Property Rights Take a Hit

A long-planned October rally in Collier Country, Florida calling itself the “Sawgrass Rebellion” to support property rights, imploded and was canceled in the face of a determined effort to deny it the right to meet anywhere. You could almost hear the cheering in the offices of the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the Army Corp of Engineers, the Fish and Wild Life Service and the National Park Service.

Will the juggernaut of environmental organizations and federal government agencies that have mounted an attack on the most fundamental right of an American citizen, the right to own property, succeed?

If it does, then the Fifth Amendment which asserts and protects property rights for all Americans, will have been undermined and, with it, many other rights will have been effectively negated. The Greens inside and outside government believe that a citizen’s property rights movement will soon grow tired of complaining about their “Sustainable Development” agenda to restructure America.

The planned rally was the result of the pain the Greens and their fellow travelers have inflicted on thousands of Americans. They’re people who lost their property and their jobs. That’s what happens when the government shuts off the water to your farm or denies grazing rights to your ranch. That’s what happens when sawmills are forced out of business as vast areas of forest are put off limits to protect a single “endangered” species. That’s what happens when a planned gold mine is denied permission to operate because it is “close” to a national park. That’s what happens when homeowners discover their property in part of a “view shed” and are told to become “willing sellers” to their government.

All across America millions of acres are being put off limits to any use by Americans. They are being declared national monuments, heritage sites, buffer zones. This is spelled out in The Wildlands Project, an environmental plan to deny Americans access and use of fifty percent of the nation’s landmass. It is the plan, too, behind the “Sustainable Development” agenda heralded this summer by a United Nations conference in South Africa.

The Grand Army of Sustainable Development deems those who would protest to save their homes, their farms, their ranches, their businesses insignificant. Quietly, relentlessly, they have done their job well, creating a wall of laws and regulations intended to anticipate and thwart their every action.

Their army is composed of the bureaucrats who have the power to issue or deny permits for building and construction, for repairs, for the color you can paint your door. They control landscaping. They control public gatherings. They control sanitation and outdoor lighting. They can decide how many cars can be parked. Their generals are the politicians who have sold out their constituents for the campaign funding provided through a network of Green organizations. It is they who account for why virtually a third of all federal laws and regulations today are devoted to “protecting the environment.”

For over 200 years we have prospered because we have operated under a rule of law designed to protect the individual’s right to pursue his own life in the way he chooses. To work, to play, to invest, to own property and use it in the way that best suits his needs. This defines citizenship in America.

The government, by the mandate of our Constitution, has the responsibility to protect these rights and, from the very beginning, private ownership of the land was granted as a right of the people. Government’s job was to make sure that no one could unjustly take that land or control how it was used or trespass over it against the owner’s will.

Americans are only a few laws and regulations away from the day when the advocates of Sustainable Development will be able to completely ignore our right to free speech and free assembly. The “Sawgrass Rebellion” will not be held as planned, but its loss has galvanized more than 700 property rights organizations around the nation.

It is said that money is the root of all evil, but the assault on property rights demonstrates the real evil is uncontrolled government power.

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.