America’s fifth largest environmentalist organization, Trust for Public Land (TPL) describes itself as a “national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being.” The group is headquartered in San Francisco and has 37 offices across the United States. Established in 1972 by veteran environmentalist Huey D. Johnson, TPL purchases tracts of undeveloped wooded land to conserve it “for recreation and spiritual nourishment and to improve the health and quality of life of American communities.”
The organization’s broader agenda seeks the elimination of private land ownership and commercial development; it uses both private and federal grants to purchase land on whose usage it then places severe and uncompromising restrictions. Once TPL has secured a specific parcel of land, any and all development efforts and logging projects are thwarted in many cases, usually with severe economic repercussions for the local populations. TPL claims that since its founding, it has helped “protect” over 1.9 million acres in 46 states. Some of TPL’s recent projects include: securing 171,000 acres in New Hampshire; 10,300 acres in Oregon; and 65 miles of shoreline in Maine.
TPL also lobbies for state and local ballot initiatives that mandate governmental protection of land and endorse taxpayer-funded land-grab projects. TPL’s LandVote initiative states that in the 2004 elections, “voters in 108 communities in 25 states passed ballot measures that will create $2.53 billion in new public funding to protect land for parks and open space.”
As Henry Lamb, Executive Vice President of the Environmental Conservation Organization, explains, “One key proponent of Government’s push to purchase private property in recent years goes far beyond ‘wildlife enhancement.’ Those who vote for such measures may think that the objective is wildlife, or open space protection, but those who promote wave after wave of these proposals have a much, much bigger agenda: total government ownership, or control, of land use in America. … When government owns or controls all the land, and its natural resources, government will control the source of production — which is the classic definition of socialism.”
In the late 1980s, TPL founder Huey Johnson traveled to the Soviet Union to witness firsthand its environmental activism movement, which he praised by saying, “They’re educating the nation, they’re demonstrating courage and commitment to purpose, they’re keeping very well informed. They’re serious.” No modification of this statement was made after the fall of the Iron Curtain when it was revealed that pollution in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe was catastrophic.
Johnson was instrumental in bringing the Green Party to the United States. In 1984 he worked to raise $500,000 in funds to help establish it as a contender in that year’s Presidential election.
Will Rogers has been TPL’s Director and President since 1998. Rogers joined the organization in 1991, first as Director of Projects and then as Western Regional Director. Before joining TPL, he had been a project manager for a real estate development company in Chicago.
In addition to receiving funds from taxpayer-financed sources, including the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, TPL receives its principal funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which granted the organization over $10 million between 1999 and 2004. Additional funders include the Bank of America Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Educational Foundation of America, the Fannie Mae Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Scherman Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and many more.