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The Pioneer Press at the very top of the State of California grants permission for this article to be copied and forwarded.
Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California, State of Jefferson Rancher, May 31, 2006 Summer 2006 issue Page12, column 1
Grange stands as sentry – in the State of Jefferson
Land rights conference held
by Kathy Lehman President of PFUSA Grange
ASHLAND, Ore. - People for the USA Grange held its second land use conference in Phoenix, Oregon, April 29th , entitled “My Home, My Land, My Business!” This conference focused on eminent domain abuse, conservation easements, the statehood imperative of the federal government, and how to become effective citizen activists.
Kelo v. City of New London was the Supreme Court ruling heard ‘round the nation last June 23. With the smallest of margins, the Court ruled a government entity could seize the property of citizen A and give it to citizen B under its eminent domain authority, so long as that government entity had a plan in place showing an expected “public benefit”, such as increased tax revenue received by the county, or the creation of new jobs. Gone now is the Constitutional requirement that this most onerous of government’s actions against its citizenry be restricted to use only for “public use”, such as to build a needed road, school or fire station.
First to speak was Timothy Sandefur, an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. Tim took the audience through the past 50 years+ while Americans generally didn’t recognize the gradual degradation, by the courts, of the “public use” restriction on government when seizing and condemning property under eminent domain. The Kelo decision, however, awakened people all across the fruited plain, sparking anger and frustration, even into the halls of Congress. Tim then outlined the efforts of various citizen groups, state legislatures, and even in the House of Representatives to sidestep this moral outrage.
Ultimately, this “Kelo backlash” of public opinion has produced few results. Only twelve states have enacted legislation regarding eminent domain (neither California nor Oregon). Unfortunately, nine of these new laws provide little or no protection for property owners. On the other hand, laws recently enacted in Indiana, South Dakota, and Georgia, as well as a bill passed by the Pennsylvania legislature, a constitutional amendment proposed by the Michigan legislature, and proposed federal legislation which appears likely to be enacted into law, do include significant limits on eminent domain.
Former San Juan County (Utah) Commissioner Bill Redd spoke on the territorial imperative of the federal government to sell trust lands originating with the national government. The Founders never envisioned, or would have approved, the federal government owning the huge swaths of land they do today. Bill presented Acts of Congress, from the late 1700’s on, and Supreme Court decisions showing the federal government has no Constitutional authority for the vast majority of the lands it claims ownership or management of. These lands are properly to be owned and managed either by individual states or citizens.
Fred Kelly Grant, an attorney with Stewards of the Range, spoke on the many potential pitfalls contained in conservation easements. Fred stated he would never counsel a client not to sign such an agreement, as that must remain the free choice of any landowner. But he also highlighted many of at least 300 items within the model conservation easement he would never allow a client to agree to. He advised anyone considering signing such a document to thoroughly read it, ask about anything not absolutely clear, and document in great detail within the document every assumption and intention they as the property owner have about the agreement, and their future plans for their property.
Kathy Lehman, President of PFUSA Grange, presented instructional literature on, and adjured the absolute necessity for, effective citizen activism. She told the audience in limited instances one person truly can make a difference. But the greatest impact your voice and actions can leverage are at the local level; and the greatest overall potential for affecting needed change at all levels of government is realized only through effective networking with like-minded individuals and organizations.
Fred Kelly Grant wrapped up the conference advising attendees currently subjected to eminent domain on potential political remedies, giving them hope and recourse not available through the legal system.
This conference was held in Jackson County hoping to attract the attention of Jackson County property and business owners to the purported anti-Kelo ordinance adopted unanimously last fall by the Jackson County Commissioners. Bill Moshofsky and Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians In Action, Jim Burling and Tim Sandefur of Pacific Legal Foundation, and Fred Kelly Grant of Stewards of the Range, all agreed the operative text of Jackson County’s ordinance does not prevent the kind of condemnation abuse that arose in Kelo.
PFUSA Grange is currently planning to hold a similar conference in Siskiyou County later this summer. In addition to the above subjects, we hope to alert the rural and agricultural base of Siskiyou County to the serious dangers of the National Animal Identification System proposed by USDA. Please contact Kathy Lehman for further information at 541-482-4096.
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