By Norman L. Kincaide Ph.D.
Because of the efforts of the Southeast Colorado Private Property Rights Council, residents were prepared when the Canyons and Plains Sustainability Partnership hosted their National Heritage Area (NHA) community information meetings held all across South Eastern Colorado in June. The meetings were supported by the National Park Service (NPS), Canyons and Plains, and Palmer Land Trust representatives.
While there were a few residents supporting the NHA who believed in accepting federal funding regardless of strings attached (i.e. money is money), the majority believed the collateral consequences of giving up some sovereignty to an unelected management board advised by the NPS was too costly a price to support the NHA.
In fact, public feedback in opposition to the NHA was so strident and widespread it bewildered, dumbfounded and frustrated NPS employees; who could not understand why their NHA proposal was so vehemently opposed. The National Park Service’s desperate pleading to the audience at La Junta, for instance – not to close their minds to the NHA concept – fell on unconvinced ears.
So unconvinced are people that county commissioners in the seven Southeast Colorado counties targeted for the NHA, passed resolutions against the NHA proposal: Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero and Prowers, with Crowley County being the last to pass a resolution.
Otero County Commissioners’ meeting where a resolution opposing an all encompassing National Heritage Area and Study Area designation of the unincorporated areas of Otero County passed.
As a result of the opposition encountered by Canyons and Plains and the National Park Service at their own informational meetings and the resolutions passed against the NHA, Canyons and Plains announced in a press release on July 18, 2014, that it “has decided not to proceed with the pursuit of a Feasibility Study for a National Heritage Area in Southeast Colorado.”
‘All those opposed to the NHA, raise your hands!’ audience at the J. W. Rawlings Heritage Center, Las Animas, CO.
This comes as very good news for those of us who opposed a National Heritage Area designation. The opposition was truly a grass roots movement of farmers, ranchers, and residents of Southeast Colorado. They had no grant funding, nor patronage by and expertise from the National Park Service, nor did they have partnerships with foundations and special interest groups.
The resolution against the NHA passed by the Baca County Commissioners on June 6, 2014 more than adequately sums up the issues concerning residents in Southeast Colorado:
Whereas: The establishment of a National Heritage Are would adversely affect private property rights by influencing local officials to pass zoning laws not otherwise needed and by altering well established processes for land use regulation.
Whereas: Congress has designated National Heritage Areas which encompass vast amounts of privately held land in order to highlight specific areas of interest. Citizens of Baca County appreciate efforts to encourage economic development, but oppose blanket designations that put dissenting private landowners in the unreasonable position of having to “opt out” of federally mandated boundaries.
Whereas: A National Heritage Area designation invites interference in local affairs by special interest groups who claim to be stakeholders, such as the National Park Service, Nature’s Conservancy, animal rights activists and environmental groups who do not have the historical perspective or deeply felt stewardship responsibility of owners who have worked the land over several generations.
Whereas: The United States of America can no longer afford to borrow money to engage in endless expansion of dependency and regulation by the federal government, and each of the 49 National Heritage Areas in existence today started out with sunset dates that were never enforced, resulting in chronic dependence rather than free market activity.
Whereas: A fundamental interdependence exists between individual liberty and the ability to own property, and the citizens of Baca County are very concerned that a National Heritage Area Designation would deprive landowners of their ability to use and enjoy their property as they see fit.
Now Therefore Be It Resolved: the Baca County Board of County Commissioners opposes the National Heritage Area Designation proposed for Southeast Colorado and does not wish to confer upon an unelected regional management entity the ability to establish land use policy within the boundaries of Baca County.
These gentlemen, the Baca County Board of County Commissioners, Pete Dawson, Glenn (Spike) Ausmus and Dean Ormiston, got it exactly right. They addressed the issues that concerned their constituents and resolved to act in their favor to protect private property rights, maintain the sanctity of local sovereignty and the integrity of locally elected officials to oversee land use policy and economic development.
Residents of a region targeted for designation as an NHA do not have to accept government propaganda relating to NHAs. Furthermore, they can outright reject the NHA proposal through effective local action before it even gets to the feasibility study stage. Preemptive dissemination of well-sourced information via public meetings and social media on the negative impact NHAs have had in other areas of the United States is an effective means to inform the public and forestall the designation process. Residents should address their concerns in no uncertain terms to their county commissioners, local planning boards and city councils as early as possible. Residents of any region in the United States must remember that a heritage tourism pilot project is the reconnaissance element for National Heritage Area designation.
The federal government seeks to push its regulatory schemes onto the American people through whatever means available, even pushing the NPS mission onto private property by means of NHA designations. The American people do not have to suffer further federal regulatory schemes and they have the power to reject those schemes at the local level. Resolve to use local power must manifest itself in expressions to locally elected officials, who, in good conscience, must respond to their constituents, as opposed to being swayed by special interests groups supported by the National Park Service. Americans have the right to say no. Americans have the right to reject federal government programs locally; otherwise they are just subjects of the federal government as opposed to citizens with rights and responsibilities.
Indeed, the Baca County Commissioner’s resolution against the National Heritage Area could serve as a new Declaration of Independence from an overbearing, condescending, covetous, paternalistic federal government characterized by catastrophic, grandiose, archaic, unaccountable incompetence.
Editor’s Note: For many decades our federal government has literally been stealing land from the states (the people) under the guise of programs such as National Heritage Areas, Wild and Scenic Areas, National Monuments, etc., etc.
There is absolutely no provision in the US Constitution that authorizes these land-grads, in fact, our Constitution expressly prohibits this theft in Article 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17.