By Lindianne Sarno
The Legislative Blitz of 2013 in Salem, Oregon is a grievously under-reported story. Oregon’s state government is moving in a total media blackout to close down all rural producers in mining, logging, agriculture, and ranching.
Beginning in December, 2012, the office of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber emitted a blizzard of bills to the Oregon legislature. Oregonian mining law researchers Ron Gibson, Art Sappington, Hal Anthony, Guy Michael and Al Hansen are doing a Herculean task, reading and testifying on 2,684 bills to assess impact on natural resources, labor, family farms, small business, county economies, private property, and the foundations of American law.
Thanks to these courageous men of the Jefferson Mining District, we can examine the mechanics of a would-be tyranny: Onerous paperwork requirements. Heavy, arbitrary, escalating fines and fees. Arrest and jail for resistance. The bills all end with a declaration of emergency. Bills are moved fast from first reading, to ways and means, to a vote, with hardly any public hearing. Urban legislators are rubber-stamping the bills. Observers believe the blitz is a test: what tyranny will the American people swallow?
The bills, if passed, would: Close down farmers markets through onerous certification requirements; Forbid farm youth from doing chores; Stop all placer mining, including gravel for septic systems; Force artisanal miners to pay high fees; Regulate every detail of farm and business life; Force family restaurants out of business; Force ranchers to pay high fees for customary water rights; Outlaw water harvesting; Require permits to pick berries and mushrooms for subsistence; Label a barnyard an abatable nuisance because it doesn’t meet urban aesthetic standards. This is just a sample.
Masquerading as environmental protection, the Intolerable Acts are a sneaky attempt to take over Oregon’s natural resources, drive Oregon’s farmers and ranchers from their land, and steal gold mines outright from mining families who have lawfully worked claims for generations. The Intolerable Acts exceed constitutional and legal boundaries to create a tyrannical system in which government (backed by shadowy corporations) owns everything and private property is outlawed.
Here in Alaska, we still live the culture of self-reliance. Old Believers, Amish, Kilchers: such self-reliant cultures and families are the heart of America. Growing food is a risky enough business. Agriculturists should be supported, encouraged, and respected for their know-how and wisdom–not taxed, permitted, and regulated to death. If Oregon’s small holders are driven from business, what is to stop government machinators from doing the same in every state?
What can Alaskans do to stand by Oregonians in this crisis? Correspond with friends and relations in Oregon. “Alaskans know what’s happening and we stand with you.” Write, communicate, correspond, speak. Call this blitz to the nation’s attention. Remind Oregon’s legislators that every time small farmers have been dispossessed – the kulaks in Russia, the peasants of China – the result has been mass starvation. Natural resources are the heart of popular economy. Make this point in Salem or risk having to fight the same fight in Juneau.
We are at a turning point in history. From the 1950s to 2010s, oil and chemical interests captured America’s agricultural lands. Media portrayed rural producers as stupid bumblers. Disrespected, their voices ignored, 50,000,000 farmers were forced into debt, bankrupted and now persecuted by a system of onerous laws and forcible imprisonment.
Urban folk, convinced taking agricultural land was good real estate business, surrendered America’s agricultural life insurance system with barely a peep. We Alaskans know better.
Homesteading author Lindianne Sarno is raising 11 unregistered baby chicks by the woodstove.
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