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By Leo. M. Schwartz

October 10, 2007

A second National Heritage Area would not �preserve� Virginia�s heritage. The first, Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District, has been a massive sham rife with pork, dishonesty, anti-heritage elitism, and a virulently anti-private property bias.

H.R. 1483, �Celebrating America�s Heritage Act,� is slated for a vote next week in the U. S. House of Representatives. It proposes six new National Heritage Areas (NHA), including the Journey Through Hallowed Ground which would cut a swath of federal ascendancy through Virginia�s Piedmont. It is difficult to conceive of a more loathsome assault on General Lee�s vision of �government limited and local, free of consolidated power.�

There are those in Congress, the NPS and the private sector who exhibit few qualms about exploiting Virginians in order to gain votes, power or wealth, while consciously supporting a scheme meant to subvert local institutions and traditions. The bill would increase federal funding for nine existing NHAs by 50 percent, with $135 million doled out to special interests, many of them collaborating with the National Park Service (NPS) and other agencies to impose politically-motivated restrictions on private land. In the Shenandoah Valley, a decade-long campaign of land acquisition and clouding land titles with perpetual servitudes portends calamity for future generations.

By the 1980s, the NPS�s record of abusive land acquisition practices and property rights violations had become a political nightmare. It needed a new approach to continue expanding its power. During the mid-1970s, several national land use control studies proposed innovative methods for federal control of private property. Applying those methods, NHAs were designed as a �new kind of national park.� Seen as pork-laden gravy trains, many elected officials eagerly jumped aboard and the empire building continued.

Within NHA boundaries, democratic processes and local autonomy are undermined. Land use decisions can be �managed� by non-profit stakeholders and public-private partnerships. The clever use of surrogates circumvents the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and diffuses political discontent. According to a 2002 National Heritage Areas Workshop report, �practitioners� consider NHAs �an entr�e into local planning.� Because �the ultimate audiences are the local officials,� success can be measured by �land use policy decisions, zoning law changes and decisions.�

There is virtually no accountability for tax-exempt entities engaged in laundering public funds in furtherance of NPS objectives. Their books are closed. No FOIA. No open meetings. No public hearings. No elections.

They are mercenaries, a �Blackwater operation,� able to outgun the average citizen. When buying land or tying it up for future acquisition with servitudes (conservation easements), sellers are rendered �willing� by political manipulation and the federal printing press.

Heritage, like honor, is soon put up for bid when greed and politics make a market.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Rockfish Gap, 80-year old Nelson Bryant stood at a NPS �model mountain farm.� The Nelson County native pondered the cabin, reassembled near the site of his original log home. Replacing the �artificial farm� with the one in his memory, he said, �This was the happiest place I ever knew.� He, his wife and daughters left their farm in 1942. It is now a visitor�s center.

Since that day in 1969, when Bryant�s story was told by the late Jerry Simpson in Charlottesville�s Daily Progress, millions of tourists have driven past a mockery of his family�s heritage. �But on these still November nights, Nelson Bryant remembers a vanished world, hears the baying of hounds long dead, and smells the smoke of a fire long cold. That world will come no more.�

In this modern era, our leaders assure us NPS mistakes would not be repeated. Cate Magennis Wyatt, leading the Journey Through Hallowed Ground effort, says �nothing we are suggesting constrains landowners� rights.� Senator John Warner (R-Va.) just wants �to preserve our American heritage� with a �voluntary� approach. �It�s not accurate that there are any threats with regard to property,� proclaimed Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.). Former Senator George Allen (R-Va.) stated, �I am confident that this legislation protects the constitutional rights of property owners...�

In 1926, U.S. Senator Lawrence D. Tyson (D-Tenn.) issued a statement �to allay the fears of those residing in the area to be included in the Great Smokies Park that their homes may be taken from them.� Tyson said no person would be �compelled to move or in any way to be disturbed�congress can pass no bill whatever that can in any way take away the land of any citizen.�

Tennessee Governor Austin Peay simultaneously told those within the boundaries they �need have no alarm.� He assured a gathering of 400 farmers their land would never be seized, saying such evictions �would be a blot upon the state that the barbarism of the Huns could not match.�

Millions of tourists have also passed through Cades Cove, now part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Its 700 inhabitants once formed a �close-knit community with a strong sense of tradition and local pride.� Beginning in the 1930s, the NPS tore down, burned and destroyed homes, barns, schools and churches of that fertile valley. Durwood Dunn, a history professor at Tennessee Wesleyan College, wrote, �Having destroyed the community of Cades Cove by eminent domain, the community�s corpse was now to be mutilated beyond recognition.�

It was Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work who, in 1928, told Senator Tyson NPS policy �is to eliminate all private holdings in our national parks.� Senator Tyson�s promises were worthless.

Inhabitants of the Southern Appalachians were seen as �exponents of a retarded civilization, who show the degenerate symptoms of an arrested development.� NPS Assistant Director Arno Cammerer found �church people the most difficult to deal with. They have no public vision and are a most selfish crowd.� After they were forced from their Smoky Mountain land, Director Horace Albright promised the NPS would �do all it can to preserve the traditions of these sturdy people.�

Cate Wyatt reminds us, �We�re telling the stories of those who started this country, brought us democracy, and fought in its name. If we don�t tell these stories, we lose what it means to be Americans.�

In 1929, a Tennessee writer told his story in The Maryville Times, �Our ancestors fought in the American Revolution. Have we no right to life, liberty, HOME and happiness? Fresh warm blood from Cades Cove redeemed the soil of France to make the world safe for Democracy � must Cades Cove submit to Kaiserism? Must we be exiled � driven from home?�

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In 1986, 98-year old Russell Whitehead told his story. He was invited to be a special guest of Tennessee�s Governor Lamar Alexander at the kick-off ceremony for the Tennessee Homecoming celebration. Whitehead was the last surviving person to own land in Cades Cove. The Governor introduced Whitehead. He stood, pointed his finger at Alexander and said, �You stole my land.�

� 2007 - L. M. Schwartz - All Rights Reserved

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Leo M. Schwartz is the Chairman of The Virginia Land Rights Coalition,
P.O. Box 85,
McDowell, Virginia, 24458
(540) 396-6217

Web Site:

E-Mail: [email protected]










There is virtually no accountability for tax-exempt entities engaged in laundering public funds in furtherance of NPS objectives. Their books are closed. No FOIA. No open meetings. No public hearings. No elections.