Control of land use is outrageous
(Published: December 30, 2002)
"That's the way it is," I was told, "so get over it." The topic was the effects of critical habitat designations for the fairy shrimp on local livelihoods, property rights, housing costs and county revenues. Life as my rural California friends knew it would never be the same; 78 percent of the habitat was privately owned.
Well, I don't want to get over it. Losing our capacity for outrage that such destructive situations can be legal in a democratic republic is, to me, immoral. Maybe our outrage genes are being bred away by secret government modifications to the food supply. For sure we've been brainwashed to support anything for "the environment," even financing a 1.7 million-acre government-managed subdivision for these pond-loving crustaceans. Not to mention the grand lifestyles of the red-legged frog and Delhi Sands fly.
It is not about saving species. "Government control of private land to 'protect' species of weeds and bugs is a feel-good mask that hides the sinister effect of transforming America into a socialist nation," author Joseph Farah explains. Surely "abolish private property" and "control the means of production" must ring a bell. By not being outraged over government's rampant acquisition and control of private land, we are unwitting accomplices to the perpetrators.
The Endangered Species Act may be the supreme land confiscation tool, but the movement employs other policy and regulatory tools, including intimidation and extortion. They are expertly applied to fight technological progress, uses of mechanized equipment and vehicles, choices for housing and transportation, digging materials from the earth, transforming trees into products, ranching and grazing, irrigation, multiple uses of public land, dams and reservoirs, agricultural chemicals, new roads anywhere, anything "unnatural."
The Wildlands Project, once deemed a laughable, insane proposal to herd humans into cities and return virtually all rural lands to wildlife and "nature," gains ground from the Klamath Basin to the Florida Everglades. Its wealthy sponsors cooperated with Congress and bureaucrats to create the framework, and all three now fund state and local groups -- and candidates -- to implement it.
Land targeted for development becomes "the last of its kind," "fragile" or "sacred," adjectives loosely applicable to anything. Stories about the resulting conflicts omit that humans occupy less than 3 percent of our land or that governments already "own" more than 40 percent of it and control much, much more through regulation.
Author Linda Bowles, in her article "Environmental Marxism," suggests today's land-takeover abuses occur because of limited coverage by the mainstream media rather than "a fatalistic American submission to state socialism. One fears that only in retrospect, when it is too late to resist, will it be understood that freedoms have been irretrievably forfeited and the Constitution irreversibly abandoned."
The situation should concern each of us. Today, more than half the states face massive budget deficits. During the prosperous 1990s, the president, Congress and governors appropriated millions of acres to "nature," restricting resource extraction and traditional multiple uses. Except for President Clinton's last-minute land reclassifications, I suspect few of those leaders thought the restrictive policies of that decade could so effectively stifle economic progress in this one. Paralyzed by "citizen lawsuits" and other public processes, it is finally registering with state policy leaders that land, freedom and human ingenuity are essential components of all new wealth creation.
Frank Gladics, with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, shared some research at a policy analysts meeting last winter. Scrutinizing national data, his fears about rural natural resource and food-producing counties, those most affected by the "protect-everything" agenda, were substantiated. They contain the nation's highest unemployment rates, the highest poverty rates, and the poorest schools. That these rates occurred in counties with the most federal land, including Alaska's boroughs, was not surprising.
It is ironic that so many liberals, self-proclaimed champions of the poor and downtrodden, have switched allegiance. They now profess their mission is to save nature and species, preaching that humans should not have dominion over the earth and its creatures; we are no more, no less, important than a fly or a cave beetle. Paganism, here we come.
Property has always diffused power. Your worst nightmare is for someone with nothing to lose to gain control over it. There is no shortage of people who have well-meaning ideas for using and managing your property for "the greater good." Do not let them.
Paula Easley is a public policy consultant and former executive
director of the Resource Development Council of Alaska.
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