A Complicated Picture of Private Landownership in the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor

For centuries, family farmers and other private landowners maintained and preserved the landscape, free of big government control. Today, the public is assured, big government, in conjunction with local government and non-profit organizations, is protecting the environment, preserving history, and economically developing rural areas with small businesses while maintaining the character of the countryside.

However, President Ronald Reagan warned America: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” (August 12, 1986)

“Help” from the government – welcome or not — is well underway with the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor(BVHC) in parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts;  the BVHC is called a model for the corridors across the country.

Are Americans aware the very concept of “heritage corridors” has long been under fire? Yet finding on the Internet the voices questioning the need and constitutionality of the concept is nearly impossible. (Notice many of the quotations and other information in this article are drawn from obscure corners of the Internet, such as http://www.prfamerica.org/HeritageRiversAreasIndex.html)

Carol W. LaGrasse, now deceased, was a voice in the wilderness, testifying before Congress and holding conferences. As president of the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., LaGrasse investigated heritage corridors as a threat to private property ownership, and as a change in the American form of government.

Exactly whose homes, farms, forests, and small businesses fall within the twenty-five communities of the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor is a question.

Has no notice by email or post office been sent to property owners in the corridor to alert them that their property is indeed in it, and what that specifically means?

Eleven of these towns or cities are in Rhode Island: Burrillville, Central Falls, Cumberland, East Providence, Glocester, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Providence, Smithfield, and Woonsocket. (Informal surveying of a handful of residents of northwestern RI reveals they have received no such notice.) Fourteen of the communities are in Massachusetts: Auburn, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Leicester, Mendon, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge, and Worcester.

As witnessed at the recently ended 2023 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly, eminent domain that has been used to grab property is again on the table – more boldly than ever it seems.

In a May 17, 2023, press release the Rhode Island GOP contended a proposed bill “does not limit the use of eminent domain to only blighted properties or to non-residential properties…[it] also does not require that the property acquired through eminent domain remain owned by the government…[and] specifically allows the R.I. Department of Housing to enter into contracts with for-profit businesses for properties acquired through eminent domain.” ( https://ri.gop/2023/05/17/taking-your-home-away/ )

Meanwhile, a bill before the U.S. Senate, the so-called “Site Act”, “would give a single federal agency siting authority for transmission line projects, which are going to grow exponentially for green energy push. The agency would also be able to take private land for these projects,” according to a Cowboy State Daily report. https://cowboystatedaily.com/2023/05/26/bill-would-make-it-easier-for-feds-to-take-private-land-for-power-transmission-lines/

In 2005, “the U.S. Supreme Court gutted federal protection against unconstitutional eminent domain when it handed down its decision in Kelo v. New London.” (https://ij.org/issues/private-property/eminent-domain/rhode-island-eminent-domain-laws)

Property rights advocates and other investigators have long sounded the alarm that land-grabbers are lurking.

A 2007 investigative report mentions the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. In their article “National Heritage Areas: Costly Economic Development Schemes that Threaten Property Rights,” writers Cheryl Chumley and Ronald Utt explain the “…Blackstone NHC Commission’s 10-year plan…evaluated 70 sites and offered a wide range of suggestions, including working with a Lincoln, Rhode Island, quarry business to cease operation and preserve the site and ensuring that a sanitary landfill proposed for Douglas State Forest never sees the light of day. In the Douglas vicinity, the plan also expressed a need for “responsible development…[using] a scale of buildings that respects community character.” In Cumberland and Lincoln, meanwhile, the call is for “the town of Cumberland to build public support for development strategies” mandating that 50 percent of the land remain open space.”

What’s more, Chumley and Utt reported that “On the surface, most of the legislation designating an NHA [National Heritage Area], and the subsequent management plans that guide them, include explicit provisions prohibiting the NPS [National Park Service] or the management entity from using eminent domain to acquire property. They also prohibit the use of federal funds to acquire private property by way of a voluntary transaction with a willing seller.”

However, “…NHAs pose a threat to private property rights through the exercise of restrictive zoning that may severely limit the extent to which property owners can develop or use their property. Termed “regulatory takings,” such zoning abuses are the most common form of property rights abuse today…They are also the most pernicious because they do not require any compensation to owners whose property values are reduced by the new zoning.

Chumley and Utt further reported that “while NHA defenders are quick to point out that neither the NPS nor the management entity are empowered to zone or take property, many NHAs encourage participating local governments to adopt land use practices consistent with the management plan…” ( https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/national-heritage-areas-costly-economic-development-schemes-threaten#_ftnref1 )

Forward to this past Christmas, when on December 22, 2022, the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor received a “holiday present,” according to the Corridor’s website. The National Heritage Area Act was approved for another fifteen years by Congress and signed by Biden.

The United States Senate unanimously approved extending the National Heritage Corridor.

The House bipartisan vote was 326 to 95, and “no Democrat voted against the measure, and a majority of Republican House members supported the bill.” https://blackstoneheritagecorridor.org/a-holiday-present-for-the-blackstone-valley-the-national-heritage-corridor-extended-for-another-fifteen-years/

Leading small government advocates in the Congress voting no on the bill included US Representatives Boebert, Cawthorn, Greene, Jordan, and Massie. (See the vote roll call https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/2022540 )

America has 55 national heritage areas with seven more on the way.

Apparently unlike grassroots or traditional Americana ideas that arise from town hall meetings, “provisions of The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Act, signed by President Reagan in 1986, continue today… are the principles of the National Geographic Society and the United Nations World Tourism Organization…,” wrote authors Robert Billington, Ed. D., Veronica Cadoppi, MBA, and Natalie Carter, MA in their report “Stakeholder Involvement, Culture and Accountability in the Blackstone Valley of New England USA: A Work in Progress.” (https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.551.1785&rep=rep1&type=pdf)

Did American citizens at town halls demand or vote on “this new kind of legislation in the United States”, which the report authors state “assisted two states and 24 cities and towns to work together towards a common planning mechanism, with the technical support, and some financial assistance from the National Park Service”?

Will “this new kind of legislation” mean good-bye to the constitutional republic established by the Founding Fathers?

The Land Use Management Report for the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor, the official guide for the future of the corridor prepared by the Center for Rural Massachusetts at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, bluntly states the preservationist agenda for the ultimate disposition of local zoning powers—to be forfeited to the regional entity,” wrote property rights advocate LaGrasse.

“Like the array of other regional entities that preservationists have accomplished and are sneaking through Congress and the state legislatures, the Blackstone River Corridor involves coopting local opposition by creating avenues of participation for local officials and keeping initial upper level government mandates off the backs of localities initially. This and the “economic development”—usually tourism—are the first stage to sweeten the deal while the hard-core preservation work follows,” LaGrasse pointed out, and “Regional Commissions – At some point, a sufficient level of concern is reached along with a growing consensus that voluntary, non regulatory measures are themselves insufficient to ensure that environmental, cultural, and historic resources are adequately protected against indiscriminate and inappropriate development…”

Possible and actual usurping of private property rights, rights supposedly protected under the Bill of Rights, was major news in big media back in the 1980s. One example is a documentary film broadcast on PBS.

“For The Good Of All” is the landmark PBS “Frontline” investigation with Jessica Savitch in 1983 of a…National Park Service [NPS] acquisition operation authorized and mandated by Congress to establish a new Federal park. According to NPS acquisition records the agency displaced over 100,000 people between 1960 and 1980 [more at the website https://www.moosecove.com/propertyrights/index.shtml#VIDEOS ]…”

The documentary shines a harsh and horrifying light into the lives of the unfortunate people of Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio whose property was taken for most of their rural community/town to be turned into a national park.

The film “For The Good Of All” puts a face on what private property rights actually means to people, whether retirees who worked all their lives to have a good home, or young families just starting out in their dream house, or small business owners working hard to make a living and have independence.

New England might not be exempt from land-grabbing, and in 2023 the theft might be stealthy, as compared to in the 1980s.

“Defense of property rights and rural independence is a huge issue in Maine. Well-heeled politically connected preservationist activists and government agencies have for decades been collaborating, off and on openly campaigning, and lobbying for… takeover of private property throughout rural northern New England. They want to eliminate the natural resources industries and private homes, which they hate, across enormous areas they want controlled in a primitive state. The campaign appeals to those seeking to line their pockets as political insiders, and/or to those emotionally overcome with scenic imagery as an excuse to harm other people, all without regard to basic ethics,” according to Downeast Maine Property Rights and Rural Independence. https://rights.land/

As mentioned, property rights last a major battle in Connecticut with the SCOTUS Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) decision. “The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision stands as one of the worst in recent years, handing local governments the option to seize private property in the name of economic development,” according to an opinion piece in WSJ, Nov. 11, 2009. ( https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704402404574527513453636326)

That kind of “economic development” is “corporate welfare,” according to the piece titled Pfizer and Kelo’s Ghost Town.

“Suzette Kelo’s little pink house in New London, Conn. was seized by private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.’s nearby corporate facility and New London’s tax base,” according to https://americanelephant.wordpress.com/tag/eminent-domain

Private property was seized; public outcry was ignored.

One later result was enactment in many states of legislation to protect property owners from eminent domain. So all is well for private private owners?

The Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., that was of Stony Creek, New York, and now seems to have vanished from the Internet, was warning the war wasn’t over.

A more sophisticated battle is underway.

“The American Heritage Corridors, starting in county-wide river bed designations, are being expanded into other geographic zones, an example being the controversial National Park Service Catskill Mountaintop Heritage Corridor for lower New York State. The capacity under the American Heritage Areas for Federal control of land-use planning as viewsheds, riverfronts, flood plains, watersheds, culturally significant sites, or historic routes is endless,” LaGrasse warned.

More, “The real purposes are biodiversity, land bridges and corridors under the Wildlands and U.N. Biosphere Reserve schemes, and elite rural gentrification. National Park Service control of land-use planning in all but large urban centers may result if the Heritage Areas system of designations is established.” (“The American Heritage Areas, The National Park Service National Heritage Corridor Scheme for Federal Control of Zoning” a paper posted at the PRFA website in 2004.)
https://web.archive.org/web/20040529040452/http://prfamerica.org/AmericanHeritageAreas.html )

In the 1990s LaGrasse’s organization posted “Amendments Considered for Protection of Home Rule, National Sovereignty and Property Rights” (in Positions on Property, Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan. 1996. https://web.archive.org/web/20040503044132/http://prfamerica.org/AmendmentsConsidered.html

Among the property rights advocate’s concerns was that “…individual property owner notification and opportunity to be heard are essential and can be inexpensively included in tax assessment notices or else mailed separately. But notification and hearings are meaningless if Congress has already finalized the designation of an area. Each potential designation should be reviewed for compliance with this constitutional requirement unless the property owner opt-in clause is added…”

In addition, what is needed is “protection of home rule, national sovereignty and property sights” including:

1) Compensation to private property owners if designation results in taking of private property (or a taking by the National Park Service). Thus is potentially meaningful only if the Management Contract between the Secretary of Interior and the State/Regional Agency clearly mandates the zoning that is the source of the taking. ..”
2) “Allow local government to opt out of area. It is unlikely that many local governments could opt out, for a number of reasons discussed elsewhere…:
3) “Allow private property owners to opt out of area by notifying Secretary of Interior. This would be effective if the law clearly spelled out the right of property owners to opt out of related state and local zoning law. But a perversion of the “opt out” concept, to allow property owners to opt out by paying a fee to the federal government is nothing but another proof of the insidiousness of the Heritage program.”  https://web.archive.org/web/20040503044454/http://prfamerica.org/AmerHeritageAreasBackdoor2Zoning.html

In “The American Heritage Areas—A Back Door to Federal Zoning” LaGrasse warned:

“Congress is carefully holding almost no local hearings on the individual heritage area designations. An example of a rare Congressional hearing, held in Glens Falls, New York, on the Champlain-Hudson Heritage area drew such vociferous opposition that U.S. Senator James Jeffords, the Vermont proponent, put the idea aside for 2 years. The Constitutional requirement of due process – notice and a chance to be heard – is handily held in abeyance until the zoning has worked its way down to implementation on the local level, as is currently the case with federal coastal zone management intrusions and related porkbarrel. By the time federal zoning works its way down to the local level or the level of a state commission, the local and state officials will be in the comfortable position of “having to” implement the federal-state contract.” (Reprinted from Positions on Property, Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan.-April 1996)

Further, LaGrasse explained. “The American Heritage Area program has gone by several other names, National Heritage Areas, Heritage Corridors, and various Industrial Heritage entitled Areas. One Congressional bill was deviously entitled the National Technical Assistance Act. But all have one element in common: the National Park Service obtains control over local zoning for a region by contracting with a state-level agency which is required to impose growth management controls that suit the federal government.”

Naturally, people want to maintain the character of their town or city and develop the local economy.

“Main streets, downtown rehabilitation, waterfront rehabilitation and similarly named projects are part of the greenway or Heritage area “carrots,” by which local government is persuaded to carry the stick for preservationists. The stick is tight zoning that forecloses most business development and ties up land in its natural condition…,” stated LaGrasse.

Another natural instinct of human beings is to protect the environment and animals.

“The “land bridges” concept of “wildlife highways” especially along river corridors or riparian ways linking wildlife areas to each other is an outgrowth of the work of R.H. MacArthur and E.O. Wilson on “island biogeography” during the 1960’s, expanded two decades later by wildlife biologists, notably Larry D. Harris, with the concepts of “landscape linkages,” especially riparian woods, as “dispersal corridors” for wildlife preservation…,” explained LaGrasse.

What’ more, “The “Heritage” corridor system is thus a perfect methodology to advance the extreme “wildlands” vision…All quite secretly, also, because publicity brings rejection,” stated LaGrasse.

“The American Heritage Rivers program is of great national concern. Because of this wide-spread fear, I have been invited to speak numerous times about the American Heritage Rivers plan on radio and TV talk shows, and have, in fact, received more requests to speak about it than for all other topics this year…,” and “The Practical Meaning and Future of the American Heritage Rivers Program [includes] private property will be greatly restricted, a great deal of financial losses will occur, enforcements and prosecutions will increase and be more effective because of greater inter-agency coordination…” stated LaGrasse in Written Testimony about the American Heritage Rivers Program, Submitted to The Committee on Resources United States House of Representatives September 24, 1997. (https://web.archive.org/web/20040624001000/http://www.prfamerica.org/Sept24-1997Written.html)

The threat from what LaGrasse called “land designation” programs “is not singular, but multitudinous…,”, and “…government programs that can take away your rights are often couched in very desirable terms. A familiar example is that of imposing national education standards for the purpose of solving the problem of school failure. The idea is that we need the federal government because kids aren’t reading and doing math at grade level.” (She stated in a speech titled “The American Heritage Rivers Program A Threat to Private Property” delivered at the Eagle Forum National Conference, September 12, 1998, in Arlington, Virginia. https://web.archive.org/web/20040529040436/http://prfamerica.org/AHR-Threat2PrivPropRtgs.html)

In addition, “The same system is in vogue for environmental issues. Rivers are portrayed, truthfully or falsely, as badly polluted. Local cultures and historic sites are portrayed as threatened,” stated LaGrasse.

Moreover, according to the property rights advocate, “Private property rights are fundamental to the exercise of all our freedoms…The American Heritage Rivers program brings grants, computer monitoring and a juggernaut of federal agencies together with the potential to effectively increase government control over private property and thereby deny private property rights.”

In “Dangers of Designations Regional, Federal, State and International Land-Use Intrusions National/American Heritage Areas, UN Biosphere Reserves and UN World Heritage Sites” (April 1997), Property Rights Foundation of America warned that “Congressional bills and federal laws for National or American Heritage Areas require a contract between the state government regional entity and the U.S. Secretary of Interior to manage the land-use of the region for preservation. This means federal control of zoning, either directly, by the terms of the “management compact,” or indirectly, by the use of funds dispensed by preservation agencies to influence zoning under a seductive pork barrel system, the iron-clad zoning is enforced locally, with home-rule seemingly preserved, but private property owners’ rights diminished and locally generated land-use patterns foreclosed.” (https://web.archive.org/web/20040615161157/http://www.prfamerica.org/DangersOfDesignations.html)

Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Resources Sept. 12, 1996, on the American Land Sovereignty Protection Act, Dr. Jeremy Rabkin, Associate Professor, Cornell University, reads in part: “I think it perfectly understandable that people are concerned that when you set up a program, when you give it a designation, where you as international authorities recognize it, the implication is that down the road when there are conflicts, somebody’s going to be leaned on, and the authority for this, at least the moral authority for this, will be an invocation of some very dubious international authority.”

LaGrasse in a report explained that “by and large, the National Heritage Areas are wide strips of land along rivers that are to be the subject of federal preservation efforts in conjunction with a regional state or federal commission that signs a “management contract” with the National Park Service. The Areas are touted for “tourism,” “recreation,” and “economic development.” (A Brief Introduction American Heritage Rivers
A Saccharine Incarnation of the National Heritage Area Program; June 18, 1997)

Perhaps not astonishingly, “the Rivers program is part of Vice President Gore’s efforts to “reinvent government in accordance with the National Performance Review.” Some rivers will have “Performance-Based Organizations” which allow “flexibility” to meet “performance-based goals,” the Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc. president LeGrasse also wrote.

Furthermore, “The rivers will be the focus of “Coordinated Delivery of Services” and each will have a “caseworker” known as a “River Navigator” who works with an interagency task force and is to be a “single contact” for all federal agencies. The verbose pronouncement does not make clear whether this restriction of contact scheme could restrict all federal-state/local interrelationships….”

Plus, “the American Heritage Rivers program is a major bureaucratic step…,” and that “since the program has no legislative authorization and is on that basis also unconstitutional, Congress should deny funding for it,” according to LeGrasse.

Empowering Americans

Property Rights Foundation of America on its website sought to empower the people “…to overcome the impediments to citizen participation which have characterized the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. With the knowledge of the identities, agencies, locations and telephone numbers of both the federal contact and the federal facilitator, as well as the “community” contact, for each of the fourteen American Heritage Rivers designated by the President, citizens should now be able to become informed of the heretofore secret “community” meetings before they are held, and also bring influence toward holding properly noticed public hearings about all facets of the American Heritage Rivers program in their region.”

Moreover, Property Rights Foundation of America explained, “citizens should also be warned that the “community” meetings may be led by professional facilitators and conducted by consensus. This means that skills to manipulate meeting outcomes may dominate and that, instead of taking votes, a feeling of agreement or acceptance, supposedly by all present, will be the basis for official leadership pronouncements and decisions. Minutes may not be taken. Citizens should make an effort to enable a broad range of the public, resource users, and other business people from the region who are concerned about the economy, home rule, and private property rights to be consistently present in adequate numbers. Citizens are forewarned to be ready to issue formal minority reports to the press, the public and their elected representatives about the issues and programs under consideration. They should plan to lead the consensus and committee structure and assignments in directions beneficial to the local economy and respectful of private property rights and home rule. (https://web.archive.org/web/20040629052216/http://www.prfamerica.org/images/AHRI-list.pdf)

In the 1990s LaGrasse cautioned Americans, particularly those of the future, that “the regional Heritage programs are both (1) an important genteel division, so to speak, of the grandiose movement to accomplish widespread rural depopulation and (2) an important current tool of planners and regulators to grandly structure their control over land and resources to eliminate whatever they consider to be inappropriate human activity or activity in the wrong place. …The Heritage regions are designed to be saccharinely deceptive. The hammer is hidden, is for use by others mainly in the future, and for now is cloaked in honey. Furthermore, and most fundamentally, the Clinton American Heritage Rivers program is so fluid and shapeless that it is nearly impossible to pin down. ( https://web.archive.org/web/20040503042415/http://prfamerica.org/ElitesOnly.html)

The “saccharinely deceptive” seems a complex maze.

“The American Heritage Rivers program can be viewed as a complicated flexible stage work that lays the structure, both in the local region and in Washington, D.C. for effective federal control over land and water use in any given region…It is essential to the elites who plan these programs to take away our rights that they keep the public out of “their” meetings,” explained LeGrasse.

Traditional Liberals or “a very big and nasty nanny state”

What’s more, the crusader for property rights explained that “due process, public hearings, representation through elective procedures, freedom of information law and any constitutional and legislative procedures that would inform the public must be systematically breached, even though liberals arrogantly portray these protections as their domain…Remember that, as opposed to true liberals in the grand tradition of western civilization’s respect for all individuals including the person who is not well-connected, today’s liberals want nothing but a very big and nasty nanny state.”

At the Seventh Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, in her speech titled “Our Inalienable HEeritage” LaGrasse pointed out “it is always the tyrant, the powerful, who wants to take more power and wealth, and in the preservation movement, they have created an intellectual scripture, so to speak, to justify repression of the rural population to satisfy their tastes and goals.”

Despite that, LaGrasse offered hope: “… our country was founded under different assumptions. Our fundamental rights do include the right to own and use private property. Everyman has this same right as the ruler. Eminent domain has to be for public use, not for the distorted goal of some amorphous public purpose preferred to the present.” (https://web.archive.org/web/20040621091022/http://www.prfamerica.org/OurInalienableHeritage.html )

Gradually accomplish federal land use control?

Before the U.S. Senate in 2004 LeGrasse testified against National Heritage Areas.

In her National Heritage Areas testimony before the U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, March 30, 2004, LaGrasse said, “My criticism has been and remains that the National Heritage Area program is meant to gradually accomplish federal land use control. It is focused across especially the East and Midwest. The Heritage Area program also involves transferring private land to government. The state and federal governments already own over 42 percent of the land in the United States. In 1994, I publicized a list kept by the National Trust for Historic Preservation of over 100 state, federal, and regional Heritage Areas under development. The House Natural Resources Committee mapped that list, showing the shocking extent to the program already at that time. Direct national land use control is too unpopular to be enacted, as would be a unified national greenway program encompassing the full extent of the Heritage Areas and other federal areas being individually enacted.”
(https://web.archive.org/web/20041102213436/http://www.libertymatters.org/newsservice/2004/faxback/2669_NHAtestimony.htm and https://web.archive.org/web/20040815232035/http://prfamerica.org/LaGrasseTestifiesBeforeSenate.html)

One reporter explained when LaGrasse’s testimony began, reporters sat up in their seats and started taking notes.

LaGrasse told how the National Heritage Areas were a regulatory greenway program and to enumerate other threats to private property rights, including the “partnerships” with local and regional government, the ties to non-profits, and the establishment of National Park Service trails with associated eminent domain.

She emphasized points she had spoken of for years.

“The main selling points for Heritage Areas are tourism, economic development, historic preservation, and protection of riverways,” LaGrasse stated. “The word ‘greenway’ is not used. Yet, Heritage Areas are plainly greenways, areas where the purpose is landscape preservation by land use regulation and land acquisition by government and its surrogates.”

“A theme trail is associated with each greenway,” LaGrasse said. “The Heritage Area elements fulfill the goal of ‘landscape connectedness,’ a textbook purpose of greenways. A greenway needs an ‘ensemblage’ of sites related to the theme, the ostensible reason for the overall geographic definition, without which the real goal of landscape preservation could not be accomplished.”

In her letter to U. S. Senator Craig Thomas of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, LaGrasse wrote in part that “with rare exceptions, the officials expressed their offense at my presence and questions by their contemptuous manner and refusal to straightforwardly answer my inquiries or to answer the inquiries at all. Park Service officials have attempted to marginalize me, and insult me, they have treated me in a consistently demeaning manner, attempting to convey publicly that I and others concerned about property rights were ignoramuses, fanatics, and disrupters. Most interesting of all, except for one official whose work I complimented a number of years ago in the very respect that the higher officials were in the process of reversing, they have never taken any of my comments seriously or allowed any of my comments to have any impact on the direction of their programs, except for their becoming more secretive and evasive about the programs.” (April 16, 2004 Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.) https://citizenreviewonline.org/april2004/heritage.htm

From LeGrasse to Today

“There are 62 designated National Heritage Areas in 36 states across the country that support a diversity of conservation, recreation, education, and preservation activities,” according to the National Park Service. Here’s their map: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/heritageareas/discover-nhas.htm

Concern for property rights extends beyond the Northeast of America.

The Virginia Land Rights Coalition, for example, states that “our heritage, based on respect for Life, Liberty and Property, serves as a guide for us and for our children.”

The coalition provides “information to Americans about the protection, ownership and wise use of private property and natural resources, and the core principles of our American Constitutional Republic.” ( http://www.vlrc.org/articles/159.html)

Author L.M. Schwartz writing on the organization website wondered, “does the wholesale federal acquisition of tens of thousands of acres of private land have anything to do with the preservation of history and heritage? A question I am often asked, not only here in Highland, but by people across Virginia, is “Why is the government buying all this land; why do they need it; what are they planning to do with it?”( The Battle of McDowell 1862 – 2005 http://www.vlrc.org/articles/159.html )

Tom DeWeese, President of the American Policy Center, is leading voice nationwide for property rights; he asks “what about property rights protections? When property owners express concern that their property could be taken in the process – proponents have a ready-made answer. Don’t worry, they say — they quickly point to language in the Heritage Area bills that assure property rights protections.”

“When I addressed an audience of 400 residents who live inside the proposed boundaries of the Caddo Lake NHA I asked for a show of hands from everyone who wanted to opt out of it,” explained DeWeese, “Every hand in the room went up. As the restrictions on property are steadily legislated into place due to the NHA, opting out is simply not an option.”

“The National Heritage Area designations are completely unnecessary,” contends the property rights leader. “Most of the true historic sites, like presidential birthplaces and battle fields, are already well preserved and under the control of the National Park Service.”

Moreover, “the greatest threat from the Heritage Area is that it creates a pipeline of federal money – and consequently political power – for these national organizations to promote their specific agendas over your community and its development,” stated DeWeese.

“In addition, there is virtually no accountability for tax-exempt NGOs on how they actually spend the Federal Park Service funding. Their books are closed. No FOIA. No open meetings. No public hearings. No elections. How does that honor American heritage?” revealed DeWeese. (https://www.conservativehq.org/post/national-heritage-areas-locking-up-american-property-rights

It’s said the COVID narrative is rapidly unraveling under the pressure of Congressional questioning, public opinion, doctor and scientist second opinions, a landslide of lawsuits, and rapidly increasing interest among citizens in their Bill of Rights; therefore, questioning of everything Big Government says and does, including the National Heritage Area concept, will continue. And it’s growing.

One can only guess what President Reagan would think of the work of the late Carol W. LaGrasse.  And what might he have thought of the current work of DeWeese and others who perhaps are no longer crying in the wilderness, but finding an eager audience listening and standing all across America.

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