The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Jan. 17 withdrew its proposal to establish and list Natural Asset Companies (NAC), which would pool investors’ money from around the world to buy controlling rights to public and private land throughout the United States.
The NACs would, according to filing documents, manage the lands solely for the purpose of “sustainability.” Critics of the plan charged that wealthy investors and foreign entities would be able to use these vehicles to make decisions to allow or block the public from accessing the publicly owned land that is designated for uses such as hunting, fishing, drilling, mining, hiking, and logging.
While some conservation groups and global warming activists had supported the initiative as a way to protect natural resources, many land-rights activists applauded its demise and questioned whether wealthy investors would be better stewards of America’s land.
“Today’s withdrawal is a major victory for Americans,” Margaret Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty, a land-rights organization, told The Epoch Times.
“Very few people understand how close we were to losing control of our property and natural resources through this diabolical NAC scam.”
The creation of NACs was the initiative of an organization called the Intrinsic Exchange Group (IEG), which was created with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and other unnamed investors. IEG entered into a partnership with the NYSE, where the NYSE bought a stake in IEG.
The two organizations collaborated to set up NACs, which would have been financed and traded on the exchange, while licensing IEG’s proprietary software for valuation and reporting according to guidelines based in the U.N. environmental accounting standards. Because this was a nonstandard type of company, which wouldn’t earn profits for investors in the way that other companies do, nor would it use GAAP accounting to value its assets, the NYSE applied to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to grant an exception to its existing rules of operation.
“Ending the overconsumption of and underinvestment in nature requires bringing natural assets into the financial mainstream,” the NYSE stated in its SEC filing.
“The financing gap for biodiversity is estimated between US$598 and US$824 billion per year, and for climate change is estimated at over US$5 trillion per year, and likely an order of magnitude larger for the transition to a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable economy.”
The initial SEC approval process for NACs was relatively short, critics said, allowing for only a 21-day comment period that ran through the Christmas holiday. Amid protests from 25 state attorneys general, 32 members of Congress, and 22 state financial officers, the SEC extended the comment period until Jan. 18.
Creating a Buyer and Seller
The NAC plan coincided with other Biden administration initiatives, including the “30×30 plan,” according to which 30 percent of America’s land and waters would be set aside for preservation by 2030. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed the creation of “conservation leases” on public lands, which would grant third parties the right to control them and preclude further development of those lands.
“Now you have a seller—BLM created that,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes told The Epoch Times in a Jan. 9 interview.
“And now [with NACs], you have a buyer, or a vehicle to use private money to buy what the BLM couldn’t do through proper legislation and couldn’t do at the ballot box.”
State AGs challenged the legality of establishing these nonstandard types of companies, as well as the NACs’ ability to acquire rights to public lands and the Biden administration’s authority to sell such rights.
“The proposed [NAC] rule plainly is intended to serve as the funding mechanism for the Bureau of Land Management’s recent proposed rule, ‘Conservation and Landscape Health,’ which would authorize BLM to grant ‘conservation leases’ for public lands,” the AG’s stated in a letter to the SEC.
“The BLM rule provides that ‘once the BLM has issued a conservation lease, the BLM shall not authorize any other uses of the leased lands that are inconsistent with the authorized conservation use.’”
The AGs applauded the decision to cancel the NAC proposal.
“This is a resounding win for our states and our constituents, as we protect access to multiple legal, productive, and responsible uses of our lands and other natural resources,” Mr. Reyes told The Epoch Times via email.
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, who together with Mr. Reyes co-authored the AGs’ letter, issued a statement that he was “pleased the SEC has withdrawn its proposed rule change. Doing so avoided an unnecessary legal battle.”
Many of the comments posted on the SEC’s website opposed the NYSE’s proposal, with critics arguing that NACs would give private companies control over farmland, grazing areas, national and state parks, and other mineral-rich lands.
“This news illustrates the impact of public engagement on important issues,” Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks said in a statement, calling the creation of NACs “one of the greatest threats to rural communities in the history of our nation.”
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), who had opposed the creation of NACs, called their withdrawal “a clear win for farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners, energy producers, energy users, and all who enjoy the use of public lands.”
“It is also a clear sign that when the insidious policies being considered by this administration are exposed, they can be defeated,” she said in an emailed statement.