Speech from Proceedings of the Sixth Annual New York Conference
on Private Property Rights
(2002)

Welcome — Celebrating Private Property Rights
Carol W. LaGrasse
President, Property Rights Foundation of America

Welcome! It is wonderful to see you all here. I am grateful for your coming in spite of the weather. I wish I could ask everyone to stand up and introduce themselves, because almost everybody here is a hero in some way, and everybody here could actually be at this podium and speak, and talk about private property rights. But that’s impossible, because we only have one day to conduct the affair. So please accept my personal appreciation and my personal respect and honor of everyone who is present. It’s really wonderful to have you all here. Thank you so much for coming. I hope you have a wonderful day.

I just have a couple of remarks that I’d like to make. Some people think that we can defend private property rights without standing up for the preservation of private property ownership. From the beginning, the Property Rights Foundation of America has stood for the preservation of private property ownership. Other groups haven’t been able to see the connection that one is essential to the other. It seems kind of obvious, but they haven’t. We’ve done our best as an organization to oppose these myriad schemes to transfer land from private ownership and control to government ownership and control, whether this is through overt regulation such as zoning, rent control or wetlands rules; or whether it’s through land designations of the nature of Biosphere Reserves, Heritage Areas or other schemes; or through government acquisition, whether it’s in full title or in conservation easements; and whether by such obviously undesired tactics such as eminent domain or through so-called “willing sellers.”

Today’s conference, I hope, takes you kind of along representations of this trip along the things that we face and what we can do and what we are doing and what we hope to do.

First, we will begin the conference by celebrating private property rights with the opening address by Tom Bethell, the author of The Noblest Triumph.

We’ll turn next to the important area of regulatory abuse with just one example, the effect of government regulation on the businesses that produce petroleum in the ancient oil fields of New York and Pennsylvania.

Next, we’ll delve into the big environmental schemes, the glamorous ones which aren’t ever portrayed in their reality, but the reality is that they’re to eliminate private property, by and large, in rural New York and rural America, and the rural population along with it. Professor Jonathan Reisman will be talking about how environmental fanatics are cleaning out the rural people in eastern Maine. “Matt” Bennett will elucidate the folly of the Wildlands scheme, which is really a testimony to environmental religiosity’s power to dupe the media and the population. “Jay” Walley is going to describe the experience in the Everglades with forced imposition of conservation easements to allow land to be flooded, and force the communities out of those areas.

Taking us back to the rational world, at lunchtime our keynote speaker, R. J. Smith, will hone in on the importance of private property rights to effective environmental protection.

Then we will have a beautiful reading of “My America” by Gunta Krasts-Voutyras.

During the afternoon, we’ll turn to the broad topic of “Freedom and Private Property” with a number of experts. Sean McKeon has come from Vermont to witness to the work of a coalition of foresters, sportsmen, and private property owners, who used to work separately, but are now working together as advocates to preserve Vermont traditions.

Jeff Williams and Leah Hurtgen of the New York State Farm Bureau will give an update on Takings litigation. This is an area where there is much encouraging news for those of use who, like the farmers of America, believe in private property ownership.

Brian Seasholes will take us on an eye-witness trip abroad to Africa, where his expert eye studied the successful private protection of wildlife.

Moving forward to the future, ambitiously and hopefully, as we have to be, three panelists and our closing speech will bravely share their thoughts and ideas to help us find directions to make a difference. Mike Hardiman intends to let us know about prospects for private property rights protection in the upcoming Congress. James Morgan will tackle eminent domain, the current status of it and the future directions. Kathy Benedetto will teach by example of how the National Wilderness Institute is using environmental law to turn the tables on government polluters. And “Cutting Edge Litigation for the Future” is the topic of Sheila Galvin’s talk for the closing address. Have a wonderful day.

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