Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Tyranny with feathers |

Barbed Wire by Doug Cooper: Tyranny with feathers

It’s interesting sometimes to read other people’s mail. In a letter to the Wyoming Governor’s office, Mark Sattelberg of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said the governor’s plan to exempt Chesapeake Energy from having to comply with most of the Sage Grouse Executive Order was valid due to “pre-executive order rights.” For that statement to be correct, it means that property rights existed before the sage grouse core areas were created that no longer exist after the core areas were designated. That is a rather profound and disturbing concept. The Douglas core area where Chesapeake Energy is currently drilling for oil and gas is 93 percent private land and over 50 percent private minerals.

These rights mentioned in the letter are commonly known as “private property rights.” The Fish and Wildlife Service is acknowledging that designating a core sage grouse area reduces private property rights. How the core areas were created should concern every landowner. In Wyoming, the governor appointed a committee that drew the core boundaries on a map. When, where and who did this is not known. Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team did not keep minutes or detailed records. After their work was done, then-Governor Freudenthal adopted the sage grouse executive order. Wyoming’s present Governor Matt Mead, amended the executive order slightly but continued the policy. This is where things get scary. Governors lead the executive branch of government. They are to faithfully execute the laws of the state. In Wyoming, there is no law authorizing the governor to create core areas. While it is proper for the governor to direct state agencies by executive order, never in the state’s history has an executive order been applied to private land.

I wonder if the Fish and Wildlife Service realizes what it wrote. They are saying that here, once the people enjoyed rights and then a governor without legislation or compensation took away those rights. The hopeful part of me would like to believe that they didn’t sanction the theft. It’s more likely that the whole sage grouse effort is nothing more than a way for the federal government to control the western landscape. Sage grouse and “prairie chickens” are convenient surrogates for transferring the control of property from the owner to the regulator.

Even with the recognition of Chesapeake Energy’s pre-existing rights, they lose. The cost of being allowed to develop those pre-existing rights requires Chesapeake to fork over 2.8 million dollars for habitat restoration in the Douglas core area. Gangsters are often disparaged for making these kinds of arrangements. I wonder how many of the private landowners will really want to see sagebrush planted on their private land. What ever kind of habitat restoration is done, it will be designed by a committee and not those who live on the land. What we end up with is tyranny with feathers.

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