The Concept Zero Task Force worked hard to convince our elected officials that a legislative
safety net for LBL was needed. We provided a list of concerns we felt must be addressed in such
a legislation. As it became obvious that LBL was either going to be left with TVA as surplus
property, or be transferred to another agency pronto, the legislation was hurried through. Expediency
required political streamlining more than incorporating the historical vision of LBL. As a result,
while we are grateful the legislation passed in time, we still believe changes to that legislation
must be made if it is to reflect the actual needs of the LBL and the promises made by the federal
government in exchange for removing families from ancestral homes and farms. What follows is a summary
of the changes we are promoting and the issues that surround them. If you have any questions,
or comments, please contact us.
As an alternative to the aphorism "If it ain’t broke; don’t fix it," we suggest, "If it is giving clear signs of becoming broke; take effective preventive action promptly."
In the wording, and/or Forest Service interpretations, of the LBL Protection Act, [LBLPA] the things that urgently need effective preventive action include:
The Mission – Since eminent domain was invoked to acquire the land that became LBL, the government’s obligation to remain faithful to the purposes for which the land was taken must not be ignored, forgotten or rescinded by congressional action. The LBLPA sounds as though it codifies recommitment to the traditional mission, but then dismantles it piece by piece. For example, environmental education is not even mentioned as a primary purpose of LBL.
The Law of the Land – Our federal land management agencies should comply with all relevant legislation and regulations in a manner that is exemplary. The LBLPA, in effect, provides a pardon in advance for the USFS actions claimed to come within TVA’s 1994 Resource Management Plan. A much more desirable situation is for citizens to expend their energies and other resources in assisting these agencies to develop better management practices – rather that suing or otherwise challenging them in order to force them to comply with the spirit and the letter of relevant existing legislation.
The Demonstration Role – Even by the early 1960s, when LBL was established, there was already a plethora of "national recreation areas" – both public and private. The demonstration clause of the TVA Act [§ 22] was expressly invoked to provide an alternative to the over-development that, by then, had already routinely become "ticky-tacky."
Cultural and Biological Diversity – Since LBL was established, a great many convincing scientific studies regarding the necessity of our preserving and enhancing natural biological diversity have come to the fore. Paralleling this development, the sociological evidence supporting comparable efforts aimed at preserving and enhancing our cultural diversity has also gained increasing support and credence.
Environmental Education – Although what was then called conservation education was among the primary purposes for which LBL was established, the programs at LBL have, in recent years, become less innovative and far more expensive. LBL’s claim to leadership in this field is seldom mentioned, much less taken seriously. Consequently, we should re-allocate, our resources and focus them on enlightened leadership in environmental education. LBL is ideally suited to becoming a unique and unsurpassed outdoor laboratory for achieving this goal. Programs for diverse age and interest groups should utilize the best available scientific findings, and feature "hands-on" participation in the restoration process.
Commercialization – Several congressional actions, such as the "fee demo" program have effectively abandoned the time-honored principle our federal recreation areas’ being accessible to all the citizens regardless of ability to pay. Commercialization within LBL not only makes a mockery of the assurances given to the former residents, but also puts the federal government into direct, and totally unnecessary, competition with private entrepreneurs within the surrounding region. Consequently, we must consider, consistent with the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act, all reasonable alternatives to the "business as usual" approach which, in the case of LBL, squanders both our financial and our moral capital.
Funding – In its zeal to provide the appearance of fiscal responsibility, congress has resorted to some creative accounting practices, and also has provided the land management agencies with a powerful incentive to increase user fees and extraction of natural resources via mining, timber harvest, etc. This action tends to ensure at least three unfortunate outcomes:
a) fewer natural areas will be preserved;
b) the funding mechanism will be much less equitable than the taxes that have traditionally
funded these areas; and the wants of the more affluent recreators will take precedence over the
needs of the less affluent ones.
Consequently, we must work together in finding more equitable means of funding while insisting on management that is both professional and frugal.
The Biosphere Reserve – The LBL Area Biosphere Reserve was established in 1991 after several years of concerted effort by key LBL staff and, later, by citizens who officially and unofficially helped to determine the nature of the reserve. At the national and international levels, such Biopshere Reserves are an essential component of the monitoring and evaluation process not otherwise available to our scientific community. Consequently, we must recommit to the purposes for which the reserve was established and work together in resolving any conflicts and/or misunderstanding that arise.
Owners or Customers – An unfortunate habit exhibited by some federal employees is their reference to the citizens who employ them as "customers." This practice indicates their lack of understanding of who pays the piper. It also tends to erode the widely held belief that our federal agencies should be busily engaged in complementing private enterprises; not going into intense and/or unfair competition with them.
In a significant decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that, "It is not the duty of
the government to keep the citizens from error; it is the duty of the citizens to keep their
government from error." Do your duty!