Property Rights Foundation of America®

Excerpts of speech from Proceedings of the Fourth Annual New York Conference
on Private Property Rights
(1999)

Protecting Private Land in the Northeast
Charles S. Cushman
President, American Land Rights Association, Battle Ground, Washington

How many of you use e-mail right now? How many of you are on our e-mail list? Nobody leaves here without giving me a piece with your name and address. I need all of it. Give me your name and address, but also your e-mail address. Please, we have a tremendous list that we send this kind of stuff out to all the time. How many of you have a FAX machine? How many of those are on my FAX list? Shame on you. It is free. We have a phone bill the size of New Jersey to prove it. So before I leave here I am going to walk to the back and I want you guys to give me your FAX numbers. Believe me, you will be happy about it. We will send you a lot of good information. I even call Carol. She goes out and turns on her generator just to get my faxes. Right? She has got the only three-minute FAX.

In addition, we have a web site, www.landrights.org.

How many of you have written a letter to the editor on this kind of issue in the past year? Writing letters to the editor is simple. Short, little, simple, one or two paragraphs. If the editor gets a few of these, he starts to think maybe he ought to take a look at this stuff. If your paper isn't paying attention to the issues, maybe you are not paying attention to them. Build a team. Work with Carol and her group and other area groups and the Blue Line Coalition and the other organizations that are trying to do something about this. We have membership forms out there, too. We would like you to join us, but you want you to work with these existing groups as well, not us instead of them. It takes citizen action to inform the public process. And, by the way, use the video tape.

How many of you are involved in public meetings where government agencies are making decisions? How many of you automatically videotape those meetings? Well I'll tell you, there is real power. First of all, nothing gets these guys to be a little more cautious than a video tape camera sticking in their face, especially if it has Property Rights Foundation of America hung in front of it just as a subtle hint that, you know, you got a train coming. Right? If you want to win, you got to get out and make something happen. If you are not willing to take the time to videotape these meetings, you are not acting like, please, this is a game. And we are on a playing field. The other side has put out the St. Louis, I was going to say St. Louis Rams but that is not a good choice, the San Francisco Forty-Niners and we have put out a high school team. If you want to win, you got to compete. You got to give them a playing field.

Now let me just give you some examples. I am going to give you a just few because we have a short amount of time. I am going to give you a few examples, if I can very quickly, of where a little effort and some teamwork makes a difference.

In Little River in Alabama, the local community, the local people came to me. The Park Service, the local congressman wanted to create a park. He went to the Park Service and said, I want a park in my district. Find me a park. I know you thought God made National Parks, but actually it is congressmen. He had 43 buildings in his district with his or his wife's name on it, but he wanted a park with his name on it. So he actually found a pretty nice place, but the Park Service was greedy. They wanted the land of 500 additional landowners and farmers. So they came to me. We started organizing. We did a whole bunch of stuff. By the time we were done, we had Congressman Bevill retrained. We created an environment by which enlightened reasoning could occur.

One of the things we did was I got a big crowd and I asked them all if they would go help me with a demonstration. They just looked at me like I was nuts. They said we don't demonstrate in Alabama. I said, well, can we have a protest? Nobody smiled. They all said, we don't have protests in Alabama. But some little old nice lady in the back said, but we could have a sign waving. I said, what is a sign waving? Well, she said, that is where people get together and carry signs back and forth like at a Congressman's office. I said, great. We sign-waved the hell out of that Congressman. We never had a "protest" again. You sort of learn about the sensitivities of people when you ask them these questions. So I always ask that. How many of you like demonstrations? How many of you like protests? How many of you like sign wavings?

The Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire—I'll try to make this short. The Park Service tried to work together with the college. Dartmouth went to the Park Service and said, we want open space around Dartmouth. You are buying land for the Appalachian Trail. Why don't you move the Appalachian Trail off of fence lines into the middle of these people's farms. That way we get the farms as open space. The farmers, oh yeah. Oh, is this a surprise! I am from the government and I am here to help you. You buy that, right? This is not new stuff. These guys are cute. Anyway, I got a copy of the book where the Park Service requested permission to condemn from the Department of Interior. I sent it to the landowner. The landowner sent me back a book showing me that almost everything the Park Service had written was about land that wasn't even on his property. So then I arranged a meeting in Washington and we were able to come to an accommodation when the Park Service had their lawyer there and they agreed that everything written was a lie. They didn't say it that way. They said we do not dispute the landowner's version, but in any case, instead of moving the trail off, we moved the trail back out of the middle of farms back to the fence lines.

The other thing we did there was we got all the landowners to stick together. There were seven of them and we got them to agree to stick together. None of you sell unless all of you sell. You make them condemn you all. That is your protection, because they don't like you doing that. They like picking you off and working you off against each other.

Here is another example. It is funny. It is frivolous, but it kind of gives you a sense of how you change the political process. I got a call one day from a guy who didn't say who it was but he said, I had a dream. I knew who it was. He said, I had a dream that Congressman Wyden had a hearing about retraining loggers. Some of you may have heard me tell this. And he said those kind of dreams happen. I said, what did you have in mind? He said, next Monday. So we arranged a demonstration before Congressman Wyden's hearing and the reason we did it was because the loggers were mad that Congressman Wyden was having a hearing on retraining loggers and he wasn't doing anything to help the loggers. This was a spotted owl issue.

But we did call up to the Columbia Gorge, and I asked for the name of the biggest logger you know, and this fellow says, well, there is Little Mills Manson. I said, how big is Little Mills? He said, oh, Little Mills is about 6'6" and 320. I said, he will be great. He said, but he is not the biggest. I said, who is the biggest? He said, his daddy is the biggest. I met his dad. He is not quite that big but I called up Little Mills. I said, he will be fine. I asked Little Mills to wear just what he normally wears to work and come down to our demonstration but to bring one thing. I wanted him to bring the biggest chain saw he could find. So I got him to put the chain saw on his shoulders, we made a sign for him in the front and back that said Congressman Wyden, I want to be retrained, I want to be your brain surgeon. Well, I mean, Congressman Wyden's staff guy was in tears. The press. He couldn't pay any attention to the hearing.

I only got a few minutes left. Let me just give you a quickie. I know you think 26 million acres is a lot. The Interior Department this year and last year is starting to plan for 144 million acres of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and parts of Wyoming and northern Utah and Nevada. Now we could just have shrunk back and said, how do you compete with that. We knew the plan was going to be bad. I already told you about planning. Right? But instead of waiting for them to come out with their plan, we went out with letters, 120,000 of them telling people what we thought the plan was going to say. We labeled the plan. We identified it, and they said, Oh no, that's not right. It is not going to be that. Well, it was real close to what we said. But more importantly we labeled the plan; we put the identification on it; they had to fight their way back. Now some of our people had trouble with that. They said, oh no, you got to wait till they come out with their plan and you got to read it exactly right. Well, we weren't exactly right, but there is no substitute for winning. It is much more fun and I'll leave you with one more.

The Bowen Family in Arcadia National Park. In secret, very slyly the Park Service passed a bill to amend the law covering Arcadia, didn't used to allow condemnation. It was what was known as one of those Rockefeller Parks. There were 17 Rockefeller Parks and none of them allowed condemnation. Must be a coincidence or something, but anyway but they passed this bill and they were going to take the home of the Bowens. So we made a lot of controversy and we got a lot of noise in the press and it was just great and finally I called up the superintendent of the park that I knew and I said, Jack, keep it up. This is just great. Keep going after the Bowens. And he said, Why do you say that? I said, Because every time we get an article in the paper it is going to be two more years before you get a National Park in Maine. You know the Bowens haven't heard from them since. It has been ten years. Funny coincidence.

You can use all kinds of tools to win. We have got a lot of ideas. If you want some help, let us know. The idea is to have a good time, be successful. Losing is a lousy option. Let's not practice. Let's get out and win. Thank you.

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