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I wrote this piece in 1996, about the property rights movement in Northwest vArkansas. Some may find interesting similarities between then and now, when the Tea Bag folks and the Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck Orcs seem to dominate conservative thought.
Then, as now, a lot of people were manipulated by forces much higher than their pay grade - corporate forces which really much didn’t give a damn about freedom, or the America that these people claimed to care so much about.
Notice the gutless Washington County JP, who caved to pressure after his initial vote.
This is included in my book, Ozark Mosaic: Adventures in Arkansas Alternative Journalism, 1990-2002, which makes a a dandy holiday present.
Flexing their Muscles?
Property Rights Advocates gaining Visibility and Influence
Written by Richard S. Drake
“Recognize forestry as a private industry to be managed by private owners. Avoid pressures by third parties to ascribe “sacred” status to trees or to any other agricultural commodity" - Sustainable Development Coalition Council, Draft Recommendations, 1995
“I love to see a log truck going down the road with a load of logs to get sawed up to make a home for someone. It looks good to me. The ranches, the cattle, the homes . . . I love to see Tyson trucks . . .” Ivan Denton, address to monthly meeting of Take Back Arkansas, Inc., April 4, 1996
On April 4, artist Ivan Denton addressed the April meeting of the property rights group, Take Back Arkansas. Denton, whose column “The Cowboy Whittler,” runs in the Northwest Arkansas Times, gave a talk warning against what he termed as “false environmentalists.”
In his half-hour address to the small group of less than 30 people, he claimed environmentalists “have their own agendas,” and that the battle raging over property rights in much of the United States is “where it is all centered.”
In addition to members of Take Back Arkansas, several candidates for Washington County Quorum Court were in attendance. Also on hand were several sitting members of the Quorum Court, including Darius Mullins, who voted the next week to repeal the controversial billboard ban ordinance, which the group had opposed on the grounds that there were no provisions made to provide property owners with recompense for the lost income that they claimed the sign ordinance would cause.
Mullins had originally voted for the ban.
Market Forces Best Able To Protect Environment?
Denton was appearing before the group in part to report on a recent trip he made to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend a meeting of the Sustainable Development Coalition Council. This coalition formed partially as a response to the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD).
Created in 1993, the PCSD attempted to balance industry and the environmental community. The Vision Statement of the PCSD states in part, “Our vision is of a life-sustaining earth . . . We believe a sustainable United States will have an economy that equitably provides opportunities for satisfying livelihoods and a safe, healthy, high quality of life for current and future generations . . .”
The goals of the PCSD have come under sharp attack from some who see a deification of nature in their goals, as well as an anti-industrial bias. In response, the Sustainable Development Coalition has emphasized private property rights, free markets and individual freedoms.
Those in Fayetteville may remember similar battles in the last several years, with a Planning Commission whose most outspoken members claimed that “market forces” must be the determining factor in city planning and growth management.
The Coalition was organized by several conservative organizations that claim to be environmentally oriented. One goal is to “Promote the understanding that ‘Sustainable Living’ means to provide for one’s self and for those whom he/she is responsible, integrating awareness that individual freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution make ‘Sustainable Living’ possible.”
Mary Denham, one of the founders of Take Back Arkansas, says she is probably in agreement with most, if not all, of the Coalition’s goals. Take Back Arkansas is a local group of citizens concerned about their private property in an age when environmentalists and governing authorities are placing tighter controls onto property owners.
Like many such groups, Take Back Arkansas claims to be concerned about so-called “hidden agendas” that place restrictions on property rights. They claim that property rights will be the civil rights issue of the 1990s.
Prior to Denton’s address, the group watched a videotaped interview with Michael Coffman, affiliated with the Sustainable Development Coalition. He was featured discussing the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in 1992. He claimed that some in the environmental movement were inspired by their involvement with pagan religions, in which all life is considered equal.
The Cowboy Whittler
This sentiment was echoed by Denton in his talk, in which he claimed that religion was very much a part of the environmentalists’ agenda.
Among other issues that Denton discussed were the ban on DDT (at which point he made the claim that more people were actually harmed by the ban than were helped by it), and recent criticism of his newspaper column, to which he seemed particularly sensitive.
He said that, “Property owners are the true environmentalists. Property ownership makes people proud and they take care of it.”
After Denton’s talk, more of the video program was shown, followed by a question/answer period.
Battle Looms over Billboard Ban
On Thursday, April 11, the Washington County Quorum Court took a first step in repealing a controversial billboard ban for four specific highways in the county. Placed on its first reading, it will be taken up again at the regular Quorum Court meeting on May 9.
Mary Denham feels that the next go-around will be more difficult, because she is sure that the local Sierra Club and representatives of Friends For Fayetteville will speak for the ban. Essentially, she claims, their message is a simple one:
“We want your rights.”
Denham says that she has no desire to sit down with members of the above groups because she believes that their agenda is set in stone.
While saying that she didn’t want to get into an ugly war of words, Denham claims that a “propaganda machine” is running groups such as those she suspects will be out in force to speak against repealing the ban. Denham has been at odds with members of the Friends For Fayetteville before, most notably with Fayetteville Alderman Len Schaper.
She is confident that the repeal will stand, however, because “we have the constitution and law on our side, and they don’t.”
Ozark Gazette - April 15, 1996