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Statement regarding protection of property rights

The Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance fully supports the protection of private property rights in the proposed Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area.  The legislation clearly states that the designation does not affect the rights of any property owner. 
The boundaries of the National Heritage Area are not regulatory, and therefore do not restrict any landowner (whether a rancher, and miner, a municipality, or a conservationist) from doing anything on their property that they want to. The National Heritage Area designation does not alter zoning, land uses, and cannot be used as a pretext for land-use regulation.  Designation does not set aside land for any purpose.
The boundaries simply mark a region where a story, important to our Nation’s history and heritage, is to be told. In this case, it is the story of people, our cultural and historic sites, living traditions, and the natural treasures of the Santa Cruz Valley that we are sharing with visitors and residents. The boundary does not mark an area where any land use restrictions will, nor can, be imposed.  
This legislation has been carefully crafted to honor the region, its people and its natural, cultural, and working landscapes, while providing for economic growth and development and the protection of private property rights. 

Many landowners in Pima and Santa Cruz counties recently received communication suggesting that the heritage area designation will affect property rights.  We want to assure everyone this simply is not true. Excerpted below is the exact language in the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area bill, which protects your rights as property owners: 

(a) Clarification- Nothing in this Act--
     (1) abridges the rights of any property owner (whether public or private), including the right to refrain from participating in any plan, project, program, or activity conducted within the National Heritage Area;
     (2) requires any property owner to permit public access (including access by Federal, State, Tribal, or local agencies) to the property of the property owner, or to modify public access or use of property of the property owner under any other Federal, State, Tribal, or local law;
     (3) alters any duly adopted land use regulation, approved land use plan, or other regulatory authority of any Federal, State, Tribal, or local agency, or conveys any land use or other regulatory authority to any local coordinating entity, including but not necessarily limited to development and management of energy, water, or water-related infrastructure;
     (4) authorizes or implies the reservation or appropriation of water or water rights;
     (5) diminishes the authority of the State to manage fish and wildlife, including the regulation of fishing and hunting within the National Heritage Area; or
     (6) creates any liability, or affects any liability under any other law, of any private property owner with respect to any person injured on the private property.

Some past heritage area legislation, including the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in Arizona, does not include any specific language to protect private property rights, and in fact, the Yuma bill “encourage(s) local governments to adopt land use policies consistent with the management of the (Yuma) Heritage Area and the goals of the management plan.” This language is NOT included in the Santa Cruz Valley bill. We feel the lack of property rights protections in heritage area bills is wrong, and we understand why some property owners, farmers, and ranchers in the Yuma area might be concerned.   

While this concern is understandable, an evaluation of 24 heritage areas designated from 1984 to March 2004 by the US General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that:
Despite concerns about private property rights, officials at the 24 heritage areas, Park Service headquarters and regional staff working with these areas, and representatives of six national property rights groups that we contacted were unable to provide us with a single example of a heritage area directly affecting – positively or negatively – property values or use.
Knowing that preserving property rights is a legitimate concern, we have taken a very strong position and included very specific language to protect property rights in the Santa Cruz Valley heritage area legislation. Our working ranches, farms, and other traditional and current land uses form the very heart of our heritage area, and property owners’ rights must be protected. To do otherwise would be wrong.
We want our position to be clear to all supporters and property owners in the Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area: We support property owners’ rights to use their property in ways that the owners decide. Furthermore, participation in the programs and projects of the heritage area is entirely voluntary. The boundaries of a National Heritage Area are not regulatory.  Rather, they demarcate the equivalent of an “enterprise zone” in which stakeholders within the boundaries are eligible to participate in projects, if they choose to do so.  
Respect for property rights (that is the foundation of the Santa Cruz Valley heritage area) provides the best possible base on which to build respect for our Western values and way of life, as well as building a program of heritage education. Developing a strong sense of place and respect for a region’s people, history, land, traditions, and livelihoods for both local residents and newcomers, young and old, have been major benefits of other established heritage areas.
With your continued support, we hope this heritage area will become a reality in the very near future. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (520) 882-4405, or you may email Vanessa Bechtol at