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Wilderness "Protection" is Property Rights Infringement
Sunday, December 13, 2009 4:51 pm | By Sam Leverenz

It would appear that plans are moving ahead for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Preservation Act (NREPA). NREPA is just the next step in a string of government actions and programs that fly in the face of property rights. This act, currently waiting in the House Natural Resources Committee, would reclassify 24 million acres of land in the Western United States as wilderness. 

Designating federal land as wilderness effectively amounts to a land grab. Originally conceived to preserve lands unmarred by human hands, wilderness status is now used as a tool to block desirable land from energy development, oil exploration, cattle grazing, hunting, farming, mountain biking, and every other form of use and recreation. By restricting access to land for exploration, this legislation is limiting the potential of the economy and directly interfering with America’s entrepreneurial drive. 

According to the Republican members of the Natural Resources Committee, almost 1,700 jobs would be jeopardized by passage of this bill. This fact should not come entirely as a surprise considering that none of the sponsors of NREPA represent districts that would be affected by it. The Federal government owns 650 million acres of land. Over one hundred million of those acres are now regulated as wilderness. 2009 has seen several assaults on property rights at the Federal level. On top of the Clean Water Restoration Act, the last thing that property owners need is more regulation of land use. The Natural Resources Committee surely can spend their time on more worthy causes. 

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PRA Opposes Dorgan/Snowe/McCain Amendment to Senate Healthcare Legislation
Thursday, December 10, 2009 5:23 am | By Kelsey Zahourek

Soon, the Senate will vote on an amendment (SA 2793) to the Senate healthcare reform bill that would allow for the importation of prescription drugs. For the U.S. Senate to sanction and encourage the importation without consequence of foreign drug products that have not been directly associated with a "normal" FDA approval, by individuals or wholesalers who are not directly licensed by the product's manufacturer or owner, calls into question the U.S. policy regarding protection of intellectual property.

In the realm of property rights this amendment will be extremely damaging. When government steps in and places an artificial price ceiling on drugs, companies face a disincentive to enter the market. If pharmaceutical companies risk having their investments effectively expropriated by the government, future investment and innovation will be hamstrung. Research and development is very expensive, and companies need to have an incentive to keep inventing life-saving drugs.

Without any assurance that intellectual property will be respected and protected, not only drug makers, but other companies as well, will avoid investing in developing new products since they risk having their investments effectively expropriated by the government.  Americans have seen this type of expropriation before with respect to physical property rights (e.g. eminent domain of homes and land). 

The United States is a global leader in pharmaceutical and biotech research, due to a combination of reliable patent laws and the freedom of companies to engage in market pricing.  America benefits from hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and hundreds of thousands of well paying, highly skilled jobs in those industries.  If the United States government began to make its intellectual property policies inconsistent and arbitrary (by adjusting those to accommodate short-term political pressures) these jobs and investments would be jeopardized. 

Click here to read the legislative alert

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Life's a Beach for Florida Property Owners
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 12:00 pm | By Sam Leverenz

Florida property rights advocates have had their day in court, but it is unclear whether they will get the result they deserve.  Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection.  The suit pits six beach front property owners against the state of Florida, and has potentially broad-sweeping consequences for coastal communities nationwide.

Historically, ocean front properties in Florida extend to the water line at high tide.  Ostensibly to combat erosion through “beach-widening,” the state Department of Environmental Protection has dumped truckloads of sand across a seven-mile stretch of beach.  Instead of extending the property of the owner, however, the State has declared itself proprietor of the new strip of sand. 

Not only does this action amount to state taking of private property, but it also cuts property owners off from the ocean, slashing their assets’ value.  As the home owners’ representative described at arguments, the State of Florida literally transformed their properties from "oceanfront property into oceanview property."  Homeowners who once enjoyed a private beach now abut public land—subject to outdoor vendors and spring break partiers.

The Florida State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State’s actions, and against property rights.  Similar to this month’s case in New York, this continues a recent trend of state high courts siding with anti-property owner decisions like Kelo v. New London.  This case represents an opportunity to stem the tide of government takings rising since 2005.  The U. S. Supreme Court appears to be split on the issue currently at hand. 

Both the State courts of Florida and New York left the decision to amend eminent domain law to the state legislatures.  According to the Institute for Justice, both states suffer from a disproportionately high number of state takings from private property owners.  Neither state house has managed to pass any bill aimed at reducing infringements upon the property rights of their citizens.  While the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concerns itself with preventing erosion of beach fronts, it is now all the more important that homeowners fight the erosion of their property rights. 

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