Federal land grabs transforming American society
The Pilgrim family in Alaska is not the only instance of the federal government forcing people off their land. Donald Scott was awakened in the middle of the night by someone breaking through his front door. He grabbed his gun and started down the stairs, when he was shot dead by federal agents. Bob Learzaf was taking a bath, when the feds stormed through his front door. They handcuffed him, put him in leg-irons, and hauled him to jail.
The "crime" all these people have in common, is the ownership of land, coveted by the federal government. For every victim whose story reaches the national media, there are thousands of other victims who are harassed, coerced or regulated to the point that they have neither the funds, nor the will to fight.
In the examples above, the landowners were "inholders," which means that their land is surrounded by so-called "public land." In each instance, the land was privately owned before the park was designated. The Clinton-Gore administration undertook an intensive program to rid the world of these pesky inholders, and consolidate all the land into the hands of the federal government.
The federal land grab is not limited to inholders. Ranchers are being systematically removed from federal lands throughout the west. Entire communities that arose to support logging in the Northwest are vanishing. In Florida, an entire community in Collier County is facing eviction, caused by impossible flood-insurance fees dictated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is only the latest in a series of regulatory maneuvers to force the people out of an area the federal government wants to return to its "natural wilderness" condition.
We are witnessing the "wrenching transformation" of society that Al Gore said would be necessary to save the planet. The planet can only be saved, according to Mr. Gore and his crowd, if the government controls the use of all resources. Resources are the product of land, and therefore, control of land use results in the control of all resources.
The government, prodded by environmental organizations, has been extremely creative in developing excuses to control land use. The wetlands policy, and the attendant environmental propaganda, turned mosquito-infested mud-puddles, and snake-infested swamps, into precious aquifer-recharge areas that could not be altered, without penalty, by private landowners.
The Endangered Species Act has now allowed the listing of more than a thousand obscure weeds and bugs that must have hundreds of thousands of acres designated as "critical habitat" that cannot be altered, without penalty, by private landowners. Viewsheds, heritage areas, wilderness, corridors, buffer zones, archeological sites and a maze of other designations now prohibit the use of private property from one end of the country to the other. Land-use control does not stop at the city limits.
In the past, urban dwellers have paid little attention to the "rural cleansing" that has been taking place across the countryside. With the emergence of "sustainable communities," land use in urban areas is also increasingly controlled by government. Behind the mask of "economic development areas," government has discovered that it can condemn and take private property from one individual, and sell it, at a profit, to another individual who wants to use it for a purpose that promises more tax revenue.
Other urbanites are discovering that state-required local planning controls the use of their private property. Land held for years, in hopes that development would appreciate the value into a retirement nest-egg, can be devalued instantly by a line on a zoning map, drawn by an uncaring bureaucrat, to conform with a vision hatched by a "sustainable community" consultant.
A free society cannot exist where government controls the use of land and its resources. Nevertheless, governments – pushed by environmental extremist organizations – continue to buy private property at an unprecedented rate, and to issue new regulations to control the land they cannot yet afford.
People in rural areas have been fighting for years. Their screams of protest have been drowned out by the steady stream of propaganda about the wisdom of "protecting" the land for future generations.
Things are changing. City dwellers are now beginning to feel the effects of too much government control, and they are organizing to resist it. They are discovering their country cousins, and joining forces to strengthen the groundswell of respect and appreciation of the principles on which this nation was founded. Chief among those principles is sacredness of private property.
Politicians who continue to ignore the individual's right to own and control the use of his own property, paint a target on their back. A rapidly growing, enlightened, determined electorate is looking for those targets, and every opportunity to remove them.
Bob Learzaf, Donald Scott, the Pilgrims and countless others, have already paid the price of government greed. It's time for an enraged electorate to turn the tables on land-hungry bureaucrats and politicians, and transform them into victims ... of unemployment.
Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation
Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.
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