all of STOP's staffers and workers are volunteers and the organization conducts no apparent fund raising activities. Yet it has a very well-organized, slick operation which manages to produce a professional looking newsletter, leading to speculation that the group is at least well connected with, if not actually supported by either national Anti-Conservation groups, shadowy corporate backers, or both. What is known about STOP is that the primary visible force behind it is a man named Bill Theis. His name and phone number appear at the top of STOPwatch - the group's newsletter, and he seems to be the only member of the organization quoted in the local media. Theis is a member of the Executive Committee of the Alliance for America. The Alliance's directory identifies him as the Executive Director of the Lake States Region of the Alliance. Another STOP member of some local notoriety is a woman named Joanna Waugh. Waugh works for NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Co.), a local utility, a fact which causes some to believe that at least a portion of her job (perhaps a substantial portion) is devoted to STOP activities. She has authored letters to the editor of Porter County newspapers critical of the restrictions placed upon landowners by the Endangered Species Act, accusing environmentalists of irresponsible fear mongering and generally railing against proponents of expanding the Dunes Lakeshore. In September, 1995, Waugh and Theis attended the Alliance for America's annual Board of Directors meeting at which she was elected Secretary of that group for 1995-'96. Needless to say, Waugh is identified as a core activist, too. In addition to his involvement in STOP, Bill Theis has been responsible for various stealth attempts to have county supremacy ordinances adopted by town and county boards in northern Indiana. His preferred tactic is to have such proposals initially introduced as non-binding referenda during board meetings by sympathetic members. Non-binding referenda need not be included on the Boards' published agendas, so the proposals can be "debated" without organized input from opponents. Other Anti-Conservation groups which have been reported in Indiana include The Property Rights Movement of Indiana, also organized by Bill Theis, and HELP (Help Enlighten LaPorte County). Currently, neither of these groups is particularly large or active.
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is not the only issue attracting Anti-Conservation attention in Indiana. The state's Rails to Trails program, designed to convert abandoned railroad rights of way to recreational trails, have attracted the attention of Anti-Conservationists, as have efforts to implement management practices required by the Coastal Zone Amendment and Reauthorization Act (CZARA). The latter, which applies in areas which drain to the Great Lakes, has brought the Indiana Farm Bureau Federation openly into the debate. The Farm Bureau opposes any regulations which would require farmers to take additional steps to keep nutrients, agricultural chemicals and manure out of the Great Lakes.


Minnesota prides itself on being the Land of 10,000 Lakes. With water occupying such a prominent place in the state's collective identity it should come as no surprise that wetlands, their use and access to them are a major focus for Anti-Conservation activity in that state. The state's wetlands law is one of the most expansive in the nation; its protections apply to virtually all wetlands, regardless of size or location. This extended applicability basically assures that the wetlands law will be a source of conflict between regulators on the one hand and farmers, developers, builders and assorted business interests on the other. This conflict is seen in many parts of the state, but not always over identical issues. The Minnesota Landowner's Rights Association (MLRA), based in the northwestern farming community of Gatzke, reflects a certain conservative, fundamental suspicion of government, a sentiment not uncommon in this part of the state. The MLRA advocates reforming the wetlands law, rather than outright repeal. They further argue that the DNR owns too much land and that at least some of it should be returned to private ownership, or at least placed under the authority of local government. Lately, MLRA has become involved in the debate over whether Voyageurs National Park and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) should remain under federal authority or be "divested" and left to the mercy of local (county) decision makers. (More on this subject below.) The MLRA's physical presence is lobbyist Don Larson, a former aide to state senator Joe Bertram, a Democrat-Farm-Labor (DFL) party member and leader of the legislative backlash against land use planning. Despite his familiarity with the legislative process Larson does not seem to have appreciably advanced MLRA's interests. Some observers attribute this to Larson's style, which is said to have alienated some members of the legislature. Another permutation of the anti-wetlands sentiment is built around an appeal to highway safety. As implemented in Minnesota, wetland protection includes routing roads around, rather than through environmentally sensitive areas. This results in roads that might be described as more scenic than expeditious. As might be expected, crashes result from motorists' failures to negotiate curves and turns which skirt wetlands. The resulting injuries and property damage are offered as proof that regulation is out of control; a higher value has been placed on resource conservation than on human health and safety. Another group, the Minnesota Property Rights Association (MPRA), offers a more radical solution to the problems they attribute to the wetlands law - total repeal. The MPRA is led by one Joe Preiner. The Association's agenda calls for getting government out of land regulation altogether. The group has called Minnesota's wetlands conservation law the biggest land grab since Native Americans were forced onto reservations. Conveniently missing from MPRA's rhetoric is any mention of the fact that Joe Preiner is the operator of Trout Air - a fly-in fishing guide and charter service business which would stand to profit from the removal of restrictions on motorized access to lakes and wetlands. And Preiner's business interests make MPRA a natural for advancing the cause of de-federalizing Voyageurs and BWCAW. Despite its extreme positions, MPRA has a well organized lobbying presence in the state capitol. In addition to advocating repeal of wetland protections and laws calling for comprehensive planning, MPRA has supported bills which would radically expand the Fifth Amendment's protections against governmental takings of private property.
Although no hard evidence exists, it is believed that MPRA is at least connected with Anti-Conservation groups operating on the national level. One indication is the invitation to a recent $200 a plate MPRA fundraiser. The dinner featured Richard Epstein, the University of Chicago Law Professor considered by some to be the Anti-Conservation Movement's ideological guru. Professor Epstein has written and lectured on the theory that modern day federal claims to public lands are constitutionally suspect, thereby giving Anti-Conservationists a veneer of legitimacy and credibility.


Named for its triangular shape, Northeastern Minnesota is the scene of the great majority of Anti-Conservation activity in the state, and in the entire Midwest. That area is home to such organizations as Conservationists With Common Sense, the Greater Northland Coalition and the Northern Counties Land Use Coordinating Board (NCLUCB). Conservationists with Common Sense are led by Tod Indehar. The group's primary focus is opening up Voyageurs/BWCAW to more motorized uses. They advocate greatly expanding motorized access to these areas, including access for snowmobiles, motor boats, motorized portages and float planes.
The Greater Northern Coalition, based in International Falls, is another reactionary voice in the Voyageurs debate. The group advocates turning over Voyageurs National Park to county ownership, or at a minimum downgrading Voyageurs from National Park status to a Recreation Area. This would open the area for hunting, logging and mining and would allow complete access for motor boats, float planes, house boats and snowmobiles, all of which are currently limited, if not prohibited altogether.
Also involved in the effort to expand motorized "multiple use" in Voyageurs are two groups whose interests are obvious from their names - the United Snowmobile Association (USA) and its local affiliate, the Minnesota USA. What is not as obvious as the names is the corporate support both enjoy from snowmobile manufacturers. A truck load of Skidoo snowmobiles was dispatched Congressional field hearings on the Voyageurs/BWCAW issue held in International Falls, Minnesota in August, 1995. The NCLUCB is both a manifestation of, and a driving force behind, the counties movement - Minnesota style. It is the brainchild of Don Parmeter, owner of Northern Resources Center in International Falls, a paid consultant to the member counties on the issues of land use restrictions and government trends. NCLUCB's current membership consists of representatives, many of them elected or appointed officials, of St. Louis, Lake, Cook, Lake of the Woods, Koochiching, Itasca, Clearwater, Marshal and Pennington Counties - the counties in the north central and north eastern part of Minnesota known as Arrowhead Country or the Mesabi iron range. Its organizational purpose is to help counties fight restrictive wetland protection legislation, state and federal forestry regulations and federal land management. The preferred tactic is to advocate not for repeal or modification of federal regulations, but for turning federal lands over to local authority on the theory that local decision makers will act to protect both local resources and local economic interests. This tactic is lifted directly from the so-called Catron County ordinances which seek to criminalize the job duties of federal employees carrying out federal laws on federal lands. While this deference to local decision making sounds appealing and reasonable, as practiced in Catron County it leads to armed confrontations between local citizens and federal employees attempting to enforce laws designed to protect habitats and species deemed worth saving for the benefit of all Americans. Although proclaiming a dislike for the Wise Use name, Parmeter is credited with bringing the National Federal Lands Conference, a collection of out-of-state Anti-Conservation activists, to Hibbing in 1993 to help train NCLUCB representatives on drafting and attempting to implement Catron County ordinances. No county has yet adopted such an ordinance, but Koochiching County has produced a detailed 16 page draft of a "County Resource Management Plan." Appendix C. Parmeter also has connections with the Blue Ribbon Coalition, the Idaho-based organization dedicated to opening public lands for "multiple use" activities - i.e. unrestricted motorized vehicle access regardless of its consequences. Other Anti-Conservation activities in Minnesota include generalized discontent with comprehensive planning, primarily in rural counties; refusal by individual property owners to allow access to their land for gathering land use survey data, and to the inclusion of that data in studies or recommendations; and organizing in opposition to regulations along the St. Croix River (a nationally designated Wild and Scenic River) designed to prevent erosion from boat wakes and limit the spread of zebra mussels, an invading european fresh water mussel currently spreading to lakes and streams in the upper Midwest. Given the amount of Anti-Conservation activity in Minnesota it is perhaps surprising that a takings law has not been enacted. During the 1994 legislative session, the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation sponsored an unsuccessful bill which would have compensated for regulatory reductions in property value of 25% or more. In the current, 1995 session, a bill calling for the Attorney General to study proposed legislation for takings implications and requiring compensation for reductions in value of 20% or more died without a hearing in a Senate committee. No other Anti-Conservation activity has been identified on the legislative front.
The only core activist in Minnesota identified by the Alliance for America is Howard Hanson, of Minneapolis - a name that did not come up in researching this paper.


Identifiable, organized Anti-Conservation activity is minimal in Iowa. However, the issue of wetland designation may provide a rallying point that will change that. Iowa's efforts to identify and protect wetlands have met with the same opposition encountered elsewhere - skepticism, resentment and outright defiance. A personal embodiment of that sentiment is Charles Gunn. Mr. Gunn farms in Greene County, about 40 miles west of Ames in west central Iowa. He is currently embroiled in a dispute with the state over farming wetlands.
An initial inventory of Mr. Gunn's property identified six acres as wetlands with attendant protections. Later, a more thorough inventory increased the protected area to twenty acres, and Mr. Gunn sued. His case is not resolved, but he has gained the attention of Iowa Congressman Chuck Grassley. Grassley is a sponsor of the Federal Farm Bill, which includes a section addressing property rights.
The Iowa legislature has considered takings legislation, as well. A bill was introduced in the 1994 session, but did not pass. As introduced it would have required compensation for a diminution in value of 50% or more. The house amended it to be applicable only to agricultural land and passed it in that form. In the Senate it was championed by Senator and farmer Berl Priebe, influential chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee. The bill passed easily out of committee. However, a strong bipartisan opposition formed in the full Senate and the bill was never brought to the floor for a vote. Hog farming and its economic, environmental and even social impacts is a major issue. These topics converge in the debate over growth and concentration (not a contradiction in terms) in the hog industry. Huge feedlot operations hold out the questionable promise of steady jobs in agriculture. In return they bring millions of gallons of manure annually and a threat to a traditional lifestyle highly valued by many rural Iowans. Legislative activity concerning hog farming has been expressed in laws regulating hog manure. Those who view expansions and concentration as a threat to health, safety and the environment fear that recent legislation does not go far enough in regulating manure management plans, land spreading and spraying, numbers and sizes of expansions and distances from surface water. And now new proposals, akin to Wisconsin's Right to Farm bill, would exempt livestock managers from nuisance suits if they are obeying applicable laws. One predictable effect of such a law would be uncompensated reductions in property values attributable "only" to the odors emanating from multi-million gallon ponds of manure. Rural grassroots groups have been organized and are resisting the threat to their way of life posed by so-called modern hog farming. They will surely need persistence and plenty of support; the President of the American Farm Bureau Federation is Dean Kleckner, an Iowa hog and cattle farmer. Apparently Mr. Kleckner is not considered sufficiently active by the Alliance for America, which identifies Donald Lammers, of Graettinger, as the only Iowan in its directory of core activists.


Missouri is noteworthy as the state in which a self-identified Anti-Conservation group used a classic Anti-Conservation tactic to organize support for a classic Anti-Conservation issue - and failed miserably. The Mark Twain National Forest covers 1.5 million acres of the Ozark Mountains in south central and southeastern Missouri. Lead mining is conducted in the Mark Twain National Forest by, among others, the Doe Run Mining Company. Not long after proposals were made to change certain use designations and create an 800 mile system of trails for off-road vehicle use, six local chapters of People for the West!, a national Anti-Conservation group based in Colorado, appeared in and around Iron and Reynolds Counties very near the heart of Missouri's lead mining belt. Creating an off road motorized vehicle trail would have benefitted those who enjoy four-wheeling and riding all terrain vehicles (ATVs), but could only have been accomplished by rolling back restrictions on permitted activities in the National Forest - the first step down a slippery slope of deregulation by redesignation, leading to greatly expanded mining and logging. Small wonder, then, that the "local" supporters of the trail proposal turned out to be financed with $40,000 from Doe Run Mining. In fact, upon close inspection it became apparent that five of the local People For the West! groups were headed by employees of Doe Run, and the sixth by the wife of a chief engineer with the company. In addition to being a blatant corporate tool, the Missouri chapters of People For the West! made a critical organizing error. They claimed to represent local opinion without bothering to learn what that opinion was. People For the West! apparently expected to find fertile ideological ground for its message of opening up the Forest to motorized use. What they overlooked was that, while this proposal was indeed popular among off-road enthusiasts from the St. Louis area, it had few local supporters. An opposing group calling itself Citizens to Protect Public Land arose and had no trouble tapping into the true local sentiment. The groundswell which resulted from their work not only prevented off-road vehicle use in the Forest; it also effectively killed People For the West! in Missouri. Except for one small local chapter still being run by a Doe Run employee, People For the West! has not been seriously heard from in Missouri since mid-1994.
Anti-Conservationism has not fared much better in achieving its legislative agenda in Missouri. A radical takings compensation bill originally proposed by the Missouri Farm Bureau Federation passed both houses of the legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Mel Carnahan. A subsequent assessment bill has been enacted which requires analysis of proposed bills to determine whether they constitute a taking under the total loss of economic value test found in the Lucas v South Carolina case. This law contains a three-year sunset clause; it will expire unless specifically renewed by the legislature.
The Missouri Legislature has also dealt with Audit Privilege legislation. A bill based on similar bills in Colorado and Indiana was introduced in the 1994 session, but died in committee. It has been reintroduced in the 1995 session, and faces substantial opposition.
The Alliance for America identifies Bernard Kertz, of Huntsville, as the Executive Director of its Midwest Region, and further names Ray E. Cunio, of Sullivan, as another core activist.


Chicago aside, Illinois is a predominantly agricultural state. And, except for the extreme southern part of the state, there is very little federal public land. Perhaps this combination of factors partly explains why Anti-Conservationism per se is not readily apparent in Illinois. The Illinois Farm Bureau Federation has been known to employ Anti-Conservation rhetoric, and within the past year held a conference which included speakers and presentations on property rights on its agenda. It is quite possible that the lack of a federal public lands issue and the perennial strength of the Illinois Farm Bureau, with its unyielding support of mainstream agricultural interests, makes it unnecessary for new Anti-Conservation groups to attempt to organize in Illinois - the Farm Bureau is already carrying the water. Or perhaps the lack of formal, specific Anti-Conservation activity has something to do with the upstate (Chicago)/downstate dichotomy of interests in the legislature. Whatever the reason, there is no apparent effort underway to rollback existing environmental regulations. The legislature is considering a takings assessment bill this session, but compensation is not on the table. A proposal to prohibit defamation of agricultural products failed to make it to a vote, and audit privilege has not been considered.
Charles Cawley, of Esmond, is the only Alliance for America core activist in Illinois.


The Alliance for America identifies no core activists in Ohio, and this squares with the reports of local observers. No groups are organized or vocal enough to have been noticed as bearers of the property rights banner. In fact, it may be that heavy development pressure throughout the state is focusing public attention on environmental issues and increasing support for them. This seems to be a cumulative awareness; as wetlands and forests continue to be lost to development, appreciation increases for the importance of what little remains. But this is not to say that Anti-Conservation goals are not being pursued. The Legislature is the forum in which the Anti-Conservation agenda is being advanced: takings and audit privilege bills are under consideration; a proposal has been introduced to classify and rank wetlands for protection purposes; an inaptly named anti-degradation bill (actually a proposal to weaken the existing anti-degradation law) would actually allow more water pollution; commercial loggers want to maintain and expand operations in the Mohican State Forest; and Ohio agricultural products now enjoy special protection against defamation. An assessment bill has been introduced which would require evaluation of any law, regulation, or ordinance for takings implications. It does not include a compensation provision, but would conceivably require additional expense for government to perform this new assessment function. This bill enjoys the support of those who back similar legislation all across the country including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Chemical Council, the homebuilders trade association, the realtors trade association - in short, the usual Anti-Conservation suspects. It is opposed by environmental and conservation groups, and municipalities of all sizes. It is currently in committee with activity expected in the spring of 1996. Many of the same interests support an audit privilege bill which would provide immunity from civil prosecution for violations discovered by a voluntary internal environmental audit. Criminal prosecutions for reckless and knowing violations would not be barred. The extent to which this bill has been crafted to suit polluters is perhaps best illustrated by a provision which would authorize criminal prosecution of any employee who releases or publicizes information protected by this privilege. In effect, polluters receive partial protection from responsibility for their acts, but an employee who discloses a threat to health or safety is subject to prosecution.
In Ohio, state forests are few, far between and shrinking. A bill has been introduced to protect one of them, the Mohican State Forest, from further depletion by commercial logging. Opposition to this bill has come from an odd assortment of interest groups, including the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Meade Corporation (a paper company), the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Ohio chapter of the Society of American Foresters and the Ohio Horsemen's Council. The proposal is supported by the Sierra Club, Rivers Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, among other environmental interests.
Water quality and wetlands protections have also received their share of attention from Ohio Anti-Conservation sympathizers. Current anti-degradation provisions in the law provides standards for discharges to surface water designed to prevent further damage to receiving waters. A proposal now under consideration would amend the anti-degradation law to allow reduced, rather than increased water quality protections. Wetland protection faces an uncertain future in Ohio. A bill is being considered that would reduce current protections, classifying all wetlands into one of a handful of categories. These classes would then be ordered in terms of the degree of protections afforded each class, ranging from little or no protection, through loss tempered by mitigation, to total preservation. Opponents of this classification system fear that it will be used by its chief sponsors - the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and the professional associations representing home builders, realtors and contractors, to minimize both the protections available and the number of wetlands deemed worth protecting. Another legislative initiative designed to muzzle environmentalists and consumer advocates has recently been enacted into law. Ohioans still have the free speech right to warn their fellow citizens of health and safety threats posed by agricultural products. But unless they can satisfy a very high burden of proof they can be sued for defamation by agricultural interests whose reputations or profits are threatened. The chilling effect of this law is unmistakable, as is its message - don't mess with agriculture and its agri-business allies.
Finally, and beyond the halls of the legislature, Ohio has a modestly active militia. The focus of its attention has been the creation of its own court system. These courts purportedly are accountable only to the people, owing neither deference nor allegiance to government at any level. Being singularly disdainful of any sort of governmental authority, the militia has not been a player in the political debates surrounding the legislative issues outlined above.