DEBATE OF '98- responsibilities of forest land owners

mcour at mcour at
Thu Apr 23 08:33:50 EST 1998

In article <353e394b.0 at>,
  dhogaza at (Don Baccus) wrote:
> In article <6hl1jc$es6$1 at>,  <mcour at> wrote:
> >I would not argue that there is anything "primeval" about property rights.
> >However, property rights are granted by the US Constitution and should only
> >infringed upon in the manner setforth therein (just compensation).
> Now, you've just drifted into the realm of absolute private property rights
> again.
> There's nothing unconstitutional about the federal government protecting
> public assets, and in many cases can constutionally do so without
> compensation.  This principle has been upheld with a very long string of
> case history in court.

I never argued that the federal government has to compensate when laws
restrict property use in order to protect government-owned assets.  The
government has the right to own property also, so if the use of my property
infringes on public property rights or the property rights of another private
property owner, then government regulation is reasonable.

> There's really not much point in trying to debate constitutional law in
> a forestry newsgroup.  The reality is that foresters and private landowners
> must operate within the legal framework that exists, whether they like it
> or not.

Not really.  The existing legal framework can be changed through court cases.
Laws are overturned every year and new claims are forced each year based on
5th amendment claims to property rights.  The existing framework can also be
changed through legislation.  Have you forgotten that the people are the
highest authority in the United States?  Congress, the President, and the
Supreme Court all work for me (and every other citizen) and we can change

> I'm sure there are plenty of newsgroups where you can find lots of people
> who will slap you on the back and congratulate you for your beliefs,
> why clutter this group with irrelevant discussion?

Why aren't you rebuking Mr. Zorin for his off topic post berating the
"worship" of private property rights?  Or do you only rebuke people for off
topic posts that you disagree with?  In any case, a discussion of property
rights is not off topic in a thread entitled, "responsibilities of forest land

Consider the local ordinance of a nearby city that wants to annex some
property that I own.  This ordinance states that I cannot cut down any tree
with a diameter greater than 12".  Their motivation behind this law is that
the city wants large trees to be there to beautify the city and maintain its
reputation for having pretty trees.  In my opinion, this is the taking of
private property for public use because landowners in the city cannot sell
their trees.  The timber value of the trees is reduced to zero.  But I suppose
you'd say that this is all irrelevant to a forestry newsgroup.

> We don't have to change the constitution because there's a large body of law
> that delineates a "takings".  Congress has taken up the issue of potentially
> passing "takings" laws precisely because the Constitution does not support
> the theory of the absolute supremacy of private property rights.

Wrong.  Most of the laws congress has passed are designed to keep the feds
from suffering too great a liability by fith-amendment based court awards to
private parties for federal takings for public use.  Few laws that I know of
actually broaden the scope of "takings" that require just compensation.  On
the contrary, most of the regulation is geared toward preventing the
government from inadvertently doing things that the courts might later rule as
public takings and award compensation based on the fifth amendment.

> >In places where there is no written guarantee that "private property shall
> >be taken for public use except by just compensation" tings might be
> >justifiably viewed differently.
> "taken for public use" is not equivalent to saying "restrictions on use".

Wrong again.  When "restrictions" on use reduce the property value essentially
to zero, courts recognize the restrictions as a defacto "taking for public
use" and award compensation.  When the restrictions reduce the value by some
small amount, the courts usually do not recognize the restriction as a taking.
In between small reductions in value and complete loss of value, there is a
grey area that is currently being battled for in the courts and which some
legislation seeks to address.

> And, yes, if you don't like it, take the high road and try and change the
> constiution.  My bet is that you'd probably like to get rid of the part
> that says the Supreme Court, not you or I, is the final arbiter of the
> constitutionality of a law.

Almost every public official is sworn to uphold the Constitution.  Thus every
public official that enacts or enforces a "public taking" that is later
awarded "just compensation" by the courts has broken his oath of office.
Furthermore, our government is "of the people."  I am higher on the authority
chain than the Supreme Court, though this authority is shared wih every other
citizen.  The people have the power to change the makeup of the Supreme Court
if we disagree with the manner in which they interpret the constitution.

> >But for Americans to demand the private
> >property rights guaranteed by the constitution is not "worship" of property
> >rights any more than demanding free speech or trial by jury is worship of
> >those rights.

> Of course it isn't.  That's why the Supreme Court does rule in favor of
> landowners in some cases, just as it rules in favor of government in
> other cases.  The property rights amendment is quite narrowly written.

And I suppose you would argue that the second amendment is also narrowly
written, even though it is clearly quite broad.

When the government tells me I can't fill in a wetland and farm on it because
they need it to act as a big water filter for the "publically owned water" how
is this not a taking of private property for public use?  When the city tells
me I can't cut down my trees for timber because they want my trees to make
their city pretty, how is this not a taking of private property for public

How is it that the "interstate commerce clause" gives the feds the right to
regulate how close a gun can come to a school or how long a jar of jelly can
spend in a hot water bath even if none of these things ever goes near a state
line?  It seems to me that the constitution's granting congress the right to
"regulate interstate commerce" is quite narrow and has nothing to do with
items that are never bought and sold across state lines.  Yet we can interpret
this broadly.  Yet when the constitution spells out the rights of the people,
we need to insist on the narrowest interpretation possible?  Get a life.

Michael Courtney

Michael COurtney

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