Property Rights Foundation of America®

Grants Have Agendas

Worth Commenting

By Carol W. LaGrasse

How can you be opposed to grants? This is a question that citizens often raise. Those who are wary of government trends foresee that many grants will erode freedom and local control. However, the process from the inception of the grant to the final result that diminishes fundamental individual protections in our constitutional representative government is insidious. As a result, the citizens cannot specifically detail how a particular grant took away a particular freedom or erased a specific aspect of local control over government. Yet, the opposition to grants remains, because citizens realize that they present one of the greatest threats to freedom, and, specifically, to private property rights.

It is obvious that every grant has a goal. It is ridiculous to say otherwise. Considering government grants, the donation to the private sphere or to another government agency might be quite innocuous when viewed in relation to private property rights, such as a grant to promote particular music, art, or literature; or to help a neighborhood group to reduce crime; or to help eradicate a contagious disease. However, many grants could have a negative effect on private property rights. There are grants to preserve a particular historical site where neighboring owners might find their properties later drawn in to complete the site's environs; to develop a segment of a trail through a park with the surreptitious idea of later extending the trail much further, through private property; to buy land from a land trust under a prearranged deal where the land trust acquired the land from private owners to flip it to government; to pay consultants to develop a local or regional land use plan that will lead to open space zoning; and to assist environmental groups with their biased youth educational programs.

Lavish grants are used to promote regional planning and land use controls, regional government, government land acquisition, rails to trails, riverway and canalway trails, indoctrinate children in preservation values, and promote other agendas which work in concert against the future of rural populations and to diminish private property rights and private property ownership.

What is so striking is the number of agencies that will extend overlapping grants within a single geographic area. In fact, striking, also, is the number of government agencies, quasi-government agencies, and non-profit entities that have often been created in any single geographic area to work synergistically to advance the preservation agenda. The government granting agencies never wander off target; except for low-income housing purposes in certain situations deemed acceptable they do not put out grants that would advance private property ownership, the diverse rural economy, or private property rights.

The ultimate granting agencies are the legislatures and Congress. For example, Congress has been establishing piecemeal the National Park Service's National Heritage Area program. This ostensibly innocent pork-barrel program (to the tune of $10 million per Heritage Area) uses tourism as its nom de guerre, but threatens private property rights and the indigenous rural culture by awarding grants toward the unstated objective of establishing a national network of greenways, which are extremely broad, preservation-zoned regional strips of land where government is intensely involved in acquiring land from the private sector. Congress has already enacted laws establishing twenty-four Heritage Areas, primarily in the East. As a landscape preservation program, the Heritage Area program is an important facet of federal land use regulation. It fits the niche left by the failure of the preservationists to establish national zoning, which had led to the Udall-Jackson national land use bill that was defeated, as a result of last minute surprise opposition, by a slim margin in the House of Representatives in April 1974. A seminal book by Charles E. Little pointing the way to establish greenways in America expressed the view in 1990 that with a grid of trails and greenways in place in the prime riverine areas (typical of Heritage Areas), the fill-in preservation of lands between the National Heritage Areas would be relatively simple.

To start the process to create one of these greenways, the National Park Service awards a Congressionally funded grant for a feasibility study to ascertain the desirability and the form of the Heritage Area. Of course, the study is hardly a feasibility analysis, but is, rather, an advocacy piece. This leads to the Congressional funding of the Heritage Area itself, which, in turn, includes a grant for a study to develop the important "management plan," and enhanced with many other federal and state grants. Many other agencies thereby join in the process, often with the lucre of federal funding to make their participation feasible, so that the involvement of the Park Service is seemingly part of a groundswell to preserve the greenway. In fact, as the Heritage Area is being developed, the Park Service touts this seemingly spontaneous multiplicity of government agencies, especially regional ones, and not-profits. It is a shell game of government money, cleverly multi-sourced and directed.

During 2004, the Park Service and pork-barrel-seeking Senators have promoted a generic National Heritage Area bill to permanently fund the program and create an efficient framework for developing even more Heritage Areas. Thirty bills promoting new National Heritage Areas were pending in Congress during 2004 alone. For over ten years, this writer has been opposing the Heritage Area program, because it is for the purpose of redesigning the rural countryside to gradually eliminate the diverse rural economy and culture and substitute a system of greenways and well-to-do people who can afford to own property and live in such highly restricted regions. Without grants from the federal and state governments, the Heritage Area program and many other programs to diminish private property rights and dispossess rural people from their heritage would be unlikely to progress.

Putting money where preservationist objectives are promoted is what these grants are about. Some citizens argue that grants "take away out rights." Such words may seem radical or an oversimplification, but they are actually accurate in essence. Grants are never-ending rivers of money to promote programs that diminish our rights. If that is what the grants accomplish, in my opinion, that is their intention. To a Congressman, it is "innocent" pork-barrel to promote tourism. To a preservationist in a wealthy non-profit group or in the National Park Service, it is "preservation of the rural landscape." Either way, private property rights and the indigenous rural people lose out.

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