Preserving Open Space or Hunting?


The land preservation and hunting communities both want to preserve open space, wetlands, and forests, but with major differences in purpose. The former group wants to protect the land for the health of the environment and wildlife; the latter group wants to have places to hunt.

While hunters are complaining that they have to travel farther and farther from home to find places where they are welcome, land trusts in suburban communities work with state and federal agencies, as well as national organizations such as the Trust for Public Lands, The Nature Conservancy and/or the National Audubon Society to gain funding for the preservation of open space in those same areas. Is land preservation a noble gesture on the part of the agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? In my view, often the grants are to support hunting interests.

A Sept. 29, 2005 press release from TNC’s Arkansas chapter states:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will acquire 1,440 acres of land from The Nature Conservancy to add to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas – home to the recently rediscovered Ivory-bill Woodpecker and a host of other wildlife species.

The successful history of conservation in the Big Woods of Arkansas is a result of great partnerships – federal and state agencies working with other organizations, local communities, hunters and landowners, said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. And this addition to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is the latest success story – one that will add habitat for waterfowl as well as the ivory-bill and other species that live in these magnificent woods.

The restoration of the entire corridor of the Cache River is extremely important to the habitat of many wildlife species, not only the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission director Scott Henderson said. This purchase gives outdoorsmen more opportunity to enjoy the natural resources of Arkansas, he added.

Some observers feel that the still unconfirmed Ivory billed Woodpecker sightings could have been a ploy on the part of TNC and government agencies to acquire grants and donations for land acquisition in Arkansas.

According to an article in the Views section of Fox Online by Steven Milloy who publishes and, and is an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: “Only time will tell whether the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is, in fact, extinct, but one thing is certain — the fanfare announcing these now suspect sightings was way overblown. And it’s worth noting that the beneficiaries of all this hoopla were also the ones behind it.

The search to “find” the Ivorybilled Woodpecker was organized, supported and launched by The Nature Conservancy. The subsequent “find” was announced and widely publicized by the Nature Conservancy.

Now according to Jackson’s article, [see] it seems the Nature Conservancy also stands to benefit substantially from its own “discovery,” possibly to the tune of $10.2 million federal dollars and hundreds of thousands of acres in Arkansas.”

Later Milloy adds: The Nature Conservancy says on its web site that it ‘has helped protect more than 120,000 acres of [eastern Arkansas forests], and is now aiming to conserve and restore an additional 200,000 acres of forest – vital habitat for the ivorybilled woodpecker…’

Opening the land to hunting is highly risky for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (if it exists). CNN Science & Technology reported: Logging and hunting caused the birds’ severe decline to near extinction, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Yet TNC “protected” lands, where the Ivory-billed Woodpecker may (or may not) be, are open to hunting.

In Connecticut, where I head a land trust, TNC has formed The Land Trust Service Bureau (LTSB).

The TNC website says that “The LTSB works to improve the operational capabilities of Connecticut land trusts by providing current technical information and offering assistance and guidance….Land trusts protect natural areas and open space in their local communities.

In Connecticut, there are 115 trusts with more than 39,000 members. Together they protect over 62,000 acres of valuable open space…. The LTSB is able to draw on the expertise of The Nature Conservancy staff who have access to informational resources and extensive experience with land protection, stewardship and fundraising.”

Part of the program involves offering land trust leaders “certification.” The program includes a section on how to behave ethically. TNC sends out chastising notes implying that land trust officers, not TNC, have been behaving badly and TNC can help them clear their names. It’s both laughable and sad considering that favors for their officers included giving donation status to money actually given by executives for prime property bought by TNC.

I suggest that you read a Washington Post series on the Nature Conservancy’s way of doing business (David B. Ottaway and Joe Stevens, reporters).

What is infuriating to most land trusts is that they are practically forced to join the marketing arms of the national groups or they are ostracized, and state grants may not be available to them because they are not being “team players.”

Most land trusts are small and cannot afford the insurance policies offered by The Nature Conservancy, nor are they told the following:

52-557F TO 52-557I:

A landowner who makes all or any part of the land available to the public without charge, rent, fee or other commercial service owes no duty to keep the land, or part thereof so made available, safe for entry or use by others for recreational purposes, or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity on the land to persons entering for recreational purposes.

52-557h-Owner liable, when nothing in sections 52-557f to 52-557i, inclusive, limits in any way the liability of any owner of land which otherwise exists:

(1)For willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a dangerous condition, use structure or activity

(2) for injury suffered in a case where the owner of land charges the person or persons who enter or go on the land for the recreational use thereof, any consideration received by the owner for the lease shall not be deemed a charge within the meaning of this section.

(3)52-577i Obligations of user of land Nothing in sections
52-557f to 52-557i, inclusive, shall be construed to relieve any person using the land of another for recreational purposes from any obligation which he may have in the absence of said sections to exercise care in his use of such land and in his activities thereon, or from legal consequences of failure to employ such care.

We suggest that you check your own state’s statutes with regard to liability.

TNC insists you buy from their insurance company which I’ve found to be higher than others.

Further, you must sign off on their getting your properties should your trust go out of business.

As someone who cares about wild animals and has given up many evenings, events, and personal income to support the land trust I head, I am not only insulted but disgusted, especially as I watch TNC become more and more an arm of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, using the land for certain members to go in a field with trained falcons, bows and arrows, and guns of all kinds. There’s something wrong!

We recently discovered that if a land trust has taken money from the state to purchase open space, game agencies can demand Sunday hunting on those properties. What most land trusts don’t realize is that help in getting funding comes at a price.

What appears to be a “helping hand” from these large groups is often extended, palms up, to the federal government, which gives them our tax money. Despite protests that these groups don’t make money on the acquisitions, they do. It’s just that they no longer think of federal funding as taxpayer’s money!

States receive federal grants to participate in such acquisitions, taking not only a fee right off the top, but often demanding the deed for the property.

Millions of acres are in preservation nationwide, the most recently targeted areas are coastal wetlands, perfect for hunting waterfowl.

Just one example of how the taxpayer pays for open space is the following: A generous person in a town bordering the Long Island Sound recently gave my local land trust 100+ acres and was going to give the trust another 65 adjacent acres, all free.

Our former town mayor contacted The Trust for Public Lands which then offered the donor $1.5 million. The donor naturally accepted that offer which was paid for by State and Federal grants, when it could have cost nothing. Of course TPL got their cut, a “donation.”

To add insult to injury, the land will soon be open to hunting! You can contact me for more details.

What started out as a well meaning movement to protect our natural heritage and control sprawl in a world more and more fragmented, has become a wish list for hunters.

The “open space” we are so proud of wasn’t paid for with the dwindling hunting license fees or gun money, it was paid for with our tax money.

Before the next election, get to know the candidates and the issues. Your vote is important, your voice is important. Don’t just send in your tax payments, get involved and be a part of the solution….you have paid for that right.

Also, get to know where the large environmental groups stand on hunting in all that “open space” they are “preserving.”

In 2003, Lesli Besgould reported in Act-ion Line of Friends of Animals: Hunting is bad enough when it is done on private property or government controlled land, but the offense is even greater when it is permitted by a non-profit whose very mandate is to protect nature, and which banks on the public trust, enjoying important tax and other financial benefits intended to support its mission.

Well, the cat is out of the bag: As we were going to print, a member called to tell us about the Autumn 2006 issue of TNC’s magazine. Please see:; “I can’t imagine not working with hunters and anglers—our shared values are too great.” Tom Cassidy, Director of Federal Programs, The Nature Conservancy.

E.L. Eidolon is president of a successful land conservation organization that has never used state or federal monies to acquire significant properties.

In the  past, Eidolon was vice president of a statewide lake association, working to clean up pollution and monitor waters, working with the State Environmental agency. Eidolon’s writings on waterfowl and the disgraceful condition of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and other heavily-funded, but obviously not working, clean-up programs have appeared in newspapers throughout the country.

From the ALT website: Deer hunting is the only form of hunting permitted on ALT lands. (Please see Deer Hunting Rationalization.) This includes archery and firearms unless otherwise noted. Tree stands can be used for archery hunting, but only if they are portable and designed to have no impact to trees. Portable stands must be removed after each use. Damage to trees by tree stands will not be tolerated. PA Game Law and local ordinances apply in all cases. Any hunter using ALT lands is requested to become a member of the Allegheny Land Trust. Hunters are encouraged to report violations to the Allegheny Land Trust and/or the PA Game Commission.


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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561