“IN DEFENSE OF RURAL AMERICA”
by Ron Ewart, ©2013
Back in 2004, we were involved, with several other rural landowners, in opposing a particularly onerous proposed environmental ordinance in our county. We gave testimony at several public hearings and we organized quite a few public protests at which several dozen landowners turned out. We even got some of the local media to attend our protests. We also wrote many guest editorials and letters to the editors outlining our objections. In spite of a fairly significant turnout by the affected rural landowners, the Democrats on the county council who held the majority passed the ordinance into law literally in the dead of night, in spite of vociferous opposition and over 100 amendments put forth by the Republicans.
The county council at the time consisted of thirteen members, 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Two of those Republicans represented the rural areas of the county ….. only two. The rest of the council members were elected by the urban population and held an urban mindset when it came to zoning, the environment and land use issues. In effect, the rural landowners of the county were disenfranchised from any political outcome. They had to “eat” whatever the urban representatives dished out to them. The upshot was that rural landowners were being forced to bear almost the entire burden of environmental protection, while their city brethren got off virtually scot-free.
We debated an environmentalist on a radio show at one time during the protest over the ordinance and he kept saying that: “We have to protect OUR rural lands.” On three occasions during the show we had to remind him that the rural lands did not belong to him or anyone else in the big city. Rural lands belong to real people who paid for their land and worked their land, and those landowners have constitutional rights.
Upon further investigation we found that these kinds of ordinances were being inflicted on rural landowners all over America, mostly driven by the United Nations Agenda 21 policies of so-called sustainable development, livable communities, public transportation and smart growth. It was at that moment in late 2005, having over 30 years experience in land use issues, we decided to form the National Association of Rural Landowners (NARLO) to act as an advocate for the rights and interests of rural landowners everywhere. To that end we established a website (http://www.narlo.org) that provides relevant information to all American rural landowners, along with some tools that rural landowners can use to protect their rights and interests.
As the organization became more widely known, we started receiving calls and e-mails from rural landowners from all over America about how they were being affected by zoning, land use, eminent domain abuse, environmental protection and endangered species laws. Some of their stories were horrific. Many lost their life’s saving fighting either the local, state, or the federal government. Some lost their property and ended up penniless and on the street. Still others ended up in jail. Many, still in the throes of the fight with government, asked for our help. Some we could help. Others we could not because their fight had gone past the point of a reasonable resolution.
What most people don’t understand, especially urban folk, is that these kinds of environmentally-driven injustices are going on all over America, every day, mostly imposed on rural landowners. Most Americans never hear of these stories because one injustice is not newsworthy. If there was someway we could lump them all together and weave a common thread, perhaps then other Americans would care. A few of our articles have chronicled some of these stories and we will continue to tell more stories in future articles. Although many valiant and courageous writers have addressed this assault on rural landowners, for now, rural Americans must endure these assaults on their property rights and their freedom all alone, even though we constantly advise them that they have little if any chance to win alone. Rural landowners must organize.
In order to drive radical environmental land use laws down the rural landowner’s throat, many jurisdictions have resorted to turning what used to be civil violations into criminal charges, thereby allowing the authorities to obtain criminal search warrants. Los Angeles County even set up a “Nuisance Abatement Team” that is nothing more than a fully armed SWAT team with black SUV’s to terrorize rural landowners into compliance and haul them off to jail or court at gunpoint if they don’t comply. Local and state land use code enforcement officers run rough shod over the rights of landowners, including trespassing to collect evidence without authority and outright arrogance and verbal abuse. These Gestapo-like land use and environmental ordinance enforcers cite laws that don’t exist to get people to comply with “cease and desist”, “red tags”, or “compliance” orders. If the landowner is ignorant of the law, he is helpless against these enforcers.
Ever since designating the Northwest Spotted Owl as endangered and destroying the livelihood of over 40,000 loggers and wood product employees, federal agencies, including the Executive Branch under Obama, have shoved their whole arm into the lives of rural landowners. Here are some examples of laws that mostly affect rural landowners: “The Endangered Species Act, The Salmon Recovery Act, The Clean Water Restoration Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, The Fisheries Management and Conservation Act, the Winters Doctrine, the Public Trust Doctrine, UN Biospheres and the Wildlands Project, the Boldt Decision, Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Marine Fisheries Division and on and on. President Obama went even farther when he signed Executive Order No. 13575 in June of 2009 and created the White House Rural Council that takes 25 federal agencies and allows them to meddle even more in the lives and livelihoods of rural landowners …. with federal power.
Federal laws don’t even begin to cover the local and state land use and environmental laws. You can’t move sideways without breaking one and it will cost you thousands of dollars to comply with any of them, or huge fines and penalties if you get caught violating one or more of them. Government has wrapped rural landowners up in a regulation spider web and won’t let them go.
If a rural landowner hasn’t come up against government abuses of property rights and eminent domain, they soon will. As we mentioned earlier in this article, every week we hear one or more stories from rural landowners from all over America who are up against draconian land use, zoning and environmental intransigence on their lands. Introduction of alleged endangered predators is a common thread that threaten livestock and children. The unspoken code to handle these threats from dangerous predators by landowners is: “SSS” (shoot, shovel and shut up). Unfortunately, one landowner in Idaho didn’t heed the code and when a grizzly bear started menacing his children and his livestock he shot it. Thinking he was being a good citizen, he notified the authorities of what he had done. They immediately arrested him for killing an endangered species.
Filling in a wetland, that can bring federal charges and jail time, occurs frequently. Even collecting rainwater can bring fines and incarceration.
Government is removing dams on rivers all over America for so-called endangered fish, thereby destroying irrigation, electrical generation and flood control, not to mention potable drinking water. Livelihoods of thousands of ranchers and farmers are being eliminated by dam removal, thus driving the price of what we eat higher, due to reduced supply of crops, animal feed and animals.
Urban rural landowners near large cities get the worst of it, as state legislatures and county and city councils pass laws to clean up the rural areas to strict city standards, or implement zoning laws and set backs that severely restrict the right of use of the landowner’s property, in direct violation of the 5th Amendment wherein it states in part:
“No person …………… shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without DUE PROCESS of law; nor shall private property be taken for PUBLIC USE without COMPENSATION.”
God help you if you have an inoperable car or farm vehicle on your property. That’s a real NO-NO!
Farming co-ops, where farmers exchange their products, are being raided and forced out of business by federal authorities for violating some law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is once again trying to force radio tags (RFID chips) on all farm and domestic animals down the landowner’s throat, at a huge cost of time and paperwork. Land use, zoning and environmental regulations are so all encompassing that virtually every rancher and farmer has become an involuntary, unknowing lawbreaker.
The assault on rural landowners by government and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) is relentless. However, what the government and the environmental groups don’t get is that rural landowners are an independent lot and they are only going to take it for so long before incidental violent acts start taking place. Some already have. The Associated Press reported in June of 2004 that: “….. a muffler shop owner in Granby, CO plowed a makeshift armored bulldozer into several buildings after a dispute with city officials, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a SWAT team cut their way into the machine with a blowtorch early today, authorities said. Grand County Emergency Management Director Jim Holahan confirmed that the driver, identified by the town manager as Marvin Heemeyer, appeared to have shot himself. Heemeyer plowed the armor-plated bulldozer into the town hall, a former mayor’s home and at least five other buildings Friday before the machine ground to a halt in the wreckage of a warehouse. City officials said he was angry over a zoning dispute and fines from city code violations at his business.”
Landowners along the Jarbidge River near Elko, Nevada drove the federal government agents out of town, fearing for their lives, for actions by the government and environmental groups against the locals’ livelihood, rural roads, recreation, forests and rivers. The rural landowners near Elko formed what they called the “Jarbidge Shovel Brigade” to take on the federal and local authorities. In northern California and southern Oregon along the Klamath River, the local landowners formed the Klamath Bucket Brigade to fight against removal of four dams. We don’t condone violent acts whatsoever, although we can see how frustration and outrage can lead to such acts.
The American rural landowner has a virtual bull’s-eye on his back and government and the radical environmentalists have set their sights on that bull’s-eye, because a landowner is an easy target. They have essentially no voice in the political arena. Although rural America may be in the proverbial crosshairs, all across America there is growing resistance against government and environmental injustices that could lead to serious unintended consequences. Well-armed, independent rural landowners may be the last great hope for a free America because they aren’t about to lay down and play dead for a bunch of free-loading, urban, radical environmentally-educated, Cool-aid drinking, college idiots and the ignorant and arrogant big-city politicians that aid and abet them. Because you see, the rural landowner has not lost “his or her roughness and spirit of defiance” and the government would be well-advised not to push them too far. Rural landowners control America’s food supply, both protein and grain and if they acted in concert, they could bring America to its knees.