MORRISON: The disappearance of private land
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Joyce Morrison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
OPINION -- Listed as one of the 10 planks in the Communist Manifesto
is "the abolition of private property and the application of
all rents of land to public purposes."
As we keep demanding more tax dollars be spent on buying private property
for forests, open space and parks, we tend to forget that in the United
States it has long been a constitutional right for ‘the people’ to
own the land. In Socialist and Communist nations the Government owns
Real estate taxes pay for our schools and local governments. As the
tax base decreases, the tax burden increases on the remaining property
owners while across the nation, counties and school districts are
in deep financial trouble. What will be the solution?
The federal government currently owns 671.8 million acres in the United
States while adding more acres daily. 57 percent is used for forest
and wildlife, 21 percent for grazing, 14 percent for parks and historic
sites and 8 percent is listed as remaining uses. Land trusts and groups
such as The Nature Conservancy are gobbling up private land at an
alarming rate. They are also buying conservation easements which is
worse than buying the property outright.
Gretchen Randall of Winningreen LLC reports the federal government
owns about a third of all land in the U.S., most of it in the western
states. States with the largest percentage of federal land ownership
as of 9/30/03 are: Nevada 91.9%, Wyoming 50.6%, Alaska 66.7%, Arizona
50.2%, Utah 66.5%, Oregon 49.7%, Idaho 66.4%, California 46.9%.
State and local government's landholdings added to federal ownership
makes it is easy to see why the tax base to pay for schools and local
government keeps shrinking.
Illinois ranks as the 46th state with government-owned lands. Ranked
as one of the leading agricultural states in the nation, the largest
portion of Illinois remains in privately owned farmland with slightly
over 4% of the state in government ownership.
That small percent is about to change, because the Forest Service
may begin land acquisition in the Illinois Ozarks to add more acres
to the Shawnee National Forest.
Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator from Illinois and member of the powerful
Senate Appropriations Committee, approved spending $850,000 for land
acquisition for the Shawnee. The appropriation is for property in
Jackson, Union and Alexander counties west of Interstate 57. Funding
for the acquisitions will become available following one more Senate
Land owners in the area have been contacted by the U.S. Forest Service
representatives. The land most desirable to the Forest Service is
reported to be adjacent to designated Wilderness Areas and along designated
Scenic River Corridors.
Anyone who owns land that borders government land will almost always
have an ongoing battle against extended regulations. After a long
hassle, property owners wear down and become ‘willing sellers.’
Horse riders and campground owners might be asking why the government
needs to buy more land when the Forest Service has already placed
restrictions on creek crossings and trail riding in the Shawnee. If
the parks are for the public, why are there more restrictions for
the public to have access?
Even government employees are saying government land is not being
managed and much is neglected. Personnel cuts will leave more government
land abandoned. Why does the government want to keep hoarding more
property? It is a known fact the private landowner is the best conservationist
and caretaker of the land.
While tourism seems to be the promotion for acquisitions and land
controls such as Scenic Byways, the Measures for Conservation of Biodiversity
and Sustainable Use of its Components, says: "The rapid growth
in tourism has produced more infrastructure, increased pollution,
put unsustainable demands on local environments and created adverse
impacts on biodiversity."
It further states, "Ecotourism can contribute to pressures on
biodiversity through serious trail erosion. . ."
It is believed that tourism and grants are the bait. Once officials
have taken the bait, the trap will be closed. We will be told the
tourists harm the ecosystem or biodiversity and the area will become
unsustainable. Like the trails, government areas will be closed to
Three Arizona Congressmen are backing a House proposal to lower federal
spending to buy more land for the federal government.
Congressmen Jeff Flake, (R-AZ), Trent Franks (R-AZ) and John Shadegg
(R-AZ) have joined other fiscal conservatives in backing a $121 million
cut according to a Winningreen LLC report. The Senate version of the
Department of Interior appropriations contains a $215 million increase
for land purchase.
Montana, which is 37.5% state- and federally-owned, has decided not
to lose more private land. Montanan Clarice Ryan has been diligent
in the battle to protect private property and has shared what State
Representative Rick Maedge said Republicans are doing to keep having
more of their land from slipping into the hands of the Federal Government.
Maedge said, "In the next session, I am offering a bill which
will 'ban' the federal government from buying more land by using Federal
Constitutional means -- prohibiting any person of the state from selling
to the federal government without Local government consent and in
accordance with the terms of state law."
"The purpose is to protect the Sovereignty of the state and protect
its property tax base."
Maedge continued, "That is the only Constitutional way to stop
federal land acquisition in the states -- simply prohibit the sale
to the feds -- because one cannot ban the purchase side of the deal."
Other states may find it beneficial to follow Montana's lead.
Do we want our legislators to bring home more pork dollars to buy
up more private property or do we choose to remain sovereign?
We have big decisions to make and action to take as our land is slipping
away to never again be in the hands of private ownership.
What "‘ism" will we be then?
© 2004 IllinoisLeader.com -- all rights reserved
Joyce Morrison lives in southern Illinois. She is a chapter leader
for Concerned Women for America and she and her husband, Gary, represent
the local Citizens for Private Property Rights. Joyce is Secretary
to the Board of Directors of Rural Restoration/ADOPT Mission, a national
farm ministry located in Sikeston.
She has become a nationally-recognized advocate for property rights.