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Losing our heritage, our land

By Tom DeWeese
web posted July 15, 2002

Congress is gearing up to vote on a very dangerous bill. The National Heritage Areas Act (HR 2388), sponsored by liberal Republican Rep. Joel Hefley (CO) and liberal Democrat Rep. Nick Rahall (WV), would do for land grabs what the assembly line did for automobiles. It would speed up the process to a point where private property would be the equivalent of the horse and buggy.

The Heritage Areas Act proposes to extend federal control over local land use in exchange for federal grant money going to local communities. Politicians see it as a pork barrel spending program to benefit their districts. However, with the federal money comes federal land use requirements, duplicity and land seizure, as is happening right now in several counties in West Virginia-Heritage Areas!

There is no notification to landowners when their property comes within the boundaries of a Heritage Area. You just find out when you try to get a road fixed, install a swimming pool, re-gravel your driveway or repair your fences.

HR 2388 claims to be a program for local communities to encourage the promotion of economic development and tourism. However, communities are in for a rude surprise, because here is what is NOT in the Heritage Areas Act: the words "economic development" or "tourism."

Here is an example of how the National Park Service hides its intentions from local landowners, uses them to gain funds and then dumps them when it no longer needs them. All in the name of a National Heritage Area, of course.

The people of Hinton, West Virginia wanted funds to repair a local road. They lobbied their legislators for several years, and finally gained funding. After they got the federal funds, the National Park Service announced that, because it was a Heritage Area, the money would be used to create a Scenic Parkway, and dozens of people's properties would be condemned and they would be forced out of their homes! These are the very same people who lobbied for the road repairs in the first place!!! Check it out at http://www.newriverfriends.org/

This bill creates a "Heritage Area" program that will be run by the National Park Service-this is the same agency that, among other things:

1. Allows forest fires to run wild;
2. Condemns private property whenever possible and,
3. Claims huge areas as endangered species habitat so it can eliminate commercial and recreational use of public lands, prohibiting everything from off-road vehicles to mining and logging.

The National Park Service also has a five billion dollar maintenance Backlog, everything from potholes in roads to overflowing sewer systems fouling the rivers. Yet this agency is constantly grabbing for new land and power, when it plainly cannot handle the empire it already controls.

Here are four reasons to oppose HR 2388:

1. It is federal land use zoning;
2. It is run by the anti-property-owner National Park Service;
3. It will damage economic development; and
4. It doesn't let people know what is going on, until it is too late!

The Heritage Areas Act was passed by the House Resources Committee in May of 2002. It will likely come up for a vote before the entire House sometime in July. There is no time to lose in letting your Representative know you oppose it.

Tom DeWeese is the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center, Warrenton, Virginia. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. (c) Tom DeWeese, 2002

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