Property Rights is a Global Affair

Q: What is one thing both American and Australian farmers can agree on?
A: Strong property rights

In Salt Lake City, Utah, the Farm Bureau has dug its heels in to prevent the state judicial system from trampling all over their property rights. In the 2008 case Conatser v. Johnson, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that citizens engaging in recreational activities could enter a river or stream at a public access point and freely follow that stream through private property with no penalty.

In the 2009 legislative session, Rep. Ben Ferry introduced legislature which would more clearly define which rivers and streams were available to the public. His bill got shut down. Now, in 2010, State Rep. Lorie Fowlke introduced a bill which would further trample on the rights of private property owners through whose property these “recreational rivers” flow. Advocates of the bill call it a good “compromise”, but the Farm Bureau remains in firm opposition. Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker insists that the 2008 Supreme Court ruling directly violates the constitutional clause which states, “Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation”. He argues that Utah already has many public access points for recreational use, and that private property owners should not have their land legislated out of their hands.

Meanwhile, in another hemisphere, Australian farmers are also protesting a recent government land-grab. The Australian government has been seizing millions of hectares (1 hectare is roughly 2.5 acres) of land, claiming it is a “carbon sink” in order to comply with their regulations under the Kyoto treaty. This renders the land completely unusable, and the landowner does not receive compensation.

Australian farmers are at their wits end trying to get their government to listen. In an extreme case, Peter Spenser spent 52 days on a hunger strike atop a wind mast after having his land revoked without compensation. Luckily, he is not alone. On February 2, hundreds of Australian farmers, with help from the New South Wales Farmers Association and Property Rights Australia, will be bussed from their hometowns to the Parliament House in Canberra to show their frustrations.

Secretary of State John Jay said it best: “No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.” No matter if you’re in the American West or the Australian Outback – humans expect their property rights to be respected by their government.