Policy & Advocacy - The Northern Plains Heritage Area
NPNHA meeting in Bismarck
In 2009, the Northern Plains National Heritage Area board held a hearing on October 12 at the Bismarck Public Library. Following a presentation by the board, a question and answer session was held.
During that Q&A, North Dakota Farm Bureau submitted an official statement regarding the management plan for the NPNHA.
Read NDFB's statement (in pdf) by clicking here.
The final language
The pdf link below is the language that was passed by conference committee on the Heritage Area and will now go to the president for his signature.
Final Heritage Area language.
Landowners are not whiners
Read Rob Port's Say Anything blog response to the Fargo Forum's assertion that landowners who are upset about the tactics used in the Northern Plains Heritage Area designation are whiners.
Landowners are right to be angry.
Opt-out language causes a stir
The original opt-out letter of notification by Farm Bureau got attention for this issue: Download Farm Bureau's opt-out notification
The opt-out notification is a Word document, which people could print out and sign and send to President of the Northern Plains Heritage Area, Sara Vogel. In addition, the document has addresses for National Heritage Partnerhips Coordinator Sue Pridemore, Senator Byron Dorgan and Governor John Hoeven, so people could share their notifications with these others as well. And many people did just that.
Farm Bureau's first Northern Plains Heritage Area meeting
Burleigh, Morton, Mercer, Oliver and McLean county Farm Bureaus held a meeting about the passage of the Northern Plains National Heritage Area as part of President Obama's signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009. See the PowerPoint presentation by clicking here
(file size: 3613.5 kb.)
According to District 7 NDFB Director Wes Klein, the designation to establish the Northern Plains Heritage Area affecting the five-county area was upside down.
“Instead of the designation beginning with a ‘grassroots, community-centered process,’ as the National Heritage Area Feasibility Study Process requires, the most important element in this designation -- that being the private property owners -- were circumvented.”
On June 8, the North Dakota Policy Council (NDPC)issued an expose detailing some of the problems with the Northern Plains Heritage Area designation.
The NDPC, according to its website, is "a liberty-based think tank focused on North Dakota solutions to North Dakota’s problems."
The expose, by Jaqueline Dotzenrod, can be found by clicking here.
How did we get here?
In 2005, Sen. Dorgan initiated a bill S. 1544 to establish the Northern Plains Heritage Area in the 109th Congress.
Pay special attention to Section 8, requirements for inclusion of private property, item (b):
“Landowner withdrawal – Private property included within the boundary of the Heritage Area shall immediately be withdrawn from the Heritage Area if the owner of the property submits a written request to the management entity.”
The bill never made it out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee in the 109th Congress.
The bill was resurrected in the 110th Congress, as S. 2098, without Section 8 (b) which allows you to petition, in writing, to be removed from the inclusion area. Instead, the bill stated:
(f) Private Property and Regulatory Protections- Nothing in this section--
(1) abridges the rights of any owner of public or private property, including the right to refrain from participating in any plan, project, program, or activity conducted within the Heritage Area;
(2) requires any property owner to--
(A) permit public access (including access by Federal, State, or local agencies) to the property of the property owner; or
(B) modify public access to, or use of, the property of the property owner under any other Federal, State, or local law;
(3) alters any duly adopted land use regulation, approved land use plan, or other regulatory authority of any Federal, State, tribal, or local agency;
(4) conveys any land use or other regulatory authority to the local coordinating entity;
(5) authorizes or implies the reservation or appropriation of water or water rights;
(6) diminishes the authority of the State to manage fish and wildlife, including the regulation of fishing and hunting within the Heritage Area; or
(7) creates any liability, or affects any liability under any other law, of any private property owner with respect to any person injured on the private property.
This language also appears in HR 146, the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009 that was recently signed into law by President Obama.
While the language would imply protection to private property owners, the concerns Farm Bureau raises are in the way designation of National Heritage Areas corrupt local planning by adding federal dollars, federal oversight and federal mandates to the mix.
What starts as a carrot enivitably turns into a stick
According to NDFB District 7 Director Wes Klein, there isn't a National Heritage area in the United States that hasn't grown, because that's what happens when it is fed from the public trough.
One need only look to the Blackstone River Valley Heritage Area as an example.
According to “National Heritage Areas: Costly Economic Development Schemes that Threaten Propety Rights ” by Cheryl Chumley and Ronald D. Utt:
“In 1986, Congress designated the Blackstone River Valley as a National Heritage Corridor. A “corridor” is no different from an “area” according to Eleanor Mahoney, program assistant for the NPS-NHA office in Washington, D.C. “They’re all under the NHA umbrella,” she said in a brief telephone interview, Ïn the early days, it was called a corridor because the landscape maybe ran along a river, for example. But it’s the same program.”
“The Blackstone Heritage Area spans 46 miles through Massachusetts and Rhode Island and is overseen by a 19-member federal management authority, the Blackstone River Valley NHC Commission. Members of this board are appointed by the governors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and confirmed by the Secretary of the Interior, according to the Blackstone River Valley NHC Commission’s Web site. The commission “consists of representatives from the National Park Service, state and local governments, and valley-wide interests, and oversees the corridor’s operations.”
In October, 2006, the reauthorization law included a special resource study to determine the suitability of designating one or more sites within the Blackstone Valley as a unit of the National Park System.
(October 12, 2006 pdf of Public Law 109-338).
According to Klein, while the National Heritage Area program does not involve federal regulation of private property, it gives local preservation interests federal backing. And if the local management group does not meet the standards of the federally approved management plan, funding will diminish or cease. “This creates an incentive to bend the wishes of the National Park Service,” Klein explains.
“Experience shows that the real beneficiaries of a National Heritage Area program are groups in constant pursuit of federal dollars and land acquisition,” Klein said. “If this is all carrot and no stick, why do they continue to remove the rights of property owners under revisionary language?”
Get involved to protect property rights
Read what experience has taught an Arizona Farm Bureau member by clicking here.
Other links to commentary by Chumley and Utt on NHA
The county FB position
Read a position paper by the five county Farm Bureaus affected by this Northern Plains National Heritage Area designation.