Frank Wolf’s Anti-Property Rights Bill Scheduled for Pivotal House Vote March

March 10, 2007

WASHINGTON Mar. 7 /Standard Newswire/ — U.S. Representative Frank Wolf’s (R-VA) controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act is scheduled for a vote in the House Resources Committee today. It stalled last year after protests by property rights groups.

Wolf’s legislation would create a 175-mile preservation zone from central Virginia to southern Pennsylvania where land use could be curtailed. The bill would give preservationist groups substantial influence in the process, tasking them with drafting a land use “management plan.”

“Congressman Wolf has simply resurrected his failed Heritage Area initiative from last year, slapped a few cosmetic changes on it, and is now trying to push it through the new Congress,” said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center for Public Policy Research. “Like most sequels, this one is not worth the price of admission.”

The bill failed last year despite Wolf slipping a million- dollar earmark into the 2005 federal transportation bill to fund the principal lobbying group behind his bill.

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) introduced an alternative bill to address concerns found in the Wolf bill about private property rights, federal overreach and earmarks.

Key differences between the proposals:

* The Wolf bill would earmark $10 million federal tax dollars for interest groups; the Barlett bill would not. The Wolf bill recommends that these interest groups disburse their taxpayer-subsidized windfall to “states and their political subdivisions” for the purpose of promoting the land use policies the preservation groups favor.

Richard Falknor of the Maryland Taxpayers Association notes: “The Bartlett approach would not authorize using taxpayer money to lobby local governments to restrict the property rights of ordinary Americans in the proposal’s four-state area.”

* Under the Wolf proposal, preservationist groups and the National Park Service would be directed to create a “management plan” that includes an “inventory” of property that should be targeted for preservation. The Bartlett bill includes no such inventory.

“The Wolf bill would enable special interest groups and the federal Park Service to impose a narrow, preservationist agenda on the citizens of the area,” says John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy Research.

* The Bartlett bill requires that property owners be notified of any pending Heritage Area designation encompassing their land. The Wolf bill does not.

* The Wolf bill would not require that property owners be compensated for losses; the Bartlett bill would.

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