In the middle of the night Raven heard clanging and banging near her hayfield, down by the tide gates that kept the Grays River from flooding her property at high tide. The tide gates were installed many decades ago near the mouth of the Columbia River, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. These tide gates were essential in protecting prime agricultural property from tide and river flooding in the Grays River valley and other valleys feeding the Columbia River.
Raven bought her land in 1999, not knowing the horror she would endure at the hands of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and two non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) known as the Columbia Land Trust (CLT) and another NGO, Ducks Unlimited (DU). Armed with millions of dollars of federal grant money, USFW and the two NGO’s set about to restore the Grays River to its pre-human days, in the pursuit of salmon habitat recovery.
In Raven’s own words: “CLT, in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and USFW, began immediately. A 36-inch tide gate was replaced by two 13-foot culverts. Sloughs were filled in, my utility room flooded, destroying my freezer, all the food, linen, and all supplies that were stored there. In 2005 CLT asked me to give them my land. I refused. More sloughs were filled in, a county road made lower in some areas and higher across my property. Eagles nests were bulldozed. The only thing left alive, were the mosquitoes. The chum salmon get swooshed onto my fields where they flop around and die. The rivers depth went from 21 feet to 9 feet due to the increased sediment and debris thrown into the river, thus destroying fish spawning areas. Much of their so-called restoration work was done in the dead of night so that it would go unnoticed by the locals.”
“On December 31st, 2005 my home, property and barns were flooded. My home and the out buildings stayed immersed in water until March 17th 2006. With each high tide, the water got deeper and the property itself stayed flooded until late June. Almost everything was a total loss. No automobiles ran, classic cars destroyed, a professional automotive shop and all the tools gone. My home had extensive damage. CLT requested I give them the property. Again, I refused.”
“I repaired what I could. It took me two months to get enough money to buy a used van. In the meantime I had to hitchhike to work. My minimal insurance would not cover anything because the insurance company determined my loss was from third-party error. The ‘third-party’ refused my demand for damages.”
“When my property flooded, I had three-to-four foot waves crashing on to my house from the USFW project. It sounded as though I was at the beach. I live 25 miles inland. The water filled my property, then headed east, flooding Altoona highway and the Scott’s Bed & Breakfast. Since USFW and the NGO’s started this salmon recovery project, my property has flooded eleven times. I am out of money and have nothing left to fight with. The government agency and the NGO’s don’t care. It appears to me, that neither does anyone else.”
Raven eventually gave up, abandoned her land and moved to Idaho to live with relatives. This is just one story out of the thousands of stories just like it, as these kinds of government/private partnerships are terrorizing rural landowners for the sake of fish, wildlife habitat restoration, endangered species and other environmental projects. Property rights have become meaningless, as the onslaught of environmental carnage continues unabated.
This is what the environmentalists and the government that aides and abets them have done to rural landowners, who have no legislative or legal recourse and are left to suffer alone. Thousands have lost their life’s savings in the fight and some have even lost their property. Rural landowners are being forced to bear almost the entire burden of environmental protection, while their city cousins get off virtually scot-free. We receive calls and e-mails every week from landowners who have suffered greatly at the hands of government, looking for solutions to their problems. Some we can help. Others we cannot. We tried to help Raven, but the restoration process was almost complete when we got involved.
Ron Ewart, President
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RURAL LANDOWNERS
P. O. Box 1031, Issaquah, WA 98027
425 222-4742 or 1 800 682-7848
(Fax No. 425 222-4743)