Eminent Domain: Colorado Couple Finds Out That Their Land Is Only Their Own Until the Government Wants It
You do your research and you choose a retreat property far off the beaten path. You spend time and money developing it, making it your own. Maybe it is a vacation home, or maybe you’re a prepper and this is your bug-out location. Regardless of the reason you chose it, it’s yours, so maybe you plant some perennial vegetables and some fruit trees. You dig a well or locate a spring. You make it your own.
Then the government comes along and says, “Nope, we want this land – you’re out.”
And they just take it, evicting you like they are the landlord and you are merely a tenant, despite your name on the deed.
That’s exactly what happened to a couple in Colorado. Andy and Ceil Barrie fought the government and the government won.
The Barries had purchased and idyllic 10 acre parcel of land in the midst of the White River National Forest. The private land had on it a rustic cabin, an outhouse, and an old boarded-up gold mine. It was a day use cabin, and therefore totally off the grid. No electricity, no plumbing – just peace and solitude, accessible only by an ATV via a road that Summit County didn’t even know existed. The cabin is 1.2 miles off the main road. From a preparedness standpoint, the place is what most of us dream of – a sweet little piece of paradise far off the beaten path, without a powerline in sight.
The government used many different bizarre strategies to get the Barries off of their land. Pay close attention, because precedents are being set that could affect hunters or those creating bug-out retreats.
#1 ATV access threatened an endangered species
The government’s first line of attack against the Barries was forbidding them to use a motorized vehicle to reach the property. This will sound familiar to anyone who has been following the Cliven Bundy case in Nevada: Summit “county officials issued a report that stated “public motorized access” to the property threatened the alpine tundra and the habitat for the lynx, an endangered species.” (source) County officials took a vote in October of 2013, and in order to save the lynx threatened by the Barries’ occasional access, agreed that their property should be seized. (In the case of the Bundy ranch, his cattle were massacred by the government while they claimed to be concerned about the fate of the desert tortoise.)
#2 The county demanded that “various commercial activities” be halted
And exactly what nefarious money-making schemes were the Barries up to? Why, Andy Barry had the audacity to gather up fallen pine cones and take them home for his Christmas wreath making business. He used a cart attached to the afore-mentioned ATV to take them back to his home, where the wreaths were created.
#3 The county condemned the cabin because of electrical and plumbing issues
Umm…it’s an off-grid cabin, so there was no electricity and no plumbing to start with. In their haste to protect the environment, one would think that bringing in electricity or plumbing would be far more of an issue than a low-carbon-footprint place that used no public utilities.This was strictly a day-use cabin, thus requiring no plumbing or power. How many off-grid homes that adjoin national land exist across the country right now? How many hunting and trapping cabins are snugly sitting out there in the wilderness? Are all of those properties next on the government’s list of properties to steal?
#4 The cabin was in violation of zoning laws
A previous owner had expanded the cabin without a permit. Because we have to ask the government’s permission for everything, you see.
In the end, the government won.
On Thursday, the Barries had no option but to cede the land. They did not have the money to fight against the bottomless coffers of the government. They were paid $115,000 for the land. The couple had spent $75,000 waging a legal defense. Ceil Barrie said in a statement:
“The cabin was condemned on the grounds of plumbing and electricity, when it doesn’t even have plumbing or electricity. All those things added up in my mind. This is ridiculous, we can never win and our money is not unlimited. I have two kids in college this year. To me, what just came out of it is, you can’t fight the government.” (source)
The moral to this story is, the government does not support the lifestyle to which many of us aspire. Self sufficiency and freedom from the grid are not celebrated, but demonized. The government, through various agencies masquerading as do-gooders, have waged war on woodstoves, off-grid lifestyles, front yard vegetable gardens, and anything that might allow you to live without their daily input or without being subject to their many taxes and fees.
Private property rights are ignored and according to the government, we must all submit to their “eminent domain”. What it boils down to: You might think you own something, but it’s clear that it is only yours until the government decides that they want it.