National Heritage Areas Opposed at Senate Hearing: Loss of Property Rights, Local Economies Would Suffer

March 13, 2003

Washington, DC ~ “If the Heritage Areas program is allowed to proliferate, experience shows that it will become not only a funding albatross, as more and more interest groups gather around the federal trough, but also a program that quashes property rights and local economies through restrictive federal zoning practices.”

Testifying today before the Subcommittee on National Parks of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Peyton Knight, Legislative Director of the American Policy Center, warned against any expansion of Heritage Areas programs administered by the National Parks Service.

“The real beneficiaries of a National Heritage Areas program are conservation groups, preservation societies, land trusts and the National park Service,” said Mr. Knight, “essentially organizations that are in a constant pursuit of federal dollars, land acquisition, and restrictions to development.”

Mr. Knight cited the National Coal Heritage Area as an example of comparable programs that would impose restrictive zoning regulations that have the effect of ending any further economic development, killing jobs, and forcing homeowners in the designated areas to sell against their wishes.

The National Park Service is not merely a neutral party to the creation of such Heritage Areas, but plays an active role “as a conduit by which funds are transferred from the federal government to the citizen planning boards and special interest groups entrusted with crafting the blueprints governing Heritage Areas.”

The National Park Service, Mr. Knight testified, “has become synonymous with lost property rights.” In an article on the subject, Mr. Knight warned, “Heritage Areas are not simply honorary designations. They are vehicles for ‘sustainable development’, an environmental term that hides an agenda to remove and restrict as much of the U.S. landmass as possible from any use. The program “shuns property rights in favor of radical environmentalism.”

“Supporters of the Heritage Areas Act,” Mr. Knight wrote, “are desperately trying to impress upon an increasingly gullible public that Heritage Areas are conducive to economic development. That this can be said with a straight face is nothing short of incredible. The enactment of zoning restrictions is hardly a recipe for economic growth. In fact, stifling development usually spells misery for local economies, and in these uncertain times, the last thing communities need are federally-induced barriers to economic growth.

Tom DeWeese
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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.