The Peregrine Gallery
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
February 23, 2006
LAYING CLAIM TO NATURE'S
By Carole "CJ" Williams, NewsWithViews.com
On January 6, 2005 the Upper Peninsula of Michigan grapevine was abuzz with news of yet another land control scheme covering 271,000 acres in eight counties, an amount equivalent to 502 square miles, carved from a larger parcel of 390,000 acres within ten of the U.P.’s fifteen counties.
Described as an ecological treasure trove of nature’s precious jewels and pristine landscapes, the emerald green forestland includes more than 300 sapphire blue lakes and 526 miles of rivers and streams that reflect the sun’s rays like sparkling diamonds.
Still precious and pristine after a couple centuries of TLC from indigenous Tribal members, Yooper settlers, and their offspring who’ve watched countless sunsets as breath taking as the brilliant colors in a magnificent fire opal, we’re now told that everything in God’s Country must be put under the watchful vulture eye of invasive environmentalists spewing forth eco-garbage wherever they go.
Much of the 271,000 acres, now lauded as Governor Granholm and the Nature Conservancy’s “U.P. Big Deal,” once belonged to the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. C & H had been the employer for countless Yooper families who spent their money locally, supporting even more families in a trickle down effect that spread for miles and miles around.
By the late 1960’s, however, C & H could no longer afford to extract copper while meeting all the new environmental standards being put in place. Having to compete with China and other countries, which produce ore with cheap labor and disregard for the environment, and facing demands of better pay from its own striking miners in 1968, C & H closed its mines and sold its land holdings to Universal Oil Products.
Universal Oil then established the Lake Superior Land Company to manage its U.P. land holdings in an environmentally friendly way, while still allowing for slow but planned development. One such endeavor is a new ski hill and resort “service” area at Mt. Bohemia near picturesque Lac LaBelle in economically depressed Keweenaw County. Under all lays a number of untapped copper sulfides waiting for new mining technology....
Lake Superior Land Company was eventually taken over by International Paper, which is now marketing 450,000 Upper Peninsula acres. But, somewhere along the line, a very young New Englander by the name of Ben Benson amassed some of that former C & H property, combined it with 292,000 acres purchased in 1990 from Cliff’s Forest Products (Cleveland-Cliffs), added a little bit more from here and there, and set about developing a high-tech timbering operation in the U.P., or so the tale is told.
According to information found under the heading “Sea Hawk” in an August 1999 issue of Virginia Business Magazine, 40-year-old Benson had been a dyslexic and indifferent student who dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Stealing the family car at age 15, he drove from Cape Cod to Maine and used a credit card to buy 100 acres of rocky wilderness, which he subdivided and sold in 5-acre vacation plots.
The author of the magazine article, Maura Singleton, wrote that at age 17, Benson joined the Navy submarine corps, working with sonar on a fast-attack sub, but his plan for a Navy career went by the wayside four years later. By the early 1980’s, Ben Benson, who claimed he never did anything for more than four years, had run an oil company, as well as a New Hampshire real estate development company.
He then focused attention on the state of Virginia, marrying the granddaughter of an East Shore developer, an area where the Nature Conservancy controlled and mismanaged a great deal of land. It was here that Benson once again took up work in real estate, developing oceanfront and other exclusive property along the coastline.
In 1991, Benson, with title to about half-a-million U.P. acres, became involved in a partnership of sorts with the Kamehameha Schools Trust of Hawaii. But, in 1994, after surviving two stress-related heart attacks within an 8-month period at age 35, he sold his Michigan land holdings to the Trust for mega-millions and bought a 65-foot Hatteras, which he christened “Sea Hawk.”
The partnership may have dissolved, but it later caused his name to come up in a RICO lawsuit - Civil No. 99-00304 DAE: Harmon v Federal Insurance Company, P & C Insurance Co., Inc., Marsh & McLennan, Inc., Trustees of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, et al, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii....
After Benson took his Hawaiian “timbering” partner’s money and boogied, Benson Forests became known as Munising based Shelter Bay Forests. Shelter Bay managed the Kamehmeha Schools U.P. holdings with “gentle timbering” technology until the forestland was put up for bids in the fall of 2002 and subsequently sold.
Though Governor Engler, the Nature Conservancy, and an “undisclosed timber company” formed a “private-public” partnership to bid on it, they lost out to Forestland Group LLC, which closed on the deal during the summer of 2003.
Forestland Group, an investment management outfit, soon offered its prize to the State of Michigan, and by January 2004 the Conservancy’s Michigan Chapter had secured at least one grant from the Charles Mott Foundation toward the purchase.
The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, chaired by Sam Washington, CEO of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, also financially committed the State to the deal being offered, and a campaign to fund the Conservancy’s $57.9 million U.P. “Northern Great Lakes Forest Project” got underway without even asking, “Mother, may we.” Even the Yoopers’ U.S. Representative Bart Stupak got in the act, announcing his intention to find federal money to help the Conservancy’s project along.
As the story behind the Northern Great Lakes Forest Scam unfolded, it was claimed that key players met at Governor Jennifer Granholm’s office in November 2003. And, though she had to put the two sides in separate rooms and shuffle back and forth in her power suit until they outlined an amicable deal, an agreement was made between the two who’d been bed partners for years…the State of Michigan and the Nature Conservancy… in tandem with Forestland Group LLC, whose President and CEO is none other than Thomas Massengale, a former Nature Conservancy senior executive.
To date, of the original 390,000 Kamehameha Schools Trust acres for which Forestland outbid the State and its partners, the Conservancy will own 23,338 acres in the Big Two Hearted River watershed, Forestland will retain 248,000 acres, and the State will lay claim to development rights on the 248,000 Forestland still owns, even if they turn around and sell to another party.
Pretty slick, eh!
If you’re wondering what happened to the other 18,662 Kamehameha acres Forest Land bid on, none have said, nor has anyone disclosed what happened to the remainder of Benson’s estimated half million-acre Benson Forest Products grubstake, but some it is now a buffer zone for the Pictured Rocks National Park near Munising.
Announcing her 2005 Christmas present to Michiganders, and perhaps hoping to instill national “Mitten Envy,” Governor Granholm, with twinkling jewels in her eyes, gushed, “Michigan is literally defined by its environmental treasures. Thanks to the vision of this project, in 100 years the Upper Peninsula’s majestic trees and breathtaking shorelines…will still be a reality, not just a memory.”
Chiming in like a well preened parrot on a perch was Helen Taylor, the Conservancy’s state director, who squawked, “From an ecological standpoint, the plan is important because it helps link more than 2.5 million acres of protected (a.k.a. controlled) forest and natural area, including federal and state land. It fills in missing pieces of the conservation puzzle” at a time of rising concern about land fragmentation, which interrupts wildlife migration corridors and causes other environmental problems.
What most Michiganders don’t realize is that the Michigamme Highlands, now under State and Nature Conservancy control, was a piece of the Conservancy’s “conservation puzzle,” which they managed to fit in place....
With the Conservancy, the entire U.P. is a priority target and they won’t be satisfied until they control all of it. You see, God’s Country is a treasure trove of rich natural resources coveted by global corporations and investment trusts whose lust for money sustains China’s greed.
Surely the Conservancy, which professes to be eco-savvy, would know that BHP Billiton Diamonds has located diamonds and other treasures in North West Lake, Michigan....
While the agreement’s intent is the discovery of diamond bearing kimberlite, there are also provisions regarding non-diamond discoveries, and upon meeting certain conditions, Billiton retains a Back In Right to all non-diamond discoveries.
Knowing the UN Isle Royale Biosphere (1981) lay dormant until Clinton foolishly signed the Biodiversity Treaty in 1994, and on a hunch, yours truly went looking online for uranium deposits, as well as gas and oil, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. What can be found under the Conservancy’s pristine “conservation puzzle,” which supposedly needs “protection” from the human footprint, is truly amazing.
In an October 7, 2004 Haywood Securities’ Mining and Exploration - Uranium Sector Report, Bitterroot Resources Ltd of Vancouver, BC, a company engaged in acquisitions and explorations of mineral properties, is listed as a “Player.”
Bitterroot has been involved with the U.P. since 1996 or before, and signed on as an option/joint-venture partner with Kennecott Exploration involving certain goodies found while exploring mineral leases claimed by a Yooper exploration service.
Bitterroot is also involved in a “Great Michigan Peninsula Joint Venture” with Cameco, a Saskatchewan based global giant. Cameco boasts of being the world’s largest uranium producer and claims it will dominate nuclear energy by producing uranium fuel...
At present the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Nature Conservancy, et al, are scrambling to convince the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse an Appeals’ Court decision that the State did not and does not have title to mineral rights on tax reverted land when mineral rights were and are severed from property rights; mineral rights are not taxable and cannot be seized for non-payment of property taxes. Leases to resource exploration and extraction companies fuel the Natural Resource Trust Fund that, in turn, abets land grabbing, but it now appears the State may not own title to mineral rights on some of its public land....
Though few know it, radioactivity has been found in some Copper Country drinking water and for that reason the Western U. P. District Health Department recommends testing well water in areas east of the Keweenaw Fault, which runs from the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula down to the Wisconsin border. This includes portions of Ontonagon, Gogebic, Baraga, Houghton, and Keweenaw Counties, but particularly a line north of Jacobsville in Houghton and Keweenaw County where conservancies and land trusts have been very busy controlling land....
One thing’s for sure, if the land grabbing and conniving by the State and Conservancy gets anymore frenzied than it already has in the past several years, private property owning Yoopers had better load their cannons and stand ready to defend their gates.
VISIT “THE PEREGRINE GALLERY” TO
VIEW EVEN MORE BIRDS OF PREY!
JACK ABRAMOFF - HENRY PAULSON - GALE NORTON
FAYE KURREN - NANCY JOHNSON - PETER SAVIO
BRUCE BABBITT - BEN BENSON - DAVID COLE
JEFF WATANABE - HAUNANI APOLIONA
FOR MORE BIRDS OF A FEATHER, GO TO...
THE PEREGRINE FUND
~ ~ ~
THE EAGLE HOODED: THE 9-11 COVERUP
PART I - PART II - PART III
~ ~ ~
A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING KAMEHAMEHA’S COURT
ALLIED WORLD ASSURANCE
AIG: THE UN-AMERICAN INSURANCE GROUP
ALOHA, HARKEN ENERGY!
THE BANKRUPTCY BUZZARDS OF ORANGE COUNTY
BIRDS IN THE LOBBY
BIRDS IN THE TRAILER PARK
THE CARLYLE GROUP: BIRDS THAT DRINK FROM CESSPOOLS
THE CHUBB GROUP
CONFESSIONS OF A WHISTLEBLOWER
~ ~ ~
DIRTY MONEY, DIRTY POLITICS & BISHOP ESTATE
Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI
~ ~ ~
THE DISSECTION OF ‘FRISTY’
DYING FOR DYNCORP
HALLIBURTON FROM HELL
HENRY PAULSON’S SECRET TREASURY
HOW TO COOK A GOLDEN GOOSE
MARSH & McLENNAN: THE MARSH BIRDS
NESTS IN THE PENTAGON
OF DAISIES & VAMPIRES
THE FIRING OF EVAN DOBELLE
THE NESTS OF CB RICHARD ELLIS
SPOTTING THE SEC
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
THE OFFICE OF THE U.S. TRUSTEE VS. HARMON
THE PIMPS TO POWER
TINKERING WITH ETOYS
RICO IN PARADISE
THE SECRET NESTS
THE STEPHEN FRIEDMAN FLOCK
THE KISSINGER OF DEATH
THE TORCH OF ERIC SHINE
THE TURNSTONE BIRDS
THE VULTURES IN ORANGE COUNTY
YAKUZA DOODLE DANDIES
MORE OF THE CATBIRD’S FAVORITE LINKS
THE CATBIRD SEAT FORUM
THE CATBIRD SEAT
FAIR USE NOTICE. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Last Updated on May 16, 2007 by The Catbird