Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Is the Malheur occupation over?

by Terry Noonkester

Is the Malheur occupation over? Absolutely not.

Although the protesters have been taken away, the divisions between the protesters and the governmental agencies has deepened. LaVoy Finicum has become a martyr. The use of hundreds of FBI, Oregon State Police, county sheriffs, and other law enforcement personnel has created the impression of a police state. Arrests of occupiers and associated journalists has added suspicion of civil rights violations. American citizens see the iron-fisted approach the government and court system adopted in the Stephen and Dwight Hammond court cases. Sympathy is spreading for those jailed.

For those not raised on a ranch, the issues regarding the ranchers’ eroding property rights are not easily understood. Therefore, I will start with an analogy for those of us raised in more urban environments. Let’s say that you purchase a home that costs $ 200,000 to build. However, this home has additional property rights because there is additional land use available to the owner in the form of an exclusive golf course, fish pond, and swimming pools. Because of these extra property rights, the price of the home is increased to a million dollars.

After a few years, the homeowners association starts changing the rules. First they raise the association fees to cover the cost of more intensive management practices. Then they decide the golf course is being overused so the homeowner is now restricted to playing golf just one day a week and the golfer must pay for each use. Years later they decide the golf course should not be used at all in the winter months because the ground is too wet and the foot traffic is damaging the soil. Then the swimming pools were drained and closed because there wasn’t enough water for the fish pond. The following year the golf course was closed permanently from the 7th to 11th holes because an endangered tortoise was found on the 9th hole. The membership in the homeowners association expires every 15 years, so it is necessary to file a new application if you want the remaining rights to the golf course complex. If you have caused problems for the association, your application can be rejected.

This is the type of bureaucracy the ranchers and farmers are subjected to through BLM, the Forest Service, Fish and Game and an assortment of other agencies. The property value of the home on the golf course would definitely be reduce and the homeowner may very well have the right to sue an out-of-control homeowners association. The impact of government policies that erode property rights of a ranch or farm are harder to fight. The federal government made the laws and policies and owns the courts.

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