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TNC Condemnation threat letters

A Nature Conservancy Condemnation Threat Letter
 


May 26, 1993

Professor Dr. Dieter Kuhn
Temmler Werke
Temmlarstrasse 2
3550 Marburg
GERMANY

Dear Dr. Kuhn:

The process of assembling the land necessary to create Illinois' largest federal wildlife refuge has been underway for several years. This project has been particularly successful because it has been a joint venture of government agencies and private organizations. On the agency side, both state and federal funding have been consistent, so that over half of the 60,000-acre refuge has been assembled.

During this period the joint venture partners have been fortunate in being able to deal with very cooperative local landowners who see this project as being in the best interest of the community as well as their own.

The government agencies' intention during the acquisition phase of this project has been to deal only on a willing seller basis; this commitment has been made to local landowners. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, like all other federal agencies, has the power of eminent domain which allows the use of condemnation to acquire lands and interests in lands for the public good. As you know, The Nature Conservancy has, starting in 1987, made numerous efforts to contact you by letter, by phone, and through your agent, Mr. Clay, in an effort to discuss some basis for the acquisition of your property in Pulaski County.

If your land is not acquired through voluntary negotiation, we will recommend its acquisition through condemnation. This is clearly an alternative which we do not prefer, but feel compelled to exercise since we seem to have exhausted all other avenues. Alternative options are yet available and we certainly would like to pursue them. Please let me know by 30 June if you are willing to enter into negotiations for the purchase of the Pulaski County property.

Sincerely,

Albert E. Pyott
Director
The Nature Conservancy
Illinois Field Office
70 West Monroe Street
Chicago, Illinois 60603

 

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June, 1993

Congressman Glenn Poshard
110 North Division Street
Carterville, IL 62918
RE: Cache River Refuge

Dear Congressman Poshard:

Please find enclosed a copy of a letter one of my clients, Dr. Dieter Kuhn, received from The Nature Conservancy regarding property he owns within the boundaries of the Cache River Refuge. As you may remember you and I have had several conversations and discussions regarding the ultimate goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and others concerning the Cache River Refuge. It has always been my belief that the parties involved in the project were being less than candid with the general public and the land owners regarding the ultimate goal of the project. One of the recurring themes throughout the various public meetings and private meetings has always been that we will only work with "willing sellers" and will not use eminent domain to obtain property. In fact on several occasions both the Federal and State agencies have assured me that they have no intention of using eminent domain in order to obtain their goals. You may remember that one of those meetings took place in your Carterville office when we met with representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department (the "Department") to discuss limiting the scope of the refuge. At that meeting I was told that the Department would not use eminent domain and that the refuge would total approximately 43,000 acres. It is extremely distubring to me to see that The Nature Conservancy believes that it can intimidate a land owner who is not local by threatening to "recommend" that the Department proceed with eminent domain when The Nature Conservancy knows that it is not the position the Department advocated during the public meetings and federal register comment period. In fact, it is my understanding that the Department has consistently represented to Congress that even though it has the power of eminent domain it will not utilize that power in order to establish a federal refuge.

I might also tell you that this is not the only instance that has come to my attention in the past two years where either The Nature Conservancy, the Department, Illinois Department of Conservation or Ducks Unlimited, hereafter ("the unholy four") have utilized the threat of eminent domain or intimidation in order to insure that they either purchase property or through their conduct prohibit sales to third parties. In addition, I can tell you from personal experience that after the first wave of land buying by the various agencies at least nine homesteads located in the refuge area have been sold and removed. After the sale the Department requested that the local power cooperative remove its power lines. Those nine homesteads will never again be utilized for people who purchase gasoline, insurance, food, and the other necessities of life in the area. Unfortunately, it now appears that what some of the leaders of the local Farm Bureau and I predicted is coming to pass. The economic base of Pulaski County and the surrounding area is slowly being eroded and is not being replaced by the "boom" tourism that was predicted. It would be interesting to have a follow up economic study done to see what affect the refuge has had on the local economy. I'm certain that if cost is a consideration in the follow up study that I can convince several of the local residents to split the cost. I believe you should be interested in what has truly occurred before the Department forges ahead with the Cache River Refuge and others proposed in Illinois.

In conclusion if the unholy four are allowed to continue on their present course it appears that the Refuge will not be 43,000 acres as represented to you and I in our meeting with the Department but instead will be 60,000 acres and the entire community and economic base of Pulaski County will have been decimated. In addition to requesting that you meet with me in your Carterville office to discuss this matter I am also requesting that you ascertain if the Department intends to change its policy regarding eminent domain so that I can properly advise my client.

Very truly yours,
Ronald E. Osman
R. Osman & Associates, Ltd.
Attorneys at Law
1602 W. Kimmel
PO Box 939
Marion, Illinois 62959

 

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June 17, 1993

Mr. Albert E. Pyott
Director
The Nature Conservancy
70 West Monroe Street
Chicago, Illinois 60603

Dear Albert:

As you well know, I have supported the development of the Cypress Creek national Wildlife Refuge, including securing millions of dollars for land acquisition through the federal appropriations process. I believe this is a worthy project.

However, I am alarmed at the wording in a letter from you to a Dr. Kuhn, a landowner in the proposed boundary of the refuge. I want to state in absolutely unmistakable terms that if I ever again see or hear the Nature Conservancy or any other group use the words "eminent domain" or "condemnation" to threaten private landowners, I will do everything possible to rescind the federal appropriations which support this project. I will not stand for any use of these types of tactics for land acquisition.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,
Glenn Poshard
Member of Congress

 

**********************************

 

July 9, 1993

Professor Dr. Dieter Kuhn
Temmler Werke
Temmlerstrasse 2
3550 Marburg
Germany

Dear Dr. Kuhn:

I would like to apologize to you for the letter you were sent on June 1 by Al Pyott, the Director of The Nature Conservancy in Illinois.

There are no circumstances in which it is acceptable for The Nature Conservancy to tell landowners that it will encourage involuntary condemnation proceedings against them by government agencies. And, of course, we have no authority to pursue such action independently. In this particular case, the government agencies involved as well as The Nature Conservancy have publicly stated that condemnation will not be used as a means of creating the wildlife refuge in Pulaski County.

The letter from Mr. Pyott was also contrary to our philosophy of business -- which is to work only with willing sellers. We are taking steps to make sure that such incidents do not happen again in the future. I hope you will accept our apology.

Sincerely,

James C. Sawhill
President & Chief Executive Officer
International Headquarters
The Nature Conservancy
1815 North Lynn Street
Arlington, Virginia 22209

 

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July 8, 1993
Arlington Virginia

The Nature Conservancy regrets the unauthorized letter sent by Al Pyott, the Director of The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, to Dr. Dieter Kuhn telling Dr. Kuhn that TNC would recommend acquiring his land through condemnation. We have no authority to influence condemnation decisions, and we do not encourage government agencies to use involuntary condemnation as a means of acquiring land. It is also contrary to our philosophy of business -- which is to work only with willing sellers.

In this particular case, the government agencies involved as well as The Nature Conservancy have publicly stated that condemnation will not be used as a means of creating the wildlife refuge in Pulaski County. We are taking steps to make sure that such incidents do not happen again in the future. We have sent a letter of apology to Dr. Kuhn.

 

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Poshard draws line for environmental group
by Martin Rose

 


A Southern Illinois congressman has drawn the line of proper conduct for an environmental group seeking land for the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge by threatening to withdraw support for future refuge acquisition money.

Illinois U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials have disavowed efforts by The Nature Conservancy (NC) to wrest refuge-area farmland from Dieter Kuhn, a professor and absentee Pulaski County landowner living in Germany. In a May 26 letter to Kuhn, Illinois NC Director Albert Pyott noted his group's "numerous efforts" since 1987 to contact Kuhn regarding sale of his land, and warned that "if your land is not acquired through voluntary negotiation, we will recommend its acquisition through condemnation" and use of USFWS' eminent domain purchase rights.

Following a complaint from Ronald Osman, Marion attorney and refuge-area farmer, Carterville Democrat Rep. Glenn Poshard wrote a letter to Pyott reiterating support for USFWS acquisition funding for Cypress Creek but warned Pyott that: "If I ever again see or hear the Nature Conservancy or any other group use the words 'eminent domain' or 'condemnation' to threaten private landowners, I will do everything possible to rescind the federal appropriations which support this project. I will not stand for any use of these types of tactics for land acquisition," Poshard told Pyott.

USFWS and NC have been interested in acquiring a roughly 80-acre tract owned by Kuhn in the refuge's purported "core area," Osman said. He reported the tract, located on the Cache River, virtually "controls the drainage" in the area and is key to USFWS' goal of obtaining "26,000 acres of the best farm ground in Southern Illinois."

American Farm Bureau Federation land rights specialist Jon Doggett charged NC nationwide has used condemnation threats in efforts to acquire lands for USFWS. But he reported "they don't put things in writing," providing written documentation of their actions. Osman said he was "tickled to death" that the NC had written a letter to Kuhn.

Refuge officials are authorized to purchase up to 35,320 acres, said Jerry Updike, Cypress Creek refuge manager and USFWS employee. Over the past three years, USFWS has acquired 10,400 acres from willing sellers, and has received no "negative feedback" said Updike. USFWS has stressed "there are no plans to condemn land from unwilling sellers" and twice has refused requests to exercise eminent domain to settle title on refuge-area lands.

"We've went on record saying we would not condemn land here, and that policy has not changed," Updike said. "(The Kuhn property) is an area Nature Conservancy has been really interested in, and they kind of took it upon themselves to try to force the issue a bit. If they were to come to us and say 'We've gotten no response and we recommend condemnation," we'd say, "No. We're not going to do it.'"

If landowners wish to sell, USFWS authorizes an appraisal by regional agency personnel who generally base price on three comparable area land sales of similar acreages. The USFWS price generally is non-negotiable, Updike said, and landowners may 'take it or leave it."


 

 

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