|The great national land grab
By Peyton Knight
web posted June 16, 2003
Land grabbers in Congress, led by Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), want to pass
federal legislation (H.R. 1427) to create a National Heritage Areas program.
Property rights advocates must be on the alert and prepared to fight to
ensure that such a program never comes into existence.
National Heritage Areas present many dangers to traditional property rights
and local zoning. Here are a few of the more serious implications and problems
associated with an NHA program:
- National Heritage Areas are de facto federal zoning. Despite proponents’ claims
to the contrary, as federal dollars flow from Washington to individual
NHAs, inevitably, federal strings are attached. One of these strings
is federal zoning mandates. For example, when the Augusta Canal NHA was
initial approval, the National Park Service urged the House Resources
Committee to withhold federal funds from Augusta Canal until a commitment
by those overseeing the creation of the NHA to implement stricter zoning
laws and even create a State park. Land use and zoning is an inherent
function of local government. NHAs promote a top-down, federal approach
use that would spell disaster for local communities.
- National Heritage Areas stifle local initiative and control.
When born of local initiative, planning and money, Heritage Areas are
more apt to
have the consensus of the property and business owners within their boundaries.
Indeed, there are many State Heritage Areas that are totally sustained
by local businesses and governments—they operate free of federal
money or intrusion. National Heritage Areas operate quite differently.
It is not necessarily the desire of the local community to create a NHA
in their area, but rather the desire of a special interest group or a
federal agency. Preliminary boundaries are drawn, locals are inadequately
of the pending NHA designation, federal money and assistance is wafted
under the noses of local officials, and the process goes forward, despite
what is in the best interest or desire of the community.
- Property owners
are not properly notified when their land falls within the boundaries
of a proposed National Heritage Area. It is morally
that landowners be notified any time a federal designation could affect
their property rights in any manner. Yet proponents of National Heritage
Areas refuse to offer this most common courtesy. This is because they
fear opposition to NHA designations and would rather spring the news
- National Heritage Areas not only promote federal land acquisition,
but also acquire land themselves. Both the Cane River and Shenandoah
National Battlefields National Heritage Areas are authorized to use federal
for land acquisition, and thus, have created national parks within their
boundaries. Others, such as the Rivers of Steel NHA in Pennsylvania,
are openly lobbying for land acquisition and park creation. Property
within these NHAs must now contend with ideologically driven land trusts
partnered with federal agencies hungry to either acquire their land or
restrict its use.
- A National Heritage Areas program would grow exponentially
and become a massive funding burden to the federal government. A National
Areas program could not come at a worse time. Once a National Heritage
Area program is established, local government officials and non-governmental
organizations will clamor for more and more federal dollars. As the program
grows out of control, so too will its strain on the federal budget and
its burden on a National Park Service that is already facing a multi-billion
dollar maintenance backlog.
The National Heritage Areas program is an expensive, insidious attempt
by non-governmental organizations and federal agencies to impose land use
controls and zoning mandates on unsuspecting local communities. It is my
view, and the view of others in the property rights community, that there
is zero justification for such a program at the federal level. The Senate
Resources Committee has a golden opportunity to quash this dangerous program
before it spreads like wildfire throughout the nation, devouring local
Peyton Knight is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the American
Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton,
VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. © Peyton
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