This article was written by Sanjay Talwani and originally posted at


HELENA- For years, critics of “Agenda 21″ have seen it as an evil, ranging from bad policy to an erosion of national sovereignty to a harbinger of one-world totalitarian government, grounded in radical principles of environmentalism and socialism.

On Monday, Montana’s House Judiciary Committee entered the debate, endorsing a bill resisting Agenda 21 — disregarding testimony describing the issue as a conspiracy theory tied to Montana’s anti-government militia movement.

House Bill 583, sponsored by MT Rep. Randall Pinocci (R-Sun River) passed the committee on an 11-10 vote.

MT Rep. Stephanie Hess (R-Havre) joined the panel’s nine Democrats to oppose the bill.

Agenda 21 arose from the United Nations’ “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and includes plans for sustainability and environmental protection, although it has no force of law.

Pinocci introduced the bill and then handed off the advocacy — and most questions during the hearing — to Dan Happel, a former Madison County Commissioner who has undertaken the cause against Agenda 21.

“It outlines a socialist plan for a sustainable world in the 21st century,” Happel told the panel, handing out charts, DVDs, and a children’s book he described as a tool of indoctrination.

He continued, “Livestock production and most meat consumption will be eliminated. It will be a vegetarian world. Privately owned vehicles and personal travel will be eliminated. The burning of fossil fuels for energy production or personal vehicular travel will be eliminated. Single family homes and suburban communities will be eliminated.”

Some Montana landlords said Agenda 21 is already attacking their property rights through building codes.

Pinocci gave an example from his community: “FEMA has proclaimed the entire town of Sun River in the floodplain,” he said. “I cannot build on my property. No one can. I can’t put a sewer system in.”

One person at the hearing said he feared the forced confiscation of guns based on United Nations treaties.

Another person connected the issue to what she described as falsehoods that link fossil fuel use to global warming.

The Montana Human Rights Network has been studying Montana’s militia movement for years. MHRN co-director Rachel Carroll Rivas described the connection between that movement and Agenda 21.

“One of the very key tenets of the patriot anti-government militia movement is the conspiracy theory of a New World Order, or one world government. It is no more than that – a conspiracy theory that is used to incite fear and resentment against people of other nations, other beliefs, and against our federal government,” she said. “While much of the history of the anti-U.N.. conspiracy theories have been centered on the the extreme militia ideas, they’ve also recently been capitalized upon by the anti-environmental Wise Use movement, to further profit in their industry and to turn people against critical scientific thinking on conservation and environmental issues.”

The bill is called the “Restore the Foundation of Montana’s Heritage of Individual Liberty, Privacy, and Property Rights Act.”

It would forbid the state from implementing policies in Agenda 21 that restrict property rights; from participating in inter-government councils; from using “technology for the monitoring or controlling of human activity not authorized under the Montana 1 and United States constitutions”; and indoctrinating children “for global citizenship.”

It also forbids any expenditures to support any activities of non-governmental organizations.

The bill goes next to the full Montana House, which has until Friday to vote in favor of it twice and pass it on to the Senate.