The Chronological Update

Wherein You Will Find a Running Update of Events Affecting the LBL

(This chronicle will be updated as events unfold. If there are events from prior to its beginning date you would like to see included let us know. You may do so by
clicking here.)

LBL is Transferred to the National Forest Service!

TVA Board Releases Principles for Managing the LBL

TVA receives funding for LBL for 1999

LBL Bill buried in Omnibus bill

LBL Bill attached as Rider

Concept Zero works to amend the LBL Bill

The LBL Protection Act of 1998 is released

2/98: LBL as a Political Football

1/98: Crowell and Tanner Announce Funding for '99

1/98: Concept Zero Offers Input on LBL Legislation

11/97: Whitfield Holds Public Meeting in Grand Rivers: Legislation Proposed!

LBL is Transferred to the National Forest Service!

In a last minute move Congress eliminated funding for all of TVA's non-power programs, which included LBL. Because the hastily constructed "LBL Protection Act" was in place this automatically transferred management of the LBL to the National Forest Service.

The transfer took effect October 31, 1999, though a one year transfer period is in effect. During this transfer period TVA is being phased out and the Forest Service is bringing their management team and policies into place.

The LBL Protection Act was put together in anticipation of the funding battle finally ending in a loss of funds for TVA's management of LBL. TVA had been under attack for ideological reasons that had little to do with the crisis at LBL. TVA Chairman Craven Crowell had actually requested that funding for the non-power programs be ended, much to the dismay of TVA's Congressional supporters.

Most observers speculated that this was a move to free TVA from the only oversight Congress had over these programs--the funding process. Without the constraints imposed by Congressional funding, TVA would have been free to declare LBL a "surplus property" and the way would have been cleared for unlimited development of the LBL. (LBL is the most valuable real estate in this part of the United States, with over 300 miles of shoreline and 170,000 acres of timber, but it was taken by use and/or threat of eminent domain for the purpose of protecting the land from ever increasing development pressures.)

Because the LBL Protection Act was hastily put together, it contains many flaws. In short, it not only does not adequately protect the LBL from commercial development, in the long run it would likely necessitate it!

Concept Zero will continue the fight to protect the LBL from commercial development. Our efforts will continue on many fronts, including the effort to get the LBL Protection Act amended so that adequate long term protection is in place. Please check with us for more information as this crisis unfolds.

If land forcibly taken from private citizens for the sake of protection from development cannot be shielded from commercial pressures, is there any hope that any natural place will be left for future generations?

TVA Board Releases "Principles for Management of the LBL"

In an earlier reference to the increasing gap between the TVA/LBL rhetoric and performance, we used the title, The pain is in the BUT. Recent events have provided no reason for us to change the assessment implicit in that title.

BACKGROUND - When LBL proposed its now infamous five preliminary concepts, as a part of the public use planning schedule required by NEPA, the proposed mission leap was so apparent and egregious, and the public response so prompt and vigorous, that all five of the concepts were "officially" withdrawn. The Concept Zero Task Force, which had spearheaded the resistance with assistance from environmental groups such as Sierra and from former residence of the area now known as LBL, was inundated with congratulatory messages stating, in essence, "You should be proud; you won!" Keep this concept in mind.

Despite its long-term policy of allowing no discussion of items not listed, in advance, on the printed agenda, the TVA Board of Directors, at its most recent meeting, introduced, and passed, its resolution regarding management of LBL. The substantive portion, following the perfunctory whereas list, consisted of the six principles enumerated, and briefly discussed, here.

1. TVA WILL CONTINUE TO MANAGE LBL AS A NATIONAL RECREATION AREA. In fact, LBL is not an official NRA; it is what we call a lower case national recreation area. But we can conclude from this "principle, that Crowell and Company have, once again, turned 180 degrees and now insist they are committed to managing LBL. Implicit is TVA's assumption TVA must gain sufficient public (and congressional) support to prevent LBL's being transferred to the Forest Service when, or if, the so-called LBL Protection Act is triggered. To fully understand this, we must recognize the devil is so often in the details.

2. TVA WILL NOT COMMERCIALIZE LBL. While LBL was aborning, in the early 1960s, the TVA Board committed to a policy of "no commercialization in the future; therefore, none left from the past." It is not difficult to determine from related documents, what the term commercialization meant, in the context it was used at that time. Not permissible, under this unique policy, were small stores, food service, equipment rental, and harvesting of agricultural and/or forest crops for sale. $800,000/year in timber sales is not commercialization? The devil is in the details.

3. TVA WILL NOT SELL ANY LAND - Throughout the Valley, TVA has become notorious for "speculation via eminent domain;" so it affords moderate comfort to see this commitment in print. As we recall the preliminary concepts which were "officially withdrawn, and are now being implemented; we are again made uneasy by TVA's proposal to lease land within LBL. In Concept #2, for instance, up to 17,000 acres of choice lakeshore property could have been leased for private use and development. The distinction between sales and 99 year leases, in terms of the public's access to lands they own, seems to us to be a distinction without a difference. The devil is in the details.

4. TVA WILL MAINTAIN FREE ENTRANCE TO LBL - Ain't that grand! TVA does not plan to barricade the state and federal roads transecting LBL; and it does not plan to establish a shoreline patrol of its more than 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline to prevent immigration from the "opposite shores." Those familiar with the so-called fee demonstration program have little difficulty anticipating the increased number and amount of the fees charged for hiking, camping, bird watching, mushroom gathering, photography, and other usufructuary uses of the resources at LBL. The devil is in the details.

5. TVA WILL FORMALLY RECOGNIZE THE HERITAGE OF PAST RESIDENTS AND WILL PROTECT CEMETERIES WITHIN LBL - Translation, "NAGPRA and other federal laws, not to mention common decency, require that we do this. We have not fulfilled this obligation, in fact, we burned the churches once the rabble were forced out, but now we prefer to avoid additional lawsuits." If the cultural resources are to be "protected" in a manner similar to the way in which the natural resources are being protected, we have great cause for concern; the devil is in the details.

6. TVA WILL MAINTAIN THE NATURAL CHARACTER OF LBL - During this fiscal year, LBL plans to harvest 4.8 million board feet of timber (about one third more than the nearby Shawnee National Forest which is one third larger than LBL). This logging is admittedly focused upon increasing the amount of oak and hickory at the expense of the commercially less valuable tree species - and the wildlife species which depend upon them. The proposed "work areas," in which the logging will be done, include buffer zones of the Biosphere Reserve (some of which have the potential for being reclassified as core areas), lake shoreline (where the bald eagles typically nest), and habitat for endangered gray bats. In short, the forest is being irrevocably fragmented at the same time the necessity for ensuring large tracts of unfragmented forest for the neotropical birds and other species has become so unequivocal. The devil is in the details.

Now, it is time to recall the concept we asked you to keep in mind. Once again, we are receiving kudos (and other signs of admiration). Usually the phrasing is something like, "Wow! They [the TVA/LBL administration] seem to have accepted every one of the arguments you have been making; you should be proud." Sadly, the devil really is in the details.

Much as we enjoy expressions of appreciation, we urge members of the Sierra Club who wish to help ensure a better future for LBL to contact their senators and representatives.

TVA Receives Funding for One More Year at LBL

With lawmakers steadfastly opposing ANY funding for TVA's "non-power" programs--of which LBL is a tiny part--Senator Ford, a last term Democrat from Kentucky, brought a compromise to the floor at the last possible hour. As a result, TVA received funding for, at least, one more year of management at the LBL. This prevents the new LBL Protection Act, which transfers the LBL to the Forest Service if TVA does not get funding, from taking effect.
It also gives those who care about the future of the LBL one more year to work out some way to fend off the intense pressures from development groups.
It is our understanding that the last minute funding for TVA's non-power programs was largely an effort by Al Gore, who is a long-time TVA defender. (Gore has, as yet, never taken a position on the LBL.)
This leaves the LBL between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." If it is allowed to stay with TVA, they are likely to continue with their development plans--even though they do not have full and clear authority to do so. If it transfers to the Forest Service, they will have full and clear authority to develop the LBL. Not only will they be allowed to, they will be required to.
The best we can say of the current situation is that we have a few more months to fend off the exploiters.

The LBL Protection Act of 1998 is Buried in the Omnibus Spending Bill

The LBL Protection Act of 1998 was buried in with hundreds of other bills in the last minute Omnibus Spending Bill. Due to Congress being absorbed in what they considered to be more pressing "affairs," Congress had not been able to put together a coherent package to send to the president. As a result a huge Omnibus bill was put together and sent to the President's desk.

Lacking the power of the line-item-veto, Clinton was faced with the dilemma of either vetoing the entire package, which would have shut down the government, or signing the entire package.

As a result, the LBL Protection Act is now law. For better or for worse. Several minor changes were made to the bill as it went into the Omnibus package.

The good changes include:

  • A rewording of the provision to protect the cemeteries within the LBL. The original version required the Secretary of the Interior to "Inventory" the cemeteries; which is a terminology used to indicate that the federal government would be taking over the cemeteries. This was unacceptable to the over 900 families who still maintain strong ties to their ancestral homes. They have always done all maintenance and continued to use the cemeteries, thinking of them as their last solid tie to Between the Rivers.
    The original version also designated that the Forest Service would "maintain" access to the cemeteries. This was also unacceptable. One of the original promises made by the federal government was "perpetual access" to the cemeteries. Many of the cemeteries had become inaccessible in the last few years; maintaining the existing level of access was unacceptable.
    The LBL law now states that the Secretary shall "maintain" an inventory--which indicates an ongoing record--and shall "assure access" to the cemeteries--which mandates that access be restored.

  • The Hematite Dam must be repaired. Hematite Lake was a very popular wildlife habitat within the Wildlife Refuge which was begun by the residents, beginning about 1900, as a community project without government assistance. This may well be the only example of such a community effort any where in the U.S. Those from Between the Rivers consider the refuge to be a continuing legacy to the unique values and culture they strive to pass to coming generations. As such, the refuge is of particular significance as a cultural resource of the former residents.
    Due to neglect, the dam at Hematite lake failed last year, draining one of the more significant wildlife resources in the LBL. Due to public outcry generated by an article on the dam's failure by the Courier-Journal, a provision was added to the LBL bill that required TVA to repair the dam within one year of the transfer of the LBL to the Forest Service.

  • All records must be returned to the LBL. The provision for this was strenghened in the final version. This is significant because many of the early records of the acquisition and management decisions at the LBL had been moved to other locations. Efforts to begin a full-scale research project once the LBL issue settles out are coming together.

There were also some changes made which were not so favorable. These include:

  • Original wording regarding "desirable non-native species" and other environmental concerns were slipped back in. Efforts had been made to alter some of the language--including language that excluded the Forest Service from existing environmental regulations--from the bill. In the version that was on the floor much of the sought after changes had been made. The version that became law had much of the original language back in place. It is our fear that this will create legal openings for actions that will then be very difficult for the public to correct.

  • The "Advisory Board" made up of citizens from the local area was modified, again. While the law does remove the ability of the Forest Service to "terminate" the existence of this board at their earliest convenience (as in the original version), it also turns the board's membership into a collection of political appointees, rather than representatives of the various interest groups. But, more significantly, the LBL Protection Act now limits what the citizen's board can advise about. The board may advise on promotion and environmental education; but NOT on issues of that have generated the public outcry about the current management of the LBL.

There are also MANY components of the law that have remained in place in spite of the public's concerns.

  • If the Tennessee Valley Authority fails to get Congressional funding of at least $6 million, the LBL transfers to another agency. This is good. Unfortunately, it transfers to the Forest Service.
    Concept Zero has steadfastly refused to jump in the local battle over which agency should manage the LBL, insisting, instead, that HOW it is managed is more important that who manages it.
    There are several components in the bill that create a less than desirable context for the transfer to occur. One of the most significant is the "LBL Fund."

  • The LBL Fund is established by the new law. All revenues generated by the Forest Service from within the LBL are to be deposited in this fund, for use by the LBL management for salaries and operating expenses. At first glance this sounds good--money raised here stays here.
    But the law designates that the management is to operate the LBL from this fund "without further act of appropriation." In short, Congress is opting to no longer fund the LBL, in spite of any obligation they took on when they forced unwiling landowners from their homes, and will require the LBL to generate enough revenues to run itself. This is exactly what TVA proposed that generated all the local outcry!
    Even this would not be so bad, if there were limits included on how revenues could be generated, or what they could be expended on. Instead, not only will the Forest Service log the largest block of hardwood forest between the Rockies and the Alleghenies, they are allowed to enter into lease agreements with corporations for development of "recreation facilites." No definition is provided for what counts as appropriate recreation in the largest forest in the central U.S.
    Give any bureaucracy control over the most valuable resource in the region, tell them their annual budget will be determined by how much revenue they can generate from that resource, and what will happen? This is not good. But the budget-cutting hawks in Congress see it only as taking another public resource out of the federal government's expense account.

  • This situation is aggrevated by the fact that the Forest Service has already signed a memorandum of agreement with the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). This is a large collection of private corporations from the growing recreation industry. This list is many pages long, but some of the most recognizable are Kampgrounds of America (KOA), L.L. Bean, the American Motorcycle Association, REI, and numerous motorized vehicle and fuel industry corporations. Among the more notable underwriters of the ARC are Disney Corporation, Gaylord Entertainments, and other theme park and golf course oriented companies.
    The head of the Forest Service has said that the American public needs to stop thinking of our public lands as an amenity they have access to by virtue of being Americans and start thinking of them as sources of revenue. It is called "Pay for Play." The goal is to not just sell the forest by the board foot, according to the Forest Service, but to sell it "by the hour." (For more on the ARC and its efforts to privatize and develop our public lands, nationwide, see the link on our opening page to the "Wildwilderness" web page.)
The battle continues...

The LBL Protection Act of 1998 is Attached as a Rider

In response to the lack of support (or even opposition) for their bill both McConnell and Whitfield attached their bills as riders to the Interior Appropriations Bill in the Senate and the House, respectively. The LBL is thus packaged with a bundle of bills destined to be passed with little discussion and then sent to the President.
President Clinton has said he will veto this appropriation package when it arrives because it contains numerous "anti-environmental" bills. The LBL Bill has been identified as "anti-environmental" by the Clinton Administration.

Concept Zero works to Amend the "LBL Protection Act of 1998"

In a concerted outreach program Concept Zero set up information booths at county fairs, music festivals, etc. throughout the summer. The result has been thousands of cards and letters sent to Senator McConnell and Congressman Whitfield requesting that their bill be amended.

The response, from both offices, has been that the bill cannot be amended, for to do so would "generate opposition." We have not been able to determine--despite our repeated requests--who such opposition would come from.

The LBL Protection Act of 1998 is Released to the Public

Congressman Ed Whitfield and Senator Mitch McConnell, from Ky., released their long awaited bills to "save" the Land Between the Lakes. The nearly identical bills were submitted simultaneously to the House and to the Senate.

The bill was announced as a safety net, kicking into affect the first year that TVA fails to receive appropriations of $6 million or more for the management of LBL. The bill would: