Making a Wilderness with the NRDC Gang

Tom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


The NRDC gang of aristocrats looking to lock up the Catskills and Delaware regions, among others, has its roots in the history of the Rockefeller family and little has changed.

No reader of this blog is unaware of the role of the Park, the Rockefeller, Heinz and other aristocratic foundations in conducting the war against fracking, which is really a war for parkland and ideology against the middle class. We’ve documented the interconnections among these families and how they operate. We’ve explained how the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of their creations and operates in tandem with the Open Space Institute (OSI) and Catskill Mountainkeeper, which are really all the same people. We’ve detailed the land scams involved and explained why fracking is a threat to them. We’ve talked about these groups’ methods of operation, their contempt for landowners and the way they’ve manipulated government policy to suit their “strategic parkification” goals, which amount to emptying out rural areas they desire.

What we haven’t discussed is this: that it’s all been going on for a very long time and the tactics of today’s Rockefeller robber barons are almost precisely the same as they were more than a century ago.

What I’m talking now is an absolutely fascinating story about one particular Rockefeller by the name of William whose name is much less well-known than his famous brother, John D. Rockefeller. William was John D.’s brother and his partner in the oil business. He served as Vice-President of Standard Oil. Christopher (“Kim”) Elliman, the CEO of the Open Space Institute (OSI), President of the Geradine R. Dodge Foundation, NRDC committee member and former (and, apparently, current) boss to New York State DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, is his great-grandson.


William Rockefeller and Great-Grandson “Kim” Elliman

The Dodge Foundation led by Elliman is funder of the Delaware Riverkeeper (along with the William Penn Foundation, which also funds OSI). Both OSI and the Catskill Mountainkeeper are spinoffs of the NRDC, which is also a Rockefeller creation. The NRDC gang is one incredibly complex world of interlocking organizations on the same order as Standard Oil was. Little has changed.

William Rockefeller was every bit as much an operator as his brother (their father was a con artist). They came from Richford (Tioga County), New York and following their success in the oil business, William decided he wanted a hunting preserve in the Adirondacks. He bought up thousands of acres of logged land in Franklin County, the history of which is summarized here and here. The full story, told by Samuel Hopkins Adams to Collier’s Weekly readers in 1905, though, is what ties it all together, with insights on today’s Rockefellers and the NRDC gang. You can read the whole thing here and following are some of the most revealing excerpts (emphasis added):


“A Little Town’s Struggle Against the Power of A Millionaire”

Mr William Rockefeller bas demolished the houses and evicted the squatters on a tract of 150 square miles in the Adirondack Mountains, which he intends to use for a hunting preserve…

To buy a wilderness and make a community of it is within the opportunity of any moneyed man. To buy and make a wilderness of it may well be beyond the powers of the greatest of millionaires. William Rockefeller, vice-president of the Standard Oil Company, is making the experiment on the little hamlet of Brandon in the heart of the Adirondacks. By methods that are always within the law–or what his attorneys interpret as the law–he is patiently striving to dislodge the remnants of the populace that still hold root inside the circle of his great game preserve. All the land about them is his; he bought it and paid for it, thousands upon thousands of acres, more than two whole townships, comprising lakes, rivers, forest and mountains.

Only Brandon stands in his way; therefore Brandon must go. Not in any spirit of vindictiveness has Rockefeller reached this determination, but because he wants the land upon which the population now lives for the deer and the foxes, the partridges and the quail of his domain. To that end he has brought every means in his vast power for several years, from damage suits for trespass in which sterile victory brought him six cents, to making the Government of the United States, through tho Post Office Department, his instrument of persecution. But the town is still on the map.

Five years ago Brandon boasted twelve hundred inhabitants. It had its church, its prosperous hotel, its flourishing school and its busy mill. Today, it can muster but fourteen families and as many more deserted houses. All the rest is scrub-grown space. Tho hotel is burned down, the mill is razed, the church stands empty, the two or three hundred dwellings have vanished…

Rockefeller built himself a superb country place on Bay Pond, one of the fairest little bodies of water in the Adirondacks, some four miles from Brandon. Other purchases followed, until he owned all the land for miles around the town, including both banks of St. Regis River and its tributary streams.

But Ducey [seller of the lumbered tracts acquired by Rockefeller] couldn’t sell the town of Brandon entire, because he didn’t own it all. For instance, Harrison G. Baker owned the little summer hotel. Being in the centre of a rich fishing and hunting country, it was a paying enterprise. But to have a lot of summer and fall fishermen and gunners tramping over his property was no part of Rockefeller’s program. He undertook to buy the hotel. Baker named a pretty stiff price. Rockefeller’s agent laughed at him. ”Your hotel isn’t worth anything now,” said he. ”You won’t have any guests after this.”

”Oh, I think they’ll stand by me,” said Baker, failing to see the point.

“Then they’ll have to go a long way for their fun,” retorted the agent.” They can’t cross our property to get to the St. Regis River, and they couldn’t fish our stream if they could get there. We’ll prosecute if they shoot in our woods. What are they going to do?”

In vain the hotel-keeper protested that the river had been stocked at State expense, and that, as a stream used for years for floating down lumber, it was public water.

”You’ll have to prove it in every court, tight up to the Court of Appeals,” said the agent. ”We’ll fight on to a finish on that point.”

Baker had no money to undertake an expensive legal campaign. He sold his hotel for 5000dol, went away, and died shortly after…

By paying 100 dollars, 150 dollar, 200 dollars each for the houses, Rockefeller soon owned nearly the whole town. Then came a move which startled the inhabitants–the ”letting in the jungle.” Like a destructive horde of ants came the money-king’s men, carried away the houses piecemeal, and soon the little cluster of human remnants looked out upon the place where their neighbors had once lived to see only the swift-growing brush drawing its mask of warm and kindly green across swept ground and raw excavations.

The making of a wilderness was in progress.

Thus far, the pursuance of the Rockefeller ambition was along legitimate lines…

The campaign against Brandon now began to broaden. Signs warning off trespassers were put up on on all the roads leading out from the town. Many of these are high-roads, but the Rockefeller attorneys assume that they are private property. ”Let the other fellows prove that they are highways,” say the lawyers. Old trails were closed and barred against the passage of the Brandonites. Residents of the little settlement, who had obtained employment in a lumber company controlled by William Rockefeller, were discharged at the behest of the Bay Pond estate watchers. The word went forth that no Brandon man could get a job in that country. Children going out from the hamlet to pick berries on the mountain sides were driven home by the watchers and threatened with harm if they repeated the offense. Undeniably, the berries belonged to Rockefeller, but in view of the fact that they were never marketed, and that ninety-nine per cent of them were left to wither on the bushes, the inhibition is regarded by those most concerned as harsh, though legal enough…

Naturally, methods such as these made William Rockefeller unpopular, but what followed was a sorer exasperation to the thinning population of Brandon.

Since 1887 the little place has had a post office of its own. It was in the middle of the village, convenient for all, and the nearest available point, moreover, for several lumber camps in the vicinity. Late in April of last year, William Rockefeller wrote a letter to Henry C. Payne, then Postmaster-General, about the post office at Brandon. Persons  who declare that they have seen this document quote from it this passage: ”Heretofore, you have granted us many favors. We have still one more to ask of you, that you remove the post office from Brandon to Bay Pond.”

Mr. Payne is dead; suffice it to say of him that he was a man peculiarly amenable to such influences as Mr. Rockefeller could bring to bear. Instead of referring the matter to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster-General, Mr. Bristow (an official reputed to be disobliging in delicate matters of this sort), as is customary in the affairs of fourth class post-offices, Mr. Payne himself sent an inspector to investigate. Before the inspector’s report came in, Mr. Payne, by what urgency it is impossible to state, took matters into his own hands and ordered the Brandon Post Office to be closed. The effects were removed to Bay Pond, a settlement exclusively made up of the Rockefeller menage, four miles distant in the heart of the estate. The personal request of a private citizen had sufficed to move a post office from a point where it was needed to a point where it was not. Bay Pond already had a post office of its own

William Rockefeller was determined to remove a community for the sake of “making a wilderness” where only he was permitted to live among deer and the foxes that were the ostensible subject of his affections. His real affection was for a different sort of fox; the one in the mirror. The parallels with the actions of the NRDC gang, which include his great-grandson at OSI, are absolutely eerie.


Bay Pond Train Station (Michael P. Smith)

Today’s Rockefellers are busy “making a wilderness” in the Catskills and Upper Delaware regions, among other places; places where they can play, enjoy their privacy and immerse themselves in the snooty self-satisfaction of having preserved a natural monument to themselves. Meanwhile, the locals be damned. No fracking for them. No, nothing can be permitted that would throw up obstacles to “dislodging the remnants of the populace that still hold root inside…preserve.” They must go.

Fracking, after all, would raise property values and make it more difficult to acquire land on the cheap, more problematic to pull off arbitraged land deals with the state at three times the market value. If that means locals suffer the loss of long deserved economic opportunity, so be it. They’re merely “collateral damage,” as the NRDC gang’s allies at the Park Foundation put it; remnants standing in the way of the monument.

Like William, today’s Rockefellers also have access to government officials “peculiarly amenable to such influences as Mr. Rockefeller could bring to bear.” It’s not hard when you’re able to put your own employee in as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and still refer to him as “our colleague.” It’s not hard if you have the power to put three of your senior attorneys on his sham hydro-fracking advisory panel, not to mention representatives from numerous other organizations you fund. They use that power today for things of much greater import than merely moving a post office, twisting New York State into knots over fracking while turning it into a piggybank for their preserve land acquisition plan.

Today, William Rockefeller’s great-grandson, “Kim” Elliman, collaborates with John D.’s great-grandson, Larry Rockefeller, Jr. (NRDC, OSI and Beaverkill Mountain Corp.) and Edward Ames (another Standard Oil heir at the Catskill Mountainkeeper and OSI), to secure favors from a state to finance the planning of another Adirondacks land grab in the Catskills and Upper Delaware region. Meanwhile, the NRDC coordinates with New York State’s Attorney General to harass towns with the nerve to say they’re pro-gas, while their Delaware Riverkeeper mercenaries collude with him to sue the DRBC to prevent fracking. It’s 1905 all over again, only worse.

Worse yet, the Rockefeller/NRDC gang are still doing it to the Adirondacks, which tells where we may well end up. Consider this self-serving statement on the Adirondack Foundation web page:

“I rely on Adirondack Foundation because of the integrity of its process and the egality of its mission,” Kim adds. “As a second home owner, I look to the Foundation’s staff to understand the local issues and concerns far better than I can, and I prefer to consult with and delegate to them how best to approach those concerns.

Pardon me, but lectures from the $450K/year salaried Rockefeller man at OSI, a man whose great-grandfather drove out the locals from the Adirondacks, about egality of mission don’t resonate. The truth is revealed in the second sentence. It’s all about them and they’re going to tell us what’s best for them. That’s the real NRDC gang today; plutocrats with a mission to make a wilderness for themselves.

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14 thoughts on “Making a Wilderness with the NRDC Gang

  1. The “Making a Wilderness with the NRDC Gang” needs to be shared far and wide. It may be hard for some to grasp. Our younger generation are tied up with everyday events family, Jobs, finances, vacation, as it should be. It is only when the kids have left the nest that most now look around them and it becomes overwhelming. Most just shut down as they feel there is nothing they can do.
    You now join the ranks of the older generation you looked at as cynical critics. Many might be saying ,wow this is so true! Yes it is! You see we are creatures of habit and our habit are being gambled on.

  2. It’s funny that great-grandson,“Kim” Elliman, doesn’t rail against the real polluter in our country, which is oil drilling! Instead, he reincarnates his own version of “the King’s deer” with the money he made off American Citizens buying dirty, drilled for oil and gasoline, that he and his family polluted the country with. The creepy part off the whole thing, other than his looks, is that he’s buying the land so that nobody else can use it. I think that his great grandfather would roll over in his grave if he could see what this creep and his marionette fracktivists are doing to our country.

  3. It’s amazing how wealth built on oil intends to devour a region for their own selfish reasons. However the founder,John, D, played a lot of dirty pool to build an empire.The apple does not fall far from the tree!

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  13. The other big gentry class scam in New York is the land trust. Their is almost a million acres held by non-profit land trusts that are 501c3 non profits that hold the land, tax free and restrict its use to exclusive members of the trust. Not the super rich but the white collar exclusive groups. So essentially everyone else has to pay to cover the taxes not paid on this land and you are excluded from using it.

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