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One way the left has quietly, insidiously, killed the American economy is through the dirty tricks it plays with unelected bureaucrats. This op-ed by private property rights attorney Karen Budd-Falen shows how the federal government ignores laws while destroying what’s left of people’s private property rights:

Private landowner Andrew VanDenBerg is at the center of the controversy, including now being vilified by a press release issued by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office (part of the U.S. Justice Department).

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) guarantees access to private property across federal lands. Although the private landowner is required to file an application explaining the location of such access, that application cannot be denied under ANILCA. According to the Senate Committee reports regarding ANILCA, Congress intended to eliminate the federal government’s discretion in allowing adequate and feasible access to inholdings by “direct(ing) the Secretary to grant the owner of an inholding such rights as are necessary to assure adequate access to the inholding and is intended to assure a permanent right of access to the concerned land across, through or over these Federal lands by such State or private owners or occupiers and their successors in interest.”

The problem with the application system however is that the BLM routinely, and many times intentionally and unreasonably, delays processing such applications, thereby denying access to the private property during the processing. It is more common than not to have an application for access delayed for years, all the while denying access to private property.

Why have laws if the federal government routinely ignores those laws with impunity? Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what should frighten people:

Private landowner Andrew VanDenBerg is at the center of the controversy, including now being vilified by a press release issued by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office (part of the U.S. Justice Department).

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) guarantees access to private property across federal lands. Although the private landowner is required to file an application explaining the location of such access, that application cannot be denied under ANILCA. According to the Senate Committee reports regarding ANILCA, Congress intended to eliminate the federal government’s discretion in allowing adequate and feasible access to inholdings by “direct(ing) the Secretary to grant the owner of an inholding such rights as are necessary to assure adequate access to the inholding and is intended to assure a permanent right of access to the concerned land across, through or over these Federal lands by such State or private owners or occupiers and their successors in interest.”

The problem with the application system however is that the BLM routinely, and many times intentionally and unreasonably, delays processing such applications, thereby denying access to the private property during the processing. It is more common than not to have an application for access delayed for years, all the while denying access to private property.

Why have federal laws if the federal government routinely ignores those laws, then bullies landowners in their attempt to restrict private property rights? That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. After having BLM bureaucrats ignore him, Mr. VanDenBerg decided to apply a little common sense to the situation:

In complete frustration at the bureaucratic delays and denials, VanDenBerg decided to use an existing road to get to his property. This road, noted as an existing road on the 2005 San Juan National Forest map and known as County Road 33A, has been in existence since 1886. The road was clearly visible on the ground as well as noted on the federal government’s maps. VanDenBerg cut dead fall timber from the roadway and moved it out of the way. Although he followed the tracks of the road and he did not get out of the roadway that has existed for over 125 years, the BLM charged him with civil trespass charges in federal district court.

This seems pretty straightforward. The road is visible from the ground. It’s highlighted on federal maps. Mr. VanDenBerg removed some dead fall timber from the road because the federal government hadn’t maintained the road like they were obligated to do. In most citizens’ eyes, he should get a good citizens award for his efforts. That isn’t what happened, though:

Not wanting to expend the money on a huge and expensive trial, VanDenBerg decided to settle with the BLM. The settlement agreement states that VanDenBerg does not admit to ANY of the claims or assertions put forward by the government and that he is simply reimbursing the federal government for the reclamation of the dead trees he cut. Although he did not want to settle with the federal government, he recognized that the largest law firm in the world, the U.S. Justice Department, represents the federal government and that he would be buried in litigation costs. He thought a settlement agreement would end the matter and that the BLM would process his application so that he could have the access to his private property that he was promised by Congress.

Before the ink on the agreement was barely dry, the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a “press release” that incorrectly labels VanDenBerg as a “trespasser” and claiming his attempt to access his own private property is “unauthorized.” The release also states that VanDenBerg’s actions occurred in a “wilderness.” VanDenBerg had disputed all of those statements. Even the settlement agreement itself noted that these statements are only allegations by the U.S., yet their press release states them as fact.

When asked about the false and misleading statements in the press release (in addition to noting that VanDenBerg denied all of the allegations in the settlement agreement), the U.S. Attorney noted in an e-mail to VanDenBerg’s attorney, “While I realize that you and your client were disappointed in the press release,…it is routine for this office to issue press releases on these kinds of settlements, especially in cases where the conduct is of the kind that we hope to deter in the future.”

At this point, you’re thinking ‘that stinks but at least that isn’t happening in my state’, right? Though the specifics in this article are changed, the goal remains the same:

The report recommends a revitalized EQB, with up to 10 staffers, more than double the current level.

Agriculture Commissioner Dave Fredrickson, chair of the EQB, said the environment will benefit if the board can plan ahead.

“They can look into the future and anticipate problems that we may hit head-on, so rather than react, we can as a board act on some of those important issues,” Fredrickson said.

He cited silica sand mining; the board has been asked to do a broad review called a Generic Environmental Impact Statement on that subject. If the board had more staff, it could proceed.

Why must the EQB exist? Here’s what the EQB is:

The Environmental Quality Board includes the heads of nine state agencies and four citizens.

Does Minnesota government need 9 different agencies to protect the environment? That isn’t likely. In fact, it’s exceptionally likely that most of those oversight agencies were created to placate environmentalists.

Whether the federal or state government is involved in the environment, the goal isn’t to protect the environment. It’s to limit people’s private property rights.

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2 Responses to “Bureacratic troublemakers, the environment and diminishing freedoms”

  • eric z says:

    Have your people in control of the budget process not allocated enough money for the job to be done. The BLM has many other things to do. Did your legislation provide processing deadlines? It looks like another one of the Republican unfunded mandates. As with No Child Left Behind.

    Fund it first before complaining.

  • Gary Gross says:

    There shouldn’t be this type of BS. The waiver should be granted reflexively.

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