Property Rights Foundation of America®

Land Grab U.S.A.

by Carol W. LaGrasse, from Positions on Property, Vol. 1, No. 2, Supplement (PRFA, May 1994)

The National Heritage Corridor project is an environmental watershed comparable to the Endangered Species Act and wetlands controls. Comprised of over a hundred separate riverways, greenways, historic linkages, ridgelines, and trails, the National Heritage Corridor project is gaining on hundreds of fronts. It has been bubbling along through the halls of Congress without so much as a whimper. The affected title "National Heritage Corridors" is an alias for federal zoning of private land.

Also called the "American Heritage Partnership" program, the corridor system is not an innocent plan to increase local cultural and historic pride or to promote tourism. The corridor program is a way of creating habitat for biodiversity. Beyond "biodiversity," the corridor program is a way of centralizing power. The corridor program is not to promote culture, but to put culture in mausoleums.

Initially, tourism, yuppie backpacking, and youth environmental education are supposed to flood the corridors. Heritage corridor proponents cite the Cuyahoga Valley as a "successful" corridor. Indeed it is a perfect example, although a step beyond national zoning under the National Park Service. The towns in the Cuyahoga Valley near Akron, Ohio, lost much of their population and tax base as the National Park Service condemned, burned and tore down homes and farms.

Today what remains of Cuyahoga towns is overburdened to maintain local roads to handle the busloads of city youth trucked to the vacated river valley for environmental indoctrination. Eighty-five percent of the geographic area of the township of Boston is gone. The Town can maintain its services only by applying to the National Park Service for gratuitous help. Like other areas being engulfed by government land acquisition, it is at the mercy of the very entity that is taking its land.

The corridors are part of the triage of the culture. Elites will decide which region survives. As the population, money and power shift to the cities, triage of rural America can be accelerated. In the end, the visits by urbanites and the tourism will go, too.

The Heritage Corridor project is directed at the eastern half of the United States rather than the west. The federal government already is the dominant landowner in the far west.

Supposedly instigated at the grassroots, the National Heritage Corridor project is planted in localities by preservationist organizations and individuals stimulated by national policymakers

The National Park Service is the force behind the Heritage Corridor plan. With the exception of a relatively small number of historic and cultural sites that create a little mix to the collection of heritage areas, the corridors are river beds. The idea of the corridors is an extension of the major National Parks, which are being gradually closed to visiting people. The corridor river beds are to be ultimately depopulated to make way for the free movement and migration of animals and even plants. Preservation biologists have determined that "riparian zones" are best to connect wild areas where species thrive, but corridors take land routes, also. The biologist's term for corridors, "land bridges, " is more revealing.

A few of the of the National Heritage Corridors are as small as a city waterfront, but most encompass several counties. The largest planned corridor encompasses the entire 2,500-mile Mississippi riverbed. It is designated simply the "Mississippi River Corridor," with its own bureaucracy and legislative fast track in the U.S. Congress. The corridors are by and large regional entities following a river front across several county or a few state lines, to be ultimately managed by an appointed federal commission.

The corridor program is not to promote culture, but to put culture in mausoleums.

Appointive federal commissions are a violation of the representative (Republican) form of government guaranteed to every state under Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution. The powers of the prospective federal or regional commissions to control private land management and acquire land for wilderness and parks are in violation of Amendments IX and X of the Bill of Rights. We don't have regional government yet in the United States, but it is getting closer. The corridors are one of the worst examples yet of the poison that is seeping into every aspect of America.

Four National Heritage Corridors have been established in addition to the two brutal federal takeovers often cited to the uninformed as benign precedents, the Columbia River Gorge Commission and the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreational Area. Each National Heritage Corridor is working its way into or through Congress with promises of porkbarrel (local funds for "economic development" from the federal well) in exchange for betrayal of the Constitution. The National Trust for Historic Preservation enthusiastically depicts the bills as the "Heritage Corridor Avalanche."

While the National Trust for Historic Preservation command center coordinates the individual corridors past unsuspecting localities, key Congressmen working with the National Park Service under the personal attention of Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt are honing and guiding through the Congress the generic legislation to establish the National Heritage Corridor system of which each corridor is intended to become a part.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation takes pride that it helped defeat property rights bills in Oregon, Maryland, and Louisiana.

The generic bills proposed by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Bruce Vento (D-MN) are carefully couched to emphasize economic development and downplay federal controls of private land, but the incipient language is there. The Vento bill, which is furthest along, calls on the Secretary of the Interior to contract with the states to manage the area and "to provide appropriate regulatory assistance in preserving the area."(1)

The National Park Service recently stated at a congressional hearing that the Augusta Canal National Heritage Corridor should be made consistent with the Vento bill by including a contract with the National Park Service to "modify zoning regulations." (2)

Publications circulating in the preservation community make it clear that the goal is protection of "landscape" from "industrial development," "condominiums" and "office development," and to protect the "landscape from the fragmented nature of town-by-town conventional zoning." (3)

The federally designated Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor through Massachusetts and Rhode Island is the most often cited model for the corridors proposed elsewhere in the country. One of these is the corridor that Senator James Jeffords has in mind for the Champlain-Hudson Valley, starting at the Canadian border to meet the one Congressman Hinchey envisions for the region encompassing that part of his district in the Hudson Valley as well as the entire rural remainder of the Hudson riverbed and counties that border the river. Called the "Hudson Valley Greenway" in the state law Hinchey sponsored, the southerly portion is now known in Congress as the Hudson Valley Heritage Area to extend from the Saratoga Battlefield National Park to the New York City line. The dual plans would create a Champlain-Hudson Valley greenline 300 miles long as the crow flies from the Canadian border to New York City, bring the federal government preservationists right into the historic spine of New York State.

Like the array of other regional entities that preservationists have accomplished and are sneaking through Congress and the state legislatures, the Blackstone River Corridor involves coopting local opposition by creating avenues of participation for local officials and keeping initial upper level government mandates off the backs of localities initially. This and the "economic development"—usually tourism—are the first stage to sweeten the deal while the hard-core preservation work follows.

The Land Use Management Report for the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor, the official guide for the future of the corridor prepared by the Center for Rural Massachusetts at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, bluntly states the preservationist agenda for the ultimate disposition of local zoning powers—to be forfeited to the regional entity,:

"Regional Commissions
"At some point, a sufficient level of concern is reached along with a growing consensus that voluntary, nonregulatory measures are themselves insufficient to ensure that environmental, cultural, and historic resources are adequately protected against indiscriminate and inappropriate development."(4) (emphasis added)

This plan cites two examples of implemented regional corridor commissions, one of them the repressive Columbia River Gorge Commission. (See A Brutal Model Program for the Heritage Corridors.)

Corridor projects are, of course, just another name for "greenways." The greenways and corridors have three common elements that undermine fundamental private property rights, disrupt people's lives and leave them personally insecure and
poorer.

There is always an upper level of environmentally oriented planning and zoning that supersedes or takes in the localities by one method or another. The upper level brings in the states and then local officials into the process and uses them as tools to carry out green zoning over the unsuspecting or resistant people and businesses.

The National Wild and Scenic River System was a prime inspiration for the National Heritage Corridor System. No buildings are allowed to be seen in "viewsheds" of Scenic Rivers. Shelly S. Mastran, the Director of the Rural Heritage Program at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which oversees the corridors, inadvertently revealed the aggressive evolution of the corridors:

"Fashioned somewhat like the Wild & Scenic River System, the heritage partnerships program would designate areas that meet certain criteria, which include both quality and variety of natural and cultural resources, the potential for recreational development, local commitment and organization, and the preparation of a management plan." (5)

The second element of corridors is the establishment of trails. Lately, environmentalists avoid early mapping of trail locations, because this informs and arouses the citizenry, who realize that their property is threatened. Nowadays, trails are couched as "voluntary" or by "donation," etc. They are initially narrow, but one has only to go to the Appalachian Trail in Virginia's foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to hear current horror stories of the National Park Service's heavy-handed use of eminent domain to expand the width of the already completed trail. Moreover, once a trail is partially completed, property owners who hold out are the object of protests and intrusions.

Trails are highways that the property owners are not allowed to use, and that localities have difficulty maintaining or patrolling.

Most importantly of all, greenways always involve government acquisition of private land for trails and broader preservation purposes. This is done as secretly as possible, utilizing land trusts to avoid scrutiny that might be directed at government and to get around what are mostly temporary budgetary hurdles. The use of land trusts as an acquisition arm working hand-in-glove with the National Park Service and other agencies of government is one of the worst abuses of the Constitution today. Agencies and not-for-profits never publish acquisitions that might tip citizens off about future land grabs, keeping all transactions secret until consummated and records dispersed to avoid vulnerability to sunshine law. As part of the zoning land acquisition elements, greenways also involve an unconstitutional process called inverse condemnation, zoning property so that its value is kept down or lowered so that the owner can be forced to sell at a reduced price. Patricia Thomas of Middleburg, Virginia, reports that the National Park Service is forcing communities to do this to property owners for the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Mapping of the Long Path is devaluing land in New York.

Legislation may actually create a not-profit land acquisition agency or a public benefit corporation for land acquisition.

The National Park Service

Local homeowners are still fighting expansion of National Park Service lands in the Indiana Dunes National Seashore, Buffalo National River and elsewhere. Nonetheless, the National Park Service is extending its power to new categories. It has shifted focus toward the partnership parks modeled after New York's Adirondack Park, a mix of government-owned and private land, and related lands like the regulated buffer area sought around Yellowstone. The corridor concept is along the same line, a mix of ever-declining private property and ever-increasing government-owned and greenlined land, but it is linear rather than in a block or donut shape. Corridors are not narrow, however.

Under Interior Secretary Babbitt, the National Park Service is seeking to reduce access to National Parks. Babbitt calls roads "the enemies of national parks." (6) In addition to wanting to reduce highways and hotels in the parks, Babbitt intends to protect "buffer areas" around the parks, which is the same supposedly innocent concept behind the heritage corridors, the partnership park.

Its financial inability to adequately maintain the 300-plus parks, monuments and other designations it owns (to which should be added the 2,000 National Historic Landmarks and 580 National Natural Landmarks it exerts control over) has caused the Park Service some embarrassment.

What Will They Cost?

Budgetary constraints are Babbitt's ploy to raise hotel concession fees, making the hotels less profitable. But the basic idea is to make any commercial and human activity in the national parks less feasible. In spite of the supposed budgetary restraints, the buffer areas and heritage corridors under the auspices of the National Park Service are plugging along. They have the same ploy behind them—that they do not require land acquisition funding and therefore will not be a financial burden. To fund the National Heritage Corridors, Vento's America Heritage Partnership bill calls for $300,000 per partnership park for planning and $3,000,000 for capital improvements, proving that even the "partnerships" aren't cheap. Supposedly a one-time expense, each sum is only an initial outlay. Individual regional Heritage corridor bills call for grander expenditures.

Almost anything can qualify for "Heritage" status. The lack of definition to the scope of each Heritage corridor project has caused controversy within the National Park Service. Last year a U.S. Congress General Accounting Office report criticized one of the first Heritage areas because it "has not been defined in number, size and cost of projects." (7) Congress recommended during 1989-93 that a total of $66 million be spent on it, but by 1993 the executive director of the South Western Pennsylvania Industrial Heritage Commission foresaw that the project will cost $355 million.

Babbitt could not have a better soul-mate than his Park Service director Frampton, who formerly headed the preservationist Wilderness Society. Babbitt is consistently driving Department of Interior and its component agencies including the National Park Service to increase control and reduce human activity on as much land in the United States as possible. Budgetary constraints can on the one hand be used to raise concessionaire fees and cut down on services to visitors to the national parks. On the other hand, the financial constraints can be used as a ploy to opt for partnership parks and heritage corridors, which proponents pretend do not require land acquisition. But what Babbitt and Frampton are really seeking to accomplish with the national heritage corridors is to expand the Park Service's powers into a federal zoning and acquisition agency across the riverbeds around the entire country. With a minimum countywide jurisdiction, the Park Service will control the historically important areas of the nation.

The historic, cultural and phony economic development focuses are decoys from the heart of the plan, which is control of ever more land. Babbitt is cultivating support of the public and local park personnel by promising to return portions of increased concession fees to each park. But you can be sure that these windfalls will not be used to create more public access to national parks. Expect the money to go for "habitat restoration" and reintroduction of endangered species.

It is immaterial whether the corridor process goes by one name or another, or whether it is entirely federal or involves the states. The National Heritage Corridor program would be a calamity for representative self-government and fundamental rights. Preservationists are setting up the corridor program on a mammoth foundation with both grand design and infinite care as to details. The hundred-odd corridors being coordinated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation are only the beginning. The National Park Service is at the helm controlling the corridors and coordinating the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. If fulfilled in all of its ramifications, the National Heritage Corridor program will make the wetland rules and the Endangered Species Act look like picnics.

It may take 20 to 50 years, but there will be no antidote for the poison once the National Heritage Corridor system is in place.

The diabolical repression of wetlands regulations grew out of a minuscule germ of law compared to the National Heritage Corridor law being set up. Who would have imagined the fines, imprisonments, broken lives, and government usurpation of property from the law restricting the deposition of fill in navigable waterways?

 The only remedy for the ferocious environmental programs like the National Heritage Corridors is to reestablish the constitutional rights of Americans in their fullest dimension.

Through the National Heritage Corridor System, the National Park Service under extremists like Babbitt and Frampton will become the lead agency to control land use, corridor by ever-expanding corridor, in vast, wide strips of land throughout the United States.

As it transpires, this process in itself will restructure property rights and economics in this country. The Heritage Corridor concept will not work alone, however. The environmentalist effort to tie federal flood insurance and disaster relief to the "voluntary" depopulation and removal of farms from recently flooded areas is now taking shape. As the vast network of corridors is being established, the land trusts and government acquisition arms will move in. The environmentalists will turn on more heat, calling for saving "habitats," "land bridges," "watersheds," "endangered species" and "biodiversity" and crying for "desperately needed" National Parks, preserves and the like.

In the Buffalo National River, the original agenda of taking 1,000 homes in the "viewshed" is accomplished. Now the Sierra Club and the National Park Service want 10,000 homes in the
"watershed."

If the corridor process is completed and the other environmental land restrictions such as wetlands restrictions ultimately work in synchrony throughout the corridor network across the country, a federal-state juggernaut will leave private property rights unrecognizable.

Government acquisition of these corridors will have little of the continuing static of the National Park Service corridors that were acquired without this prelude. In the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, property owners plead for the federal government to buy their land.

No good will ever come of the corridor project. The corridors are a clearly planned evil perpetrated on American citizens by an elite of the liberal left. The elite know how to mold the opinion of a therapeutic society in the grip of another cause, whether health care or environmentalism.

This is not another effort to "enhance nature." Nor is it an intellectual evil. The proponents are criminals, part of a cabal with personal responsibility for the death of Donald Scott and the imprisonment of John Pozsgai. They are traitors who are working to further dismantle the Constitution. No matter how you sugar-coat the National Heritage Corridor system, this evil
has no place in a just society.

The police and "immunity from prosecution" protecting government officials are small steps after the power structure is set up.

The only remedy for the ferocious environmental programs like the National Heritage Corridors is to reestablish the constitutional rights of Americans in their fullest dimension.

Americans see the effects of the rapacious environmental efforts: the dulling prosperity, the men in prison, the farms deserted. But they don't see the cause—a deadly virus like the Heritage Corridor system chewing at the heart of our freedom.

Control of land means the control of the natural resources of the country. Property rights are our defense. These parasitic environmental programs cannot survive application of the Constitution. The Constitution is the high ground. Nothing else matters. -Carol W. LaGrasse-

Footnotes

1) Contractual agreement is in Sec. 3 (b) (5) and Sec. 3 (e), regulatory assistance is in Sec. 3 (d) (2) of H.R. 3707-Nov. 22, 1993.
2) Dennis P. Galvin, NPS, June 28, 1994 to subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, House Committee on Natural Resources.
3) Land Use Management Report for the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Prepared by the Center for Rural Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, October 1989 pp. 3-4.
4) Ibid p. 56
5) Shelley S. Mastran,
"Heritage Areas: New Partnerships for Saving Cultural Landscapes," National Trust for Historic Preservation. Publ. 1994
6) Reuters,
"Babbitt disclaims development," Washington Times, May 24, 1994, p. A9.
7) U.S. General Accounting Office, May 14, 1993, 93—174, pp 1-2

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