Is The "Willing Seller" Really A Myth ?

One Of Many True Testimonials

     "John Jones is a willing seller.  He didn't want to sell and held out as long as he could.  First the Park Service came in and purchased the homes, farms and timberlands of his neighbors who did want to sell.  There will always be some.

   Then the agency began to search out those families who were in some kind of financial distress such as from a death, divorce, loss of job and other reason.  

     "Jones watched as his community was checkerboarded by the Park Service.   He remembered being told when the park was created that he would not be forced out. But a huge Trust Fund passed Congress which gave the Park Service money automatically every year without going through the appropriations process.  The Park Service had more money than it knew what to do with.  Eminent domain and condemnation were now commonplace.

     Jones remembered that the Trust Fund had been slipped in to a bill dealing with the Gulf Oil Spill in by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada.  He could not explain what buying billions of dollars of private property had to do with an oil spill?  Or why Reid and the Congress had acted so quickly before their own investigations and Commissions were complete?

    Now the Park Service was targeting local businesses and the county itself.  Many small businesses were purchased and put out of business.  Others just withered and died due to lack of business.  The Park Service purchased the holdings of several large timberland companies and large farms.

     There were always hints of eminent domain, and some were already in court.  People were told they would have to sell eventually, so they might as well do it now as "willing sellers" while the Park Service was spending money here and before the infrastructure deteriorated.  

     Smaller timber owners and farmers began to sell as they saw that the logging and agriculture infrastructure might eventually not be there.  The mill eventually had to close because it could not get enough wood.  Like a natural ecosystem, the economic s ecosystem of a community can become increasingly fragile, but all the government and the environmentalists talked about were the fragility of the ecosystem while pretending they were improving the economy.

     "As more timberland and farms were purchased, more homes and then more farms began to disappear.  The Park Service began to focus on the farmers and ranchers.  Many residents wanted to hold out but with fewer jobs in the county, the value of their homes and property began to go down.  As the Park Service purchased them, they lay empty for months or even years because the agency said they did not have the funds to clear them out.  They became havens for vandals and drug houses, and targets for mysterious fires.     

     It is hard to understand how the Park Service and other agencies have the money to buy out local communities but according to reports we have seen, they are over $10 billion behind in deferred maintenance.
     "The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts began to circle like buzzards.  They would buy from financially distressed landowners, and then turn the land over to the Federal government.   Time after time this happened, quietly, secretly and silently they helped undercut the community gradually eliminating the tax base, the economic base, and the population.  Yet nicer homes with nice views seemed to be selectively occupied by strangers with connections, who were frequently heard touting the Park Service.  Some of them were park officials!

     "We called our Senators and Congressman for help to stop the Eminent Domain and Condemnation.  They would write a letter to the Park Service but the mass land acquisition just kept on and on.

     "One Senate staff person told me that if the Senator had known he would end up as a management consultant for continuing problems between landowners and the Park Service, he would never have voted for the bill.  

     He had not realized that getting a park appears to mean a never ending conflict between the Park Service and the local community that had somehow been targeted for removal and replacement by a favored political class. The staff person said he had not heard of the history of what the Park Service had done before in other areas.  The Senator and his staff had believed the reassurances by officials and the environmentalist lobbyists.

     "Local officials can vouch for that ever present conflict.  Local elected officials were not consulted as the Park Service and land trusts purchased easements on large parcels without notifying or discussing the issue with local elected officials.  Elected officials would wake up in the morning to find their tax base gone, and their future with it.  And they had no say in the matter.  No advance notice. Virtually no companies would invest in their county now.  There was no land base.  One day they had a future and the next day it was gone."

     "As properties were taken off the tax rolls, the schools and county services began to suffer.  Several closed, making longer trips to school necessary for families.  The school district didn't have the money for the necessary busses.  Roads began to close.  As the Park Service purchased large areas, the agency put up chains across the roads.  Some of these roads had been used for years by neighbors as access points to the river or to go camping, woodcutting or berry picking.  Usually we knew another way around but over time, all the access was closed off to large areas.

     "Churches, service clubs and other community services began to close.  The library was in trouble.  The hours were cut for it and other county services.  There had been several markets in town and three gas stations.  There is only one of each now and it looks like the store will close.  That means an 80 mile drive to Millersville for groceries.  Over time, other essential services and stores began to disappear.  

     "When the park was created they promised tourism.  I don't know where it is.  We gave up a lot of good jobs for this park and the tourists don't come.  We had always had the scenery. The Park Service didn't create that, and didn't do much else either besides the restrictions it imposed.  Several motels and restaurants were built in anticipation of the visitors.  All but one restaurant is closed, and it cut its hours back.  We have two motels still open but they are struggling.  

     We have a very nice ski area but a Park Service trail runs through it.  The agency has harassed the owners so often that they're close to giving up.  They can't get any kind of commitment from the Park Service as to a final trail location so they can't invest in modernizing and expanding the ski area.  There sure are a lot of people in town who would benefit if the ski area were allowed to meet its potential.  

     We had thought the Park Service supported recreation.  Now it seems the opposite is true.  We heard from people out West that the Park Service and the environmental groups were increasingly becoming anti-recreation.  It couldn't be true we said.  It looks like we were wrong.  They seem to be against skiing and snowmobiling.  It doesn't make sense.

     "The county and the town had no choice but to raise our taxes.  The tax base for the county was shrinking almost daily.  We had one local bank and several bank branches.  Now there is only one branch open as part of the market, but it may go away too.  The banks have not made loans in our town for several years now because the future is unstable.  They won't make loans to loggers, farmers, ranchers, equipment suppliers, or small businessmen because of the threat from the Feds.  No new houses have been built in some time.  The theater closed and the cable television company is considering shutting down.  It feels like a ghost town.

     "Some of my neighbors are determined to stay and suffer the consequences and severe hardships of living within a now nearly all Federal enclave.  I love my town.  I was born and raised here, went away to college and came back.  It looks like that even though I stood up to those Federal land acquisition agents, there will soon be nothing left to stand up for.  I never thought I'd be a willing seller.  But I am now.  They didn't tell us that this is what 'willing seller' means."

-----The "willing buyer, willing seller procedure of acquiring land touted by park officials is 'meaningless' and a more proactive method is generally used," said William Kriz, chief of Land Acquisition in an article in the Concord Journal (Massachusetts) in 1988.