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Wednesday, 11 April 2007 00:00

Judge strikes blow for property rights advocates

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A federal judge in San Francisco told the Bush administration on March 30 that it didn’t have the right to bypass property owners when making decisions regarding their lands. Back in early 2005 the administration decided unilaterally to change the rules and regulations regarding the maintenance and care of more than 1.7 million acres without consulting the property owners.

 

Many property owners took exception to being left out of the decision making process regarding their lands and joined with like-minded constituents in filing suit against the administration back in February 2005. In her ruling, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton noted that the administration had violated several laws in changing the rules and that it did so without consulting the property owners.

As part owner of the 1.7 million acres in question, I applaud the efforts of my fellow property owners in bringing suit and salute Judge Hamilton’s ruling in favor of the landowners. I think all property rights advocates will agree that we don’t want the federal government making decisions regarding our property without consulting with us and going through all the proper legal channels already in place to insure that any determinations made regarding that property will be in our best interest and also in the best interest of the integrity of the property itself.

Seems like this administration and some of its closest political allies think that those who want to should have the right to strip mine, log and/or build roads through our property without consulting us. But the 1.7 million acres in question are neither the National Mining Lease nor the National Timber Lease; they are our National Forests and, as such, belong as much to you and me as they do to any commercial interests.

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 is the principle statute that governs the management our national forests. Regulations were established in 1982 to instruct federal agencies on the implementation of the NFMA. These instructions called for the agencies to balance industrial uses such as mining, road building, logging and development with the need to conserve wild spaces and protect wildlife and its habitats.

This latest end run around environmental regulation and public input was thwarted March 30 by Federal Cornerback Hamilton who made a decisive open field tackle. But the game is not over. You can rest assured that the Bush administration and industry lobbyists will huddle up again and call another play.

As a property owner and property rights advocate I would like to thank Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and others for standing up for my rights as one of the owners of our National Forests. And I would also like to thank Judge Hamilton for remembering the “We” in “We the People” and putting the administration on notice that, at least for now, even they must abide by the law.

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