The power of government |

The power of government

Summit County Colorado has been getting some deservedly bad press lately for their scheme to condemn private land near the White River National Forest. The county claims that it needs to seize the land in order to protect it. The landowner, Andy Barrie, says that the county intends to condemn his land and trade it to the United States Forest Service for land near Breckenridge ski area. Mr. Barrie had paid $550,000 for the land and cabin but the county only offered them $50,000 after condemning the cabin as uninhabitable. The cabin was originally built in the 1880s. The county maintains that the property is needed for lynx habitat. The county objected to Barrie using an ATV to access his property and possibly disturbing the bobcat-like creatures.

Summit County by using its power to regulate the use of unsafe or unhealthy structures before starting eminent domain procedures is a vicious move to lower the value of the property before a court sets the compensation for Mr. Barrie. The county cited the fact that the cabin lacked electrical service and running water as evidence the structure was not habitable. A cabin in the woods without power and running water is suddenly unthinkable. Had the owner requested permission to install electricity the county would probably have said that the power line would disturb the lynx.

Once again we have all our favorite players assigned to roles in our little drama. The sage grouse was babysitting for the spotted owl that week so the lynx had to take on the part of endangered species. The county was coached on its role by the Forest Service because you just can’t get the most out of a part without inspiration. The people to play the victim for these productions are available anywhere and its usually best to surprise them in order to get the best performance. Land needs to be protected, the endangered species saved, and if somebody makes a lot of money the audience does not need to know about it. All those land trusts in favor of protecting open spaces will clap. I do hope the land trust are a little nervous about getting cut out of the money when the county condemns land to protect it.

This is just one example of how endangered species are used to increase the power of government. The federal government can use the lynx to corrupt a county government and make self-serving deals. If the Endangered Species Act really was about saving rare animals then the county would have bought the cabin owners a special muffler for their ATV and the Forest Service would give them a plaque for providing a place for the lynx to live. An endangered species is a terrible thing to waste.