Another Federal Land Grab While We Weren’t Watching
Despite activists’ best efforts to watch and inform, the federal government continues to encroach upon our private lives more and more often.
Not only are the feds pushing over more often into our individual rights, much of the time we don’t seem to know until it’s too late.
You probably know about the feds’ try this past year at an “environmental” land grab in Arkansas — the White River Blueway designation — that would have prevented landowners from using their private land however they see fit (property rights being a basic in our country).
Because Arkansas and Missouri activists luckily became aware of that situation before the final decision was put into place we had time to influence the outcome in our behalf.
Here We Go Again
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposes to designate 42% of Arkansas’ geographical area as “critical habitat” for the Neosho mucket and Rabbitsfoot mussel.
And, this endangered species “critical habitat” designation could affect one-third of ALL private landowners in Arkansas!
The federal process, which has been ongoing for quite some time, has resulted in final rulings that already put the two species on the endangered list.
However, the geographical area associated with “critical habitat” is still in question, and this is where we came into the timeline.
Proposed Critical Habitat Covers 42% of State
Our Congressional delegation, the Association of Arkansas Counties, the Arkansas Poultry Federation, Arkansas Farm Bureau, and several other private and public sector organizations are asking the USFWS to decrease the “overly broad geographical area being proposed as critical habitat,” based on the potential negative social and economic impacts to the area.
If the USFWS agrees, the final designated critical habitat would affect only 27% of Arkansas land.
If you think the White River Blueway was a big problem for private property owners in Arkansas, this federal designation is just as big, or bigger, and has more far-reaching effects.
Jeff Sikes, AAC Legislative Director, pointed out, “It is questionable if a single private or local public landowner was even spoken to. The local economic impact study unearthed several inadequacies in the USFWS economic impact study.”
And even though the USFWS designates some entire stream and river reaches as “critical habitat,” local environmental studies found no recent occurrences of the species in many of those proposed critical habitat areas.
In the next several years Arkansas has up for review 42 potential listings, all part of a settlement agreement with environmentalists where the affected public had no input or knowledge the settlement was occurring.
All this, while we weren’t watching!
How Did This Happen Without Our Knowledge?
County officials were informed, but didn’t inform the Quorum Court or the citizenry (to our knowledge). (That is, until local activists learned about the public comments submitted by the Association of Arkansas Counties group.)
Our legislators were also informed. But a lack of details and activism early on in the process meant very few lawmakers were aware of the ramifications of the endangered species/critical habitat designation until it was already mostly in place (even though Senator Mark Pryor did obtain an extension of the last USFWS comment period on the issue).
Earlier in November, Arkansas Senator Missy Irvin led an effort of joint legislative committees that asked Arkansas’ Congressional delegation and the state Attorney General to speak out against the proposed ruling.
As a result, the Arkansas legislature did address the issue (but only after most of the ruling was in place), and Arkansas’ entire Congressional delegation also released statements against the broad geographical designation.
What About Public Notice?
Well, federal law says the public is notified when federal rules and rulings are published in the Federal Register (for example, here’s the published ruling on the musket and the mussel).
Do you regularly read the Federal Register?
Seems like we must watch that, too, else there’ll be more and more government erosion of our property rights!
You’ll have to watch, also, for a final USFWS ruling to see how much private Arkansas land will be federally controlled by the Neosho mucket and rabbitsfoot mussel.