P.O. Box 75, Stony Creek, New York 12878 - 518/696-5748
Founded 1994

The right to own private property is a fundamental American freedom that
guarantees personal liberty and promotes economic prosperity.



March 1, 2004

Dear Friend,

There is good reason to hope that the people of the United States are waking up!

I used to wonder how badly the American value system would erode before people would take action. We may be reaching that day.

The focus of PRFA is private property rights. What concept could be more fundamental to American traditions? Today, it seems that no matter where you happen to be, there is someone who has personally endured or whose immediate acquaintance has experienced some outrageous infringement on property rights or some idiotic expenditure to "save" the environment.

"Thou shalt not steal." This is the Eighth Commandment, where respect for private property was enshrined in the Mosaic law — and carried down for almost 3,300 years to our American legal system. Yet, the Ten Commandments are so hated by the leftist elites that Alabama's Chief Justice was removed from office in November because he refused to obey a federal court order to take a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building. The federal court held that the monument was an offense against the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against the establishment of religion.

Now a hero, Judge Roy Moore speaks to standing-room-only crowds through the country. Roman and Greek civilization did not by a mere accidental twist mature into the American system of freedom. Rather, Judaic values and legal principles were imbued into Christianity, and then carried through from ancient times through the Enlightenment to the Colonial days. Much of our legal system is built on these Judaic-Christian principles of morality and justice. The idea came down that a person's dignity before God gave him rights irrespective of the State, that even the State was subject to judgement by the God-given moral system.

Without private property rights, no society can be free. A nation can have "land reform," as in Central America, but it becomes anarchy without a structured system to establish land ownership. Instead of justice, such "reform" is just stealing from one owner to transfer property ad hoc to others. The thievery doesn't stop with the first transfer of property. The ultimate result of the abrogation of private property rights is today's anarchy in Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa.

We take for granted our system of title recording at each county seat, where a person who buys property files a deed and insures that no one at a later date can come up with a sworn piece of paper to steal his property. But in Eastern Europe, across the former Soviet republics, across China, and in many developing nations, no such title recording system yet exists.

How precious our system is! But in northern New York a state-appointed regional commission called the Adirondack Park Agency, with jurisdiction over three million acres of private land, imposes encumbrances on the property of every landowner who receives a permit from the agency. The agency has been requiring that permit recipients record the permits like deeds in the county seats. This means that if the agency made the unknowing permittee agree to cut no trees except to allow for a narrow driveway leading to the house hidden in a small glade (also an agency dictate), future owners will forever (as can be reasonably interpreted in the lives of agencies and nations) be subject to snitches and prosecution by the state attorney general on account of the potential of cutting a single tree.

The result is that an arbitrary, leftist agency, empowered by the largess of the state legislature, equates permit conditions that are outside the scope of law with recorded deeds. This is an example of the erosion of property rights today in upstate New York, and, similarly, in many other ways, across America.

• "Wetlands" designations wipe out lifetime retirement investments by forbidding the use of land.
• Government agencies stop the use of land by declaring "endangered species" or "habitat" for selected species where the species do not exist.
Federal regional zoning forces local businesses to give up, replaced by bigger businesses that can afford supposedly "environmental" review requirements.
State and local zoning makes it difficult for ordinary people to own homes and businesses.
• "Viewsheds" from scenic roads and federal trails impose restrictions on businesses and homeowners.
Heritage Corridor commissions entice and coerce local governments into regional zoning geared to strict preservation under the guise of promoting "heritage tourism."
• "Historic artifacts" dictate prohibitively expensive archeological surveys and "historic register" status stops private owners from altering their buildings for practical purposes.
• Landlords suffer from rent control and competition from tax-subsidized rentals. Tenants and landlords lose privacy rights to invasive rental inspections.
Not only are the rights inherent in ownership of land being eroded in this nation, but the private ownership of land is itself under attack.
Non-profit land trusts and federal and state government desiccate the tax base, and destroy local communities by acquiring vast expanses of private land for government "wilderness."
• Harsh open space zoning pressures farmers beset by taxes and global competition to relinquish development rights to their property, often as conservation easements.
• Property owners along abandoned canals and railroads, and the landowners along riverways designated as Heritage Areas, face the specter of public trails through their backyards, and are sometimes even threatened with eminent domain.
Eminent domain condemns houses and small businesses to transfer the property to wealthy nationwide chains and developers, under the pretext of ending downtown "blight."

Communities dependent on government-owned land are particularly vulnerable to leftist activists. Radical environmentalists obstruct the use of Western public lands, causing the demise of land-based industry and local communities. Millions of acres of forests and wild animals are killed by fires because of fuel buildup due to neglect, with loss of human life and destruction of thousands of houses.

But, as I said, an awakening may be spreading across America. Last year, the national property rights movement united around the Healthy Forests Initiative, which became law in December, and promises to restore responsibility and protect public safety in the care of federal forest lands.

A sense of urgency is mounting about many other issues, whether unjust wetland restrictions, imposition of regional zoning through National Heritage Areas, eminent domain to sweep away downtown America, or wanton land acquisition by wealthy land trusts.

By supporting the work of the Property Rights Foundation of America you are part this new groundswell of action to restore our rights. No less than the American tradition of private property rights is at stake. But we can and are making a difference. Please help PRFA maintain its leadership role to defend our private property rights and private property ownership.

If at all possible, could you send a donation to the Property Rights Foundation of America today? Your help is urgently needed, and will be greatly appreciated. By contributing generously to PRFA today, you will not only be assisting many individuals and communities, but you will be contributing to the preservation of our fundamental rights.


Carol W. LaGrasse

A copy of the latest annual financial report of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc. may be obtained from the organization or from the Office of the Attorney General, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10271.

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