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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act Dies - For Now

Peyton Knight applauds one of the last non-acts, but wise decisions, of the 109th Congress:
Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act Dies With 109th Congress

Washington, D.C. - Despite a furious, last-minute charge from anti-property rights lobbyists, Congress declined to pass the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act in the waning days of the "lame duck" congressional session.

The National Center for Public Policy Research opposed the creation of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area because it would have threatened property rights and undermined the authority of local government in portions of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"Chalk one up for property rights and commonsense limited government," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center. "Property owners and limited government conservatives can breathe a sigh of relief for now. However, there is little doubt that the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership will be back next year, pushing their plan to make themselves the federally-funded ‘managers’ of historic areas in four states."

The Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act, sponsored in the 109th Congress by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Senator George Allen (R-VA), would have provided millions in federal tax dollars to a collection of preservation interest groups, many with a history of anti-property rights activism, and allowed those groups to spend that money lobbying local governments to impose local land use restrictions.

When word of the threat to property rights spread, local citizens and policy groups educated citizens on the dangers posed by the initiative. As a result, the bill failed to pass in either the House or the Senate during the regular congressional session. Proponents of the bill then turned their efforts to the "lame duck" congressional session, a time when controversial legislation is sometimes whisked through Congress with little notice. However, their eleventh hour lobby effort proved futile as Congress adjourned without passing the measure.

"In the very last hours of the 109th Congress, a coalition of pork-barrel politicians, elitist greens, the National Park Service and Washington DC lobbyists failed to run roughshod over the Constitution by pushing through another National Heritage Area," said R.J. Smith, senior fellow with the National Center. "It was a major defeat for those who would destroy the underlying foundations of a free society and individual liberty."

Smith added: "Now is the time for those who honor the Constitution and Bill of Rights to do the right thing by respecting property rights and returning to the unique American tradition of private conservation. Such conservation has preserved both America’s wild places and its historical and cultural sites, through the use of voluntary and contractual arrangements. It is a morally superior preservation option, compared to the use of government to take people's property by force, often destroying their livelihoods in the process."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:43 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research