- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2018

President Donald Trump, a guy whose business life obviously revolved around the invocation of personal property rights, may hold the nation’s highest office in the White House, and Republicans may dominate in Congress, and conservatives may have at long last obtained a voice that’s loud enough to drown out the eight awful years of progressivism and anti-individual, pro-Big Government attitudes under Barack Obama.

But that doesn’t mean the little guy has won. When it comes to private property rights, the Republican-dominated Congress is letting the ball drop.

“President Trump has taken aggressive action to reaffirm the right of Americans to own and use their private property,” said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation. 

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Like what?

Like reeling in wetland regulations and clipping back national monument sizes.

Congress, meanwhile, has dawdled and dabbled and dodged on these matters. Congress, with all its Republican influence and infusion, is still behind the curve on Fourth and Fifth amendments’ freedoms.

Take a scan through the Mountain States Legal Foundation website and click on the active cases’ file and it’s clear, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Interior, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service — all these federal agencies are still involved in legal fights against land and property owners. Land and property owners are still feeling the hot, very hot heat of federal breath on their necks.

And many of these cases ought to have been shut long ago.

One case questions whether the “Forest Service has the authority to impair state-law created property rights.” Another, “whether a federal district court may cancel federal oil and gas leases absent proof of irreparable injury.” Still others, whether feds have the authority to kill long-held rights-of-way on county roads, whether feds can violate their own land-use laws by restricting activities on public lands and whether a state has the legal power to bar small-time miners from mining on federal lands.

Meanwhile, the funding of anti-private property endeavors goes on.

Congress presses forward with billion dollar annual funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund that is used to bring more private land into federal ownership,” Pendley went on. “[A]nd [it] stands idly by as federal agencies seize private property for uses such as habitat for favored species. … Little wonder westerners say, ‘I love my country but I fear my government.’ “

All this — and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the guy who doubled down in recent months on the government’s use of one of private property owner’s most feared and unconstitutional means of taking, civil asset forfeiture.

In a speech before the National Sheriff’s Association this February, Sessions called civil asset forfeiture a “key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime.”

Well, that may be, but ask private property owners, ask private property and legal watchdog groups, ask several states fighting back the federal use of asset forfeiture, and they’ll tell you — the “key tool” is also a widely abused power that’s left citizens in a state of stripped constitutional vulnerability. To put it mildly.

The Trump White House is in an ideal position to do even more to turn back the tide of private property offenses that have dotted this nation’s map for far too long. How? Attorneys within the White House could reel back their aggressions; secretaries at the helm of the pertinent agencies could quietly fold their case claims and step away from the courtroom; the president himself could pressure Congress to shape up and see the Fourth Amendment light.

Congressional Republicans, however, are the real watchdogs on this. They ought to return to their conservative roots and realize that snatching private properties, whether outright or by regulation, is damaging to both livelihoods and the fate of America’s freedoms.

After all, if conservatism is all about conserving the Constitution, and the Constitution is all about protecting the God-given rights of the individual, and private property rights are the core from which all other constitutional liberties spring, it seems a no-brainer.

Leave the takings to the liberals, who don’t think twice about such things. 

It’s time for Republicans in leadership to make clear the individual, not the government, is the priority.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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