07 Mar 2007 Frank Wolf’s Anti-Property Rights National Heritage Area Bill Scheduled for Pivotal Vote in the House Today, March 7
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Frank Wolf’s (R-VA) controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act is scheduled for a vote in the House Resources Committee today. This is virtually the same legislation that failed to move in the previous Congress due to the serious threats it posed to private property owners in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to the National Center for Public Policy Research.
Rep. Wolf’s legislation would create a 175-mile long preservation zone, stretching from central Virginia to southern Pennsylvania, where land use and property rights could be strictly curtailed. The bill would give preservation interest groups substantial influence in the process, tasking them with drafting a land use “management plan” for the region.
“Congressman Wolf has simply resurrected his failed Heritage Area initiative from last year, slapped a few cosmetic changes on it, and is now trying to push it through the new Congress,” said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Like most sequels, this one is not worth the price of admission.”
The bill failed last year despite Rep. Wolf’s efforts to game the system by slipping a one million-dollar earmark into the 2005 federal transportation to fund the principal lobbying group behind his bill, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Foundation.
Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) recently introduced an alternative bill to address some of the concerns found in the Wolf bill about private property rights, federal overreach and pork-barrel earmarks.
The National Center has analyzed both bills and identified key differences between the two proposals.
* The Wolf bill would earmark a minimum of $10 million federal tax dollars for special interest groups, but the Barlett bill would not earmark any money. In addition, the Wolf bill recommends that these interest groups disburse their taxpayer-subsidized windfall to “states and their political subdivisions” for the purpose of promoting the land use policies the preservation groups favor.
Richard Falknor of the Maryland Taxpayers Association notes: “The Bartlett approach would not authorize using taxpayer money to lobby local governments to restrict the property rights of ordinary Americans in the proposal’s four-state area.”
* Under the Wolf proposal, preservationist groups and the National Park Service would be directed to create a “management plan” that includes an “inventory” of all property in the area that should be targeted for preservation. This would likely result in land use restrictions or outright acquisition. The Bartlett bill includes no such inventory.
“The Wolf bill would enable special interest groups and the federal Park Service to impose a narrow, preservationist agenda on the citizens of the area,” says John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy Research.
* The Bartlett bill provides transparency, requiring that property owners be notified, in writing, of any pending Heritage Area designation that would encompass their land. The Wolf bill contains no such good government provision.
* The Wolf bill would not require that property owners be compensated for any losses resulting from the creation of the Heritage Area, but the Bartlett bill would do just that. The Bartlett bill would require local governments wishing to participate in the National Heritage Area to provide fair market value compensation to property owners in their jurisdiction if their property is devalued as a result of government action.
“The right to private property is something that many fought and died for in this historic region,” said Knight. “Threatening this right does not honor their heroic sacrifice, it snubs it.”
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For more information on this proposal, see:
“‘Local Support’ for Congressman Wolf’s Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Bill Largely Smoke and Mirrors,” Press Release, November 2006
“Did Frank Wolf Earmark Funds to Aid His Own Legislative Initiative?,” Press Release, October 2006