The Federal Contract on Your Land

Remember the old Westerns where the villain was a greedy lawyer? His ‘pardners’ left the saloon at midnight and rode to a ranch. They rustled cattle, cut fences and burned barns. When the rancher couldn’t make mortgage payments, he became a “willing seller.” Then, who paid the rancher a visit—dressed in a fancy black suit, with a sympathetic look on his face and a Contract in his vest pocket?

If you live in a National Heritage Area, a National Historic District or other federal “protected area,” exactly the same thing is happening, only it’s not a Hollywood movie. The largest law firm in the world has written a “Contract” on your land. It’s written by their lawyers, in their terms, not yours. You probably have not read it, but if you do, the words do not mean what you have been told they mean.

A team of very shrewd people has formed a “partnership” to pitch the “Contract.” They want to own or to have control of your land, and to use the power and wealth gained for their own benefit.

While you are at work or watching a football game, your legal representatives, the men and women you elected to protect your property rights, have been cutting your fences. They’ve even been “forging” your name on the “Contract.” Did you know they were “partners”— part of the team in cahoots with the biggest law firm in the world? If you don’t act to protect your property, the “Contract” becomes binding. The courts have ruled your ignorance is no excuse.

Take just a few minutes to read 1 Kings 21. It’s the same tale of “partners” and their greed for land, wealth and power. Are you so foolish or so blind as to believe today’s ‘kings and princes’ are much different than they were almost 3000 years ago?

On June 7, 1999, Senator Frank H. Murkowski, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, issued Senate Report 106-62 on Senate Bill 109, “to improve protection and management of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area” in Georgia.

Katherine Stevenson, National Park Service Associate Director for Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships, testified to the Committee:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S.109, to improve protection and management of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area…Congress established the Chattahoochee River National Recreational Area in 1978 to preserve and protect the natural, scenic, recreational, historic, and other values…Congress acted to facilitate State and local government efforts to protect the area by declaring the 2,000-foot-wide corridor adjacent to each bank of the Chattahoochee an area of national concern…

“…the National Park Service joined with several conservation organizations to map out a strategy…We agreed that a boundary study was needed to evaluate what lands could still be protected, along with a plan for their protection…to expand the land base, along with $25 million for land purchases…to link the separate units of the recreation area, protect much of the remaining open space…

“[W]e believe some changes are needed…the bill limits the [NPS] land acquisition authority to willing sellers. We believe that this provision unfairly ties the hands of the [NPS]. Throughout the National Park System, we usually have the power of eminent domain…in the case of potentially severe and irreparable damage to the resource or to clear title, condemnation may be the only viable option…we believe the National Park Service, in alliance with its partners, would need to take a fresh look at the management of the entire national recreation area…” (Emphasis added)

Senator Murkowski’s Committee gave the National Park Service condemnation power over the entire Recreational Area. The bill ended up in limbo, but Stevenson’s testimony is just one example of dozens of statements by top NPS officials who want condemnation power to take land when the “willing seller” ploy does not work.

In 1972, the Buffalo National River in the Ozarks was created. Forcing landowners off the land was expressly prohibited. The people, their homes, and culture were supposed to be preserved. At that time, there were 1,108 private landowners along the river. Today, there are only 8 left.

In 1971, when the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area was created, there were restrictions—no land-taking, no acquisition. Nevertheless, the Park Service program led to hundreds of homes and businesses being bulldozed and burned. The few remaining homes belonged to people who were wealthy and had ‘connections.’

Congress and NPS have designated millions of acres as National Heritage Areas, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Battlefields, or National Historic Districts. Each area has a “Management Plan.” Each has “local partners” and uses the “willing seller” hoax to acquire more land.

Land condemnation by federal agencies has caused widespread protest from property owners. Because of this, the National Park Service has adopted more devious methods. Condemnation is still used, but Congress and the NPS have had greater success tricking owners into thinking their land is safe with a “willing seller” policy.

The “local partner” idea came about during the 1970s with the development of new federal methods for “protecting” and “preserving” huge areas of land. “Partners” include state agencies and local governments, such as a board or supervisors, a planning district commission or a city council. “Private” organizations, the chamber of commerce, civic clubs, businesses, historic societies, land trusts and environmental groups act as “partner” organizations—also called “stakeholders.” The local press and media usually support the “partners.”

Because the average citizen does not read the “fine print” of the federal Management Plan (the “Contract”), the words “protect” or “preserve” appear to mean something desirable and worthwhile. To the NPS and their “partners,” the words mean control or acquire.

A “Management Plan” does exactly that: it plans for government management restrictions on the use of your private land. Zoning ordinances, historic districts, scenic byways, viewshed protection, buffer zones, conservation easements, watershed protection, subdivision restrictions and other regulations are used to control your land at the local level. The “partners” apply constant pressure on local officials to enact land use restrictions.

When private land is “protected” by these regulations, owners lose part of the value of their land. If your land can not be used to earn an income; as the costs of taxes and regulations rise; or when there are few decent jobs for you and your children because business and industry are discouraged in favor of tourism, land owners become “willing sellers.” In areas targeted by the “partnership,” the NPS or its “partners” are “willing buyers” with enough funds to outbid legitimate private buyers—if there are any.

The “partnership” scheme allows the NPS to stay in the background. Because of its well-documented reputation of dishonesty and abuse, it keeps a low profile and supplies “management expertise,” funding and “technical assistance.” The local “partners” work in the community to control private land use. They are usually more “accepted” and meet with less resistance.

Local governments often appoint “citizen advisory commissions” to make sure the Management Plan works smoothly. Members are selected for their willingness to “cooperate,” to “reach consensus” and to “compromise.” As “trusted members of the community,” it is their job to quiet public fears or objections. Land owners who question or protest federal plans are pressured to “compromise for the good of the community”—or they are ignored, or even ridiculed. Taking a strong stand to protect land owners from government abuse is rarely the commission’s goal. Even if the commission is well-intentioned, why would you allow a few people to compromise your property rights because they think it is “good for the community?”

“Partners” and “stakeholders” claim there is “broad public support” for federal Management Plans. But it’s always the same few names appearing in the news. In “payment” for their work hustling the federal “Contract,” the “partners” get funding and other special benefits such as “project grants,” jobs, government positions or “awards” for their work. Federal and state funds are used to promote tourism as “local economic development.” But when seen in the harsh light of the real world, the praise, prestige, jobs and money always go to a small, inner circle of select “partners.”

The largest law firm in the world has thousands of people on their “partnership” payroll working full-time to convince you to accept their plan, their “Contract.” They patiently use millions of your dollars, year after year, to “persuade” local government to “protect” your land, always looking to buy votes and to add more controls over your life and property.

They claim to be “preserving” your land “for future generations.” Have you ever wondered how they can “preserve” your land better than you can—by borrowing billions every year and putting you, your children and your grandchildren, the “future generations” they claim to love so dearly, deeper and deeper into debt? Could it be a big con-game? Is it possible you are being “taken for a ride?”

The “partners” tell you, “It’s a good deal—a deal you can’t refuse.” Who gains? Think about it. It’s your land. It’s your future. Don’t let others decide for you. It’s a “Contract” you can refuse.