Jersey County (Illinois) Journal Commentary
March 23, 2011
Joyce Morrison is a Property Rights Advocate who lives in Illinois. She is a well known speaker and has been a speaker at the OPRC Annual Conference on Private Property Rights. Her articles on property rights issues have been published nationally.
Are National Heritage Areas good for us?
by Joyce Morrison
Did you know that Jersey County is in the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area? The legislators sponsoring this bill were Senators Durbin and Obama and former Congressman LaHood of Peoria. The Abraham Lincoln NHA was voted on and authorized by the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. It is now federal law.
The Abraham Lincoln NHA’s management group, “Looking for Lincoln,” has been holding meetings in the various parts of the heritage area seeking input from the local tourist industry and other groups. The outcome of these consensus meetings no doubt has been predetermined, but it sounds “warm and fuzzy” to invite comments from the locals.
There are 47 United Nations Biosphere Reserves in the United States and 20 United Nations World Heritage Sites. (Cahokia Mounds is a UN World Heritage site) There are 49 National Heritage Areas with more designations planned. Usually people are very passive and accept these designations without question.
In the Ozark area of Missouri, a feasibility study for a National Heritage Area (NHA) has been made. A boundary line was placed around 13 counties and it would have been called the “Ozark Highland National Heritage Area.” Last week approximately 350 local residents showed up at a meeting to express their opposition to the NHA. The management groups dropped their plans because they knew it would be a lost cause without local support. The NHA planners had already spent about $200,000.00 in public funding to pay the salaries of their little group
Why did the citizens object so strongly? The people in the famous Ozark area of Missouri are used to attempts at “land grabs” and they are very savvy and well informed. They read the fine print and then go to work to keep their property free from federal bondage. Several years ago, the United Nations chose this Ozark area to be designated as a Biosphere Reserve but the people began the battle to keep this from happening – and the people won.
Private property in the United States continues to be locked up through costly grant driven UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development programs such as National Heritage Areas, Scenic Byways and Rivers, Treasured Landscapes, National monuments, Preserve America, Open Space and parks, wetlands, smart growth and a long list of innocent sounding (costly) government land programs.
Consistently, you will find the words scenic, historic, recreational, cultural and natural integrity as preservation goals for most of the programs mentioned above. Often the word “perpetuity” is part of the description – which means “forever.”
Local governments love these programs because they come with grants. Very seldom do board members read the documents that contain the fine print. And who can refuse a grant? Free money is extremely seductive even if the grant is limited to a feasibility study and to support the activities of a management group. Typically the grant for most NHAs is a million tax dollars. Once the grant money has been spent, the area is locked in for “perpetuity”.
The Interior Department and National Park Service are the government agencies behind most of these programs that will lead right to your back door. The National Park Service thinks of Heritage Areas as “parks – only less expensive” according to Alma Ripps, a legislative affairs specialist for the agency. Quoting from a March 2004 Government Accountability Office report: ”[National Heritage Areas] encourage local governments to implement land use policies that are consistent with the heritage areas’ plans, which may allow the heritage areas to indirectly influence zoning and land use planning in ways that could restrict owners’ use of their property.”
The Abraham Lincoln NHA encompasses 42 agricultural counties in Illinois – almost all private land. At first glance, it appears to be an honor for Jersey County to have been chosen to tell our special stories about our history. The sales pitch for an NHA is: “you must preserve your wonderful heritage – and tell your story.” Although, I’m not aware of any story about Lincoln’s significance in Jersey County, I am aware of the importance of the county’s agriculture. So why would we want to inventory and tie up our food production? Agriculture has its own heritage and tells its own story without the designation of being a NHA answerable to the National Park Service and the Interior Department.
In a NHA, all property is inventoried and no property can be opted out of the boundary line once it has been designated. Here is the clincher – it is a physical and geographical impossibility to opt out of a NHA. One is either inside the boundaries of a NHA or outside the boundaries.
Chicago’s conservative Heartland Institute told federal legislators: “National Heritage Areas are preservation zones where land use and property rights can be restricted. They give the National Park Service and preservation interest groups (many with histories of hostility toward property rights) substantial influence by giving them the authority to create land use ”management plans” and then the authority to disburse federal money to local governments to promote their plans.”,
NHAs pose a threat to private property rights if restric¬tive federal zoning is enforced. This type of zoning may severely limit the extent to which property owners can develop or use their property. Also, the rules can change at any time. “Regulatory takings,” such as zoning abuses, are the most common form of property rights abuse today.
Are we missing something when we give our land over to these invasive “locked in” federal programs? Why are there so many scenic programs selling tourism and why is almost every acre in the U.S. a target for some federal program?
We need to read the documentation and be more cautious before we adopt any program – regardless of the grants that come with them. We need to be extra careful about implementing stringent land use and international building code policies robbing property owners of their Constitutional right of the use of their property.
Jersey County is following the cookie cutter pattern designed for global Agenda 21’s Sustainable Development. Jersey County has already held the Visioning and Comprehensive Planning meetings in accordance with Sustainable Development. We have passed Hazard Mitigation, Floodplain Management and new international and green building codes – all in line with Sustainable Development. We now live in a National Heritage Area with a Scenic Byway which is subject to federal zoning. We are in the process of consolidating and dumbing down our youth in today’s education system. I would say we are “right on schedule” and falling for the global plan hook, line and sinker.