The Love of Land

If you grew up in the 1960s you know about “land”. You bought rural land yourself or you knew people who “bought a hundred acres” in Vermont or Colorado or wherever. Wow. Cool.

Raw rural land was supposed to always increase in value and land was considered a cherished commodity to many in that era who were told by the socialist puppet masters at the Ivy League that the suburbs and cities were evil, crowded places where inferior, materialistic Republicans lived.

And there was an old saying about land – that they’re not making any more of it. And so owning such a commodity had a certain conceptual aura of permanence about it.

But land now has fallen in value; a hundred acres in Vermont is not worth what it was 30 years ago since demand is falling as people today are leaving left-wing Vermont. The reason? Because the economy has been severely weakened by decades of unmitigated socialism. And this anti-growth mentality was brought to the Green Mountain State by many of the ‘hippies’ and back-to-the-landers who moved to Vermont and bought up land there decades ago.

As the wise old Vermont farmers used to say, however, all that beautiful land can look pretty ornery if you have to plow it and seed it and harvest it and pay taxes on it. Thus a lot of people now own a lot of rural land that they are paying a lot of taxes on but that is not worth nearly as much as they predicted it would be. So they are being trapped by the economy with all the land that they were holding for “investment” purposes. But since many of them were ‘hippies’, the term “investment” was always avoided.

Now the news has come out that media mogul John Malone has taken advantage of lower land prices and has captured the position of America’s Biggest Landowner with 2.2 million acres. He takes the crown from CNN’s Ted Turner with 2 million acres. Malone recently increased his holdings with the purchase of one million acres of timberland in Maine and New Hampshire.

Reported the Wall Street Journal:

‘The purchase…  drew fire from plenty of environmentalists in New England… Mr. Malone started snapping up land in the 1990s, buying in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. He bought the 290,100-acre Bell Ranch in 2010 and uses it to raise cattle and horses. Mr. Malone said his main interest is land conservation and maintaining the sustainable forestry programs with the New England parcel… Some might worry that Mr. Malone’s purchase may ease America back to its more feudal days when the rich owned most of the land. Environmentalists fret about an era of “Kingdom Buyers”. Others may see them (wealthy landowners) as the most responsible long-term stewards.’

Let’s look at those issues one by one:

First the worry about “feudal days” is unfounded. America has 2.3 billion acres of land. And few people are going to surpass or even approach Turner or Malone in holdings.

Second, Malone’s interests in both “land conservation and sustainable forestry programs” actually sounds pretty good.

Good for land conservation. We conservatives are all for that. In fact rural conservatives like hunters and fishermen were the first ecologists who favored wilderness preservation.

And the idea of using land for sustainable forestry also sounds good to us. That is the old-fashioned approach that provides resources for the nation and jobs in rural areas while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Forest ‘management’ has been practiced by farmers and rural landowners for centuries. It is now a precise computer-driven science.

But we are also faced with the reality about “land conservation” taking too deep a root. Because private property is one cornerstone of freedom and prosperity. And rural America is being snapped up not only by wealthy individuals on the political left like Turner and Malone but also by land conservancies, wealthy liberals nationwide who are buying up smaller plots all over, state governments and the federal government all of which often take it completely out of productive use.

Naturally we conservatives always have believed in “dual use”, that land should serve both man and wilderness.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, have generally advocated untouched wilderness only. And that is why so many rural Americans are suffering – because the enviro movement is shutting down their economies with its incessant hunger for more and more pure wilderness.

In the 1990s, 30,000 Oregon loggers lost their jobs after the phony ‘spotted owl’ controversy was fabricated by urban environmentalist. Many more associated factions (loggers’ families, small towns, rural businesses) were devastated. This was simply a back-door way to establish wilderness areas and this is happening all over rural America today. It is part of a United Nations plan called Agenda 21, to drive people out of rural areas and return those areas to wilderness.

There must be a balance in rural land use. But we conservatives who believe in balance are usually up against liberals and environmentalists who are intransigent in their call for wilderness only.

This is how liberals get and hold power; they are uncompromising politically yet their media cronies never point out this fact. And so Americans see conservatives and liberals as coming from two different directions and occasionally meeting in the middle.

Nonsense. Liberals in America today are virtually all hard-left and they never compromise. And if more Americans knew this, there would be fewer Democrats in office. Which is what we rational conservatives need to work toward in every election to make a better nation.

Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.