by Laura Vroman Valentine Midland News

Forewarning: Do not mess with a cattle rancher or a farmers land. The nature of a farmer or rancher is to make a living for their families from the very land they farm or ranch; so the idea that our government would even think to come in and try to protect 30 percent of the United States’ land by the year 2030 is basically an insult to their stewardship.

Enter Margaret Byfield, a well spoken Texan resident whose family has dealt with the government over property rights for years. Through their battle, Margaret and her husband Dan, created American Stewards of Liberty, a non profit organization dedicated to protecting private property rights, defending the use of our land, and restoring local control.

Margaret shared what she saw in the “tea leaves” of the Biden Administration’s 30×30 program, Tuesday, March 9, 2020, at the Valentine High School to an overflowing crowd.

She began with the two schools of thought: the American School of thought – Individual Liberty: You know how to manage your land better than anybody else.

“And you should have a right to do that, it’s private property rights. You control your wealth, you control what you do, you make those decisions for yourself. Our nation was founded on that and I’d say we’ve been a very good beacon of Liberty. But there’s the other school of thought; individuals shouldn’t be trusted; that we really need the big important ‘smart’ people to make decisions for us.

“We’ve seen that play out as well: Socialism – we’ve seen it fail over and over again in history. When we talk about 30×30 that’s really what we’re fighting.”

Margaret asked the crowd rhetorically: Who knows that land better – in all of its seasons…not Washington, D.C.?

She then spoke of Section 216, Climate Crisis Executive Order that was issued January 27, 2021 which states that the Secretary of Interior in consultation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest land owners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waterways by 2030.

To hit the point home he said that there are 2.27 billion acres in the United States and currently there are 12 percent or 272 million acres that are permanently protected in their natural state; 30 percent would equate to 681 million acres.

The 12 percent already protected include: national parks, wilderness areas, permanent conservation easements, state parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, or other protected areas.

Margaret’s question is: Why are they seeking to permanently protect 681 million acres in nine short years?

Moving rapidly, the Secretary of the Interior then issued Order 3396 on February 11, 2021, which rescinds state and local government’s consent for Federal Land acquisitions. A quote from E&E News was shared, “Critics said this move would have prevented conservation efforts in states where more conservative leaders are sensitive about losing too much private land – and suggested that catering to conservatives was exactly the intention.”

Furthermore, she explained that many governmental steps that were supposed to have been taken were bypassed when Wilderness Bill H. R. 803 was passed February 16, 2021, creating 1.5 million acres of new wilderness; withdraws 1.2 million acres from mineral production; designates 1,200 miles of new wild and scenic rivers; expands 110,000 acres of national monument land; adds 400,000 acres of recreation, conservation, and special management areas.

To read the different steps go to: https://americanstewards.us/liberty-matters-news-service-issue-4/

Proponents and environmentalists argue that the impacts to the climate are human caused, and by permanently preserving 30 percent of America’s land and oceans is deemed necessary to reverse climate change. Margaret said there is absolutely no science that substantiates these claims. No studies have been completed, except the one that should be done by April. But she asks how transparent will the government be in sharing that information? Because they might not, she added.

The terminology and ideology for the preservation came from A Center for American Progress report released August 2019, titled: How Much Nature Should America Keep? where Goal 4 was excerpted and shared with the audience: Although private lands account for approximately 60 percent of the land area in the contiguous 48 states, less than one percent of these lands are permanently managed for conservation.

Meanwhile more than three-quarters of the natural area that the United States lost in the contiguous 48 states from 2001 to 2017 was on private lands. The United States will not reach a 30×30 goal unless policymakers do more to help farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and other private landowners conserve lands, waters, and wildlife.

Goal 8, ups the acquisition to 50×50.

That’s the basic reading of the “tea leaves.”

Part of the governmental agenda is to turn pasture land into forests, and return land to its natural state. How would something like that look? By putting land into conservation easements in perpetuity.

Those would be different than CRP acres that have a “maturity” date and return back to the landowner to further develop, or do as they please Margaret explained.

Conservation Easements in perpetuity is a method that government agencies could “take” land. Perpetuity is a long time, especially when considering the changes the Sandhills have seen in their relative youth. Margaret says that her argument is that once land is put into an easement in perpetuity, basically it’s no longer yours. She also calculated that it would be the next generation who would miss out on the financial benefit considering the changes that could take place for further efficiency to farm or ranch. Ultimately, she said to be wary.

Using the Endangered Species Act is another way to keep land tied up. Extensive studies need to be done to insure that a species won’t be disturbed as people attempt progress and move ahead. For example the American Burying Beetle. According to their website: In 2015, the American Stewards of Liberty, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (together, “Petitioners”) filed a petition to remove the American Burying Beetle from the list of endangered species based on the original listing of the species being in error, which is one of three bases for species delisting under the ESA (the other two being recovery and extinction). Since the filing of the delisting petition, the Service has failed to meet ESA deadlines in reaching a final decision regarding whether the delisting of the ABB is warranted, a decision that was due by August 8, 2016.

More about the actions taken can be found here: https://americanstewards.us/delisting/american-burying-beetle-nicrophorus-americanus/

The Federal Government also regulates grazing permits, which have changed over time and impact ranchers. Farmers are also highly regulated with their water usage, fertilizer, and seed to name a few.

The final way government could get the land they require for the 30×30 agenda is to condemn it.

Margaret is passionate about helping communities help themselves by learning how to pass laws that will keep land on the tax rolls. “School Districts, Fire Districts, Natural Resource Districts, Water Districts, etc. are all local governments under State Statute. Each State handles these a bit differently, and I’m not certain of the Nebraska requirements, but as a general rule, these entities are considered local government bodies, just as a City and County are local government bodies. The difference is they have specific and limited powers, as opposed to a County which has broad powers. As a result, programs like 30×30 will hurt the abilities of these districts to carry out their duties because their revenue is reduced when private property is reduced. Because of this, they should also pass the 30×30 resolution opposing this so that the people, Congress and the Federal agencies are aware action taken through 30×30 will directly harm the districts ability to bus children, pay for teachers, fight fires, manage watersheds.

“You’ll have a third party telling you how to operate your land in a conservation easement. You don’t get to change your operation. What you’re doing today that’s what you can continue to do. If you need to repair a fence, o.k., if you need a new fence. Nope.

“Nature is always changing. We have new technology and science changes. Society changes, and if you don’t make those adjustments, it’s actually detrimental to the land. Beware of conservation easements in perpetuity.”

National Center for Public Policy Report said, “Two-thirds of the Nature Conservancy’s budget is buying conservation easements and turning around and selling them to the government.”

The language for the resolution can be downloaded on Midland News’ website at www.valentinenews.com, modified, passed by your board and shared with governmental leaders. Click on the red tab “30×30 Land Grab”. Another important place to look is at your county plan and beef it up. “Your role as government has more power than you realize.”

Another strategy is for coordination, with more information that can be found on their website www.americanstewards.us

She reminded us that she’s reading the “tea leaves” and that we’re not in the fight by ourselves. Be brave and the Lord will be with you; you’re never fighting this alone, Margaret said.