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Brett Narloch, Published July 26 2009

Land designation process dubious at best

I was dismayed, though not surprised, that landowners, the North Dakota Policy Council and the North Dakota Farm Bureau were given the leafy spurge for being worried about the five-county Northern Plains National Heritage Area designation’s effect on property rights. The Forum rarely, if ever, challenges anything the political elite in North Dakota say. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., says that the designation will not harm property rights, so it must be so.

Here’s what we know about the Northern Plains National Heritage Area: It was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama with very few, if any, landowners aware of it. State Sen. Tracy Potter, D-N.D., misled Congress by telling a committee that the Northern Plains Heritage Foundation held public hearings regarding the area, but it had not. The Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation and Northern Plains Heritage Foundation hired the Greystone Group (D.C. lobbyists), though they told the IRS they were not lobbying. These aren’t just claims. Documents bear this out.

Is it any wonder why landowners who will actually be affected by this designation – unlike the editorial board members of The Forum – aren’t ready to buy what Potter and Dorgan are selling? They have been misled or ignored the entire time. Had this process been open, perhaps people wouldn’t be so skeptical about the designation. Usually when something is done in secret, it’s not good.

Narloch is the executive director of the North Dakota Policy Council.