American Policy Center Mobilizes Against More “Heritage Areas” As Further Threat to Property Rights

October 14, 2003

Washington, DC – Leading the fight against the authorization of more “Heritage Areas,” the American Policy Center is organizing a coalition of property rights groups to fight four pending pieces of legislation.

Testifying last month before the House Resources Committee’s subcommittee on National Parks, APC’s Legislative Director, Peyton Knight, argued against the proliferation of heritage areas, warning that “they disguise restrictive federal zoning practices” that strip local owners of their property rights.

Mr. Knight reminded the subcommittee that “the Heritage Areas are administered through the National Park Service which he characterized as being “a federal agency with a history of hostility towards private landowners.”

Mr. Knight further noted that the National Park Service “already faces a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog at a time when federal funding is increasingly limited.”

“One of the biggest problems both residential and commercial property owners face with Heritage Areas,” says Mr. Knight, “is that they effectively lead to restrictive federal zoning and land use policy. Moreover, local property owners are not properly notified when their land falls within the boundaries of a proposed Heritage Area. This effectively deprives them of the right to have any say in these designations.”

Four bills are currently under consideration. They are:

H.R. 280: “The National Aviation Heritage Area” sponsored by Rep. David Hobson (R-OH).

H.R. 1862: The Oil Region National Heritage Area” sponsored by Rep. John Peterson (R-PA).

H.R. 1618: “The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area” sponsored by Rep. Denise Majette (D-GA).

H.R. 1594: “The St. Croix National Heritage Area” sponsored by Rep. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands).

“Little known, nor understood, by most Americans,” said Mr. Knight, “is the fact that the federal government is the nation’s largest landowner. It controls 657 million acres or almost thirty percent of the nation’s landmass. That is equal to four times the size of Texas.”

“By attacking property rights in the name of preserving or conserving land, these Heritage Areas are denying local communities their traditional right to decide their own zoning practices.”

“Unless the people in the areas affected by these four bills unite to oppose them,” said Mr. Knight, “their property rights will be lost and, with them, the value of their most important investment. Can Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and the Virgin Islands afford to give federal government more control of their land?”

“A coalition of property rights organizations is being organized, but it is up to those most affected to demand that zoning remain the province of local zoning boards. If they don’t, still more American acres will disappear under federal control and, with them, all rights to their beneficial and appropriate use.”

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.