Sizing Up the Assault on Property Rights
By Tom DeWeese
Quietly, with little public notice, private property has been disappearing across America
at an alarming rate for more than a decade.
Property owners are finding themselves under assault from an almost unintelligible maze of
federal, state, county and local environmental laws, regulations, programs and taxes. This
government assault is combined with a concerted effort by well-funded and politically
powerful environmental groups.
Using regulations and programs like Sustainable Development; the Endangered Species Act;
wet lands regulations; government land acquisition programs; Clean Air Act; biological
diversity; forest regulations; land trusts; water-shed protection; heritage corridors;
green ways and eco-regions, the federal government is rapidly carving up the nation, and
removing from use productive land and resources. In its wake, industries, farms and
American dreams are being destroyed.
The main enforcers of these policies are the National Park Service, the Army Corp of
Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Forest Service, The Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), and 800,000 lawyers.
They are aided by the advance troops of environmental radicals who infest every local
community by scouting out possible targets, and by creating controversy and legal attacks
on businesses, property owners and developers. No stone is left unturned and no scare
tactic is too outrageous for these well- funded, politically sophisticated, fanatical,
Groups like the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, National
Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, National Resources Defense Council and the
Environmental Defense Council provide the legal research and courtroom advocacy to force
property owners into submission.
These groups have become so powerful and feared that most major businesses will pay them
"green mail" and capitulate to their demands without putting up a fight. Smaller
property owners, farmers, ranchers and family businesses have little chance to hang on to
their property once the attack begins.
This "ecoligarchy" is funded with federal tax dollars as well as by private
foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mellon Foundations, Ford Foundation, Pew
Charitable Trust, W. Alton Jones Foundation, university grants and the Environmental Grant
Makers Association. More dollars fill their pockets through the selling of
"taken" land as the booty of their legal assault.
As this violence grows against America's most fundamental right, the ownership of private
property, most Americans remain unaware of their rapidly diminishing rights. This is due
in part to a massive news blackout of any "green" acquisition.
The media manages to either ignore the latest government taking or describe it in glowing
terms as a boon for the environment. Children in classrooms are taught that protecting the
environment must take precedence over most human activities.
Such propaganda is backed up by a constant flow of unfounded or unsupported
"scientific" reports declaring environmental Armageddon through ozone holes,
global warming and human consumption.
As a result, America's most precious freedom is in steady retreat. Even with the passing
of the Clinton administration, more property owners continue to become victims of a cause
they don't understand. But the worst may be yet to come. The environmental movement has
many plans in the works.
If completely implemented, more than 50 percent of all the land in the entire United
States may be shut off from human activity, leaving little choice for future Americans but
to be herded into specified human habitat areas to live and raise their families under a
central organizing plan call Sustainable Development. Gone will be private property, free
enterprise, personal choices and dreams.
As incredible is this may seem, it is the reality of what is occurring in America. The
nation's economic system is based on the ownership of private property.
When that right, enshrined in the Constitution, is gone, America will have fallen victim
to those within its midst, becoming an empty shell, stripped of access to its natural
resources, its farms, and other enterprises, living under an authoritarian system that is
the antithesis of everything its founding fathers envisioned.
Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center.