Wilderness inholders are victims of genocide

  Dear HCN,

To set the record straight, Tom Chapman is not an owner in TDX nor has he ever been. The TDX real estate brochures advertise private property for sale from one private party to other private parties. The TDX proposed homes are no different from other homes being constructed near Vail.

The homes offered on the Black Canyon are no different from the park supervisor's home located next door. Our property rights are no different from anybody else's. Our desire to get the highest possible price for our real estate is no different from the federal government's desire to get the highest possible price. The BLM recently auctioned public land near the Black Canyon seeking, and in some cases getting, prices above appraised values.

The liberal media and some elected officials like to put forth the time-tested assertion that any inholder attempting to use or sell his land for profit is "taking advantage" of the public. Is that really true? Or is it a smokescreen for exactly the opposite and a convenient excuse for elected officials to hide behind? Most private landowners have no input whatsoever in being surrounded by wilderness. They are not consulted. They receive no correspondence. No calls. Nothing. The landowner wakes up one day - and he's surrounded.

Once passed by Congress, wilderness designation requires the Forest Service to lock and close all existing roads. Then, at the request of environmental groups, the counties gleefully pile on with various forms of "backcountry" zoning, delivering the final lethal blow to inholder property values by drawing arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutional "redlines," which deny all building permits to wilderness inholders with no mitigation. The inholder is now stripped naked. He has the right to watch nesting songbirds in dead trees, if he doesn't cut them, and he has the "right" to pay his property taxes every January.

Next comes the federal appraisal. While acknowledging an inholder's legal right to reasonable access, provided for in the Wilderness Act of 1964, the federal government gives instructions to the appraiser, telling him he must appraise the property on the basis of existing access (locked gates and no vehicular access) and existing county zoning regulations (no building permits). The incestuous partnership between federal and county government delivers the predictable low price and the final blow. The inholder is now the proverbial cooked goose on the platter, for how could anyone argue against "appraised" value? This is a failed policy. Anyone can tell when they are being cheated, even backwoods wilderness inholders.

Is this a fair process, or is it an act of intimidation against private landowners? Is it a flagrant taking of private property? Does it violate the Fifth Amendment? What does our Colorado delegation think of these policies? Do the inholders have enough legal resources to challenge the Goliath U.S. government and well-heeled environmental groups, or is this an insurmountable tag-team that reigns with impunity in stripping private property rights?

The federal government's penchant for entrapping private lands in wilderness is a failed policy (at present, some 400,000 acres are trapped). The policy of denying reasonable vehicular access is a failed policy. Those counties that gleefully and wantonly redline against a specific group of people for the sole purpose of denying them a residential building permit are practicing a failed policy. The environmental community practices a failed policy when it encourages politicians and county commissioners to snuff out inholder property rights.

We believe the record will show that federal and county governments essentially practice genocide against inholder property values. But government and the liberal media have the bully pulpit, and will no doubt continue to disseminate false information about TDX, on the premise that the good of the "public" justifies fudging on the facts or snuffing out a few individual rights here and there. Of course, that is the same argument the Chinese government uses.

In the end, we believe the rights enjoyed by millions of Americans for over 200 years will prevail when the issues are examined carefully. We are not against wilderness. We are simply saying that wilderness designation should not usurp the rights of private property. What remains to be seen is the level of commitment wilderness advocates have towards private property rights and civil discourse on the issues.

L.T. Trussell

Montrose, Colorado

The writer is president of Brenner-Stahl Inc., a general partner of TDX, a land investment company.