White River National Blueway System Harbinger of Massive Federal Land Grab

by Mark Moore

Our Federal Government is overwhelmingly incompetent and corrupt, but even their incompetence and corruption is exceeded by their arrogance.   As if they did not have more on their plate than they can handle right now, the Obama Administration has launched a plan to turn effective control of over half a million acres of land in Missouri and Arkansas, most of it private, over to their environmentalist allies.   Most local officials in the affected areas are not even aware this is going on.

Where does the Administration get the authority to even attempt such a thing?  The answer to that question highlights how far gone the former Republic is, and how the Federal government of the United States has metastasized into a vast and threatening entity, far out of the control of the people of the nation which it now rules.

Under the two-party system the legislative branch no longer matters much.   Most legislators don’t dare represent their constituents anymore, but rather the global interests which fund the two parties.    And of course, if the head of the executive is of one’s own party, they are not a “team player” if they don’t march in lock-step with the titular head of their party.   For all these reasons and more, no action from the all-but irrelevant Congress was needed to initiate this federal land-grab.  Instead, Obama signed a mere memorandum, which he called the “America Great Outdoors” memorandum.

But it gets worse.  That memorandum did not even directly specify that the Feds would attempt to assert control over the White River Watershed.   Instead, Secretary of the Interior Salazar issued Secretarial Order #3321 which “authorized” federal agents to attempt this effort.  Your tax dollars at work, devising limitations on how you might be permitted to use your property.  This is not even the President directly authorizing this with or without legislative approval.   This is a bureaucrat making the call.

Some of you might be wondering where in the Constitution any part of the federal government has the authority to do anything like this.  The short answer is “they don’t”, but the longer answer is important to understand.  The lesson of it is, we cannot trust a group of federal employees (federal judges) with the sole authority to determine the limits of their employer’s authority.   In the long run, as a group, they will conclude that there are no practical limits.

It started with the Constitution’s “Interstate Commerce” Clause, which gave Congress the right to regulate interstate commerce.   That is legitimate.  From there though, a doctrine of Federal Navigational Servitude arose from Supreme Court decisions.   This doctrine asserts that the Federal Government, as part of the Interstate Commerce Clause, has absolute authority over all navigable waterways.  This doctrine has been taken to ridiculous extremes.  The Feds can change the course of rivers within a state, block a river or creek, or cause a river to run dry by their actions, all without recourse by those adversely affected.   They even use this doctrine as a basis for regulating paddling up a creek because “paddling is not a right”!

Obviously they are expanding their powers, ostensibly under the “Interstate Commerce Clause” regarding activities which are not interstate commerce.   The relentless and unchecked expansion of federal power via federal court ruling has been allowed to continue generationally, to our hurt.  Yet this power-grab goes beyond even those outrages.   Here are the goals of the program in Missouri and Arkansas…..
• Acquiring at total of 548,500 acres throughout the watershed

• Placing 10% of farms into conservation programs and develop Conservation Programs for 75% of farms

• Reducing on farm water consumption by 20%

• Increase flooding of agricultural land for wildlife habitat by 10% in the first three years and then an additional 20% in 3-7 years

• Set back levees to restore historic floodplain habitat

• Control encroachment on existing floodplain

• Establish a minimum 180 foot wide vegetative buffer zone along all surface water

These goals cannot practicably be met on a volunteer basis.  They are going to have to push some property owners and property users around to accomplish them.   They are going to have to regulate the use of our private property.

To throw people off, they included this statement in their documents.  I would like for you to read it very closely, in order to discover a valuable lesson in double-speak….

“Nothing in this MOU is intended to authorize or affect the use of private property or is intended to be the basis for the exercise of any new regulatory authority.”

This statement appears to alleviate the concerns that property owners might have, but in fact it does nothing of the sort.  It is a mere declaration of intentions.  If it said “Nothing in this MOU SHALL authorize or affect the use of private property, NOR SHALL IT be the basis for the exercise of any new regulatory authority” then it would mean something.   As it is written, all they have to say is “well, that was not our intent, but we have discovered that more regulation is required in order to accomplish the goals of the program, and nothing in the MOU prohibits us from regulating, if that is what is needed to accomplish the program’s goals.”

When done correctly, some elements of what they are doing can be used in ways which benefit both landowners and the environment.  For example, a Conservation Easement program, when properly put together, can help protect a landowner from questionable use of Eminent Domain by connected corporations or ambitions local governments.   But the way they are doing it is from the top-down.  It’s all wrong, on just about every level.

Several groups are working to oppose these grotesque intrusions, but the truth is there is very little we can do to stop just this program.  Sure we can ask our local officials to go on record as opposing it in their jurisdiction, but this only can set the stage for future pushback.  The fact is that we are going to need more comprehensive changes to our governance, back to the intent of the Founders and a strict adherence to the Constitution, in order to roll back not just this, but the many other excesses to which the American people have been subjected.  In the coming days, we will introduce an initiative in Arkansas which will be the essential first step in doing just that.

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Mark Moore is an advocate of the philosophy of government known as “Localism” as described in the book “Localism, A Philosophy of Government.” (and yes, you should look into it)
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