Monday, June 15, 2009
NDPC Investigates by Brett Narloch
Issue: Property Rights
On June 12, Northern Plains Heritage Foundation (NPHF) director Tracy Potter was on The Scott Hennen Show’s Blog Buzz segment, with Scott Hennen and SayAnything Blog’s Rob Port. The topic of discussion was the Northern Plains National Heritage Area (NPNHA). You can download the interview HERE.
|Northern Plains Heritage Area's Dubious Process of Designation|
|NDPC Analysis: How the Northern Plains Heritage Area Harms Property Rights|
According to Potter, one of the best things about the designation is that the NPHF will receive $10 million over 15 years from the federal government and property rights will not be denied to those who own land in the area.
How will the money be spent?
“We can’t say specifically how the money will be spent until we have those public meetings,” Potter said.
When asked by Hennen if the money would be used to influence legislation, Potter replied, “No, it can’t be done.”
Opponents of the designation warn that the federal money will be used to coerce local governments into adopting the recommendations of the NPHF, which will force changes to county comprehensive plans, local land use plans, and zoning ordinances.
The NDPC first reported that there are questions as to whether the NPHF has already used federal money to lobby, which is against the law.
Potter maintains that the management plan written by the NPHF, which is required law, is only written to govern the management of the foundation.
“I would agree that the phrase ‘management plan’ is an unfortunate phrase. I don’t like it in there. Rob [SayAnything Blog] is looking at it one way, that we’re going to manage people, we’re going to manage the area… the management is of the group.”
However, the enabling legislation states that the management plan must “describe a program for implementation for the management plan, including… plans for resource protection, enhancement, interpretation, funding, management, and development,” and “list specific commitments for implementation that have been made by the local coordinating entity or any Federal, State, tribal, or local government agency, organization, business, or individual.”
The NPHF will create a program for implementing the management plan and then list commitments to the plan from local governments. There will be plenty of opportunities to twist the arms of local officials. The process that Potter and Dorgan used to get the designation is highly suspect. The NDPC revealed that Potter misled the US Congress and the IRS about the activities of the NPHF.
Property owners are still not going to be affected, Potter, contends, because the NPNHA is “a virtual area. It doesn’t exist.” Clearly, the area exists because the law says it does. What is unclear is how willing local governments will be to change their comprehensive plans, land use plans, and other zoning ordinances to receive the federal money.
The designation is being sold as an economic development tool.
“This is all about driving economic activity. In fact, that’s the only thing if you look at what the foundation is supposed to do that runs this, the Northern Plains Heritage Foundation… there’s only one thing it does... It encourages economic vitality and sustainability consistent with purposes of the heritage area.”
To do so requires a plan. Even if landowners are able to opt-out of the NPNHA, property rights are still in jeopardy because local governments accept federal money to amend their ordinances to match the recommendations of the NPHF. If this happens, there is little the landowners can do to protect themselves.