NPHF Changes Its Tactics, Silences Opposition
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
NDPC Investigates by Brett Narloch
Issue: Property Rights

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Amidst the wave of criticism both ND State Senator Tracy Potter and US Senator Byron Dorgan received at a public input hearing regarding the Northern Plains National Heritage Area (NPNHA) last month, proponents of the area have decided to change tactics, utilizing methods suggested by radical environmentalists.

According to minutes from a November 9th meeting of the Northern Plains Heritage Foundation (NPHF), instead of allowing concerned citizens in the audience speak in front of the entire audience, people will be given an initial presentation, then will be broken down into groups of 8 to 10 people. Someone, probably each group’s facilitator, will take notes and report those notes back to the entire group.

This type of meeting is typically called consensus-building. Henry Lamb has been studying the methods used by the left to “consensus-build” for quite some time. Here is how he describes the process:

A trained facilitator will conduct the meetings. A consensus-building meeting is vastly different from a meeting conducted by Robert's Rules of Order. In a consensus-building meeting -- there are no votes. There is no debate. The idea is to avoid conflict and confrontation between and among differing views. The facilitator leads the discussion with questions that are skillfully crafted to elicit no response. Questions are framed to force respondents to disagree with a statement with which most reasonable people would agree. For example, a facilitator might ask: "Is there anyone who would disagree that we have a responsibility to leave future generations sufficient resources to meet their need?" Obviously, no reasonable person can disagree with such a statement. Silence -- no response -- implies that a consensus has been reached on the need to protect resources for future generations. The example is an oversimplification, but it illustrates the technique used by the facilitator.

Despite the careful selection of the participants, the facilitator may encounter an individual who does disagree with the questions. The facilitator is trained to marginalize such an individual by making him or her look silly by asking another, even more extreme question, such as: "Surely you are not telling this group that you feel no responsibility to your grandchildren, are you?" With such tactics, one who objects or disagrees very often is quickly labeled as a troublemaker and is either ignored or excluded from the group.

Eventually, a professional will write a report. It will be "The Plan," or the document produced by the group. Regardless of what the group's stated purpose may be, the final document will include language that says the plan is designed to integrate ecology, equity, and the economy; environmental protection, equity, and sustainable development.

Citizens who have legitimate concerns will most likely be refrained from talking to the entire crowd in an attempt to keep opposition to the area silenced.

Meeting minutes also reveal that the NPHF no longer has to address those opposing the heritage area altogether. Potter stated,

The law has already been passed, and our intention is to receive input for implementing a management plan for the NPHF. There is no opposition that needs to be overcome. We merely need to develop a management plan based on public input.

If public input at these meetings overwhelmingly suggests that the plan should not exist, then isn’t that legitimate input? Of course it is; however, proponents of the area are generally not looking for negative input. Typically, the only input they will consider legitimate is from the pro-heritage area side.

In a major way, the NPHF is silencing its opposition.

Click HERE to read more about the NPNHA.