A New Line of Defense for Landowners - American Land Foundation Develops Legal Plan to Assist Landowners

Thanks to the American Land Foundation (ALF), property owners have a new line of defense in the never ending battle to protect their property from state and federal regulation. ALF’s most inventive program, LandGuard, is doing the unthinkable; creating a link between the nation’s top property rights attorneys and America’s landowners to provide expert protection and advice.

(PRWEB) April 13, 2005 -- Thanks to the American Land Foundation (ALF), property owners have a new line of defense in the never ending battle to protect their property from state and federal regulation. ALF’s latest program, LandGuard creates a link between the nation’s top property rights attorneys and America’s landowners to provide expert protection and advice.

ALF, a non-profit organization, was founded over a decade ago with a goal to educate and help landowners fight government regulation of private property. Over the last decade, ALF president, Dan Byfield, has spent countless hours counseling landowners who found themselves facing threats from government agencies or individual groups intent on taking or controlling their private property.

With each phone call, Byfield realized landowners were losing their battles because they waited too long to act or they didn’t have adequate legal counsel. He knew there had to be a better way.    

Byfield determined that what landowners needed most was access to immediate advice from qualified property rights lawyers, preferably in the landowner’s geographical area and at a price that wouldn’t break the bank.

In 1999, after meeting with a group of landowners, Byfield went to his board of directors with the idea of creating a network of property rights attorneys from across the country who would be available to advise landowners about threatening property rights issues. After almost two years, all the hurdles for licensing and underwriting were cleared and LandGuard was born. For the first time, landowners had access to a low cost legal plan that linked them to the nation’s best property rights attorneys.

LandGuard is backed by the AON Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, Specialty Insurance Company, the plan underwriter and LegalAccess, the plan administrator. With an impressive collection of the nation’s top property rights lawyers already on board, LandGuard members from across the country have used their services to protect their property rights.

A Texas farmer who was told he no longer qualified for agriculture tax exemption consistently met with resistance when he tried to straighten out the issue himself. His LandGuard attorney stepped in and the problem was resolved within an hour. A Montana ranching family would have put their place up for sale if LandGuard hadn’t helped them during a battle with the BLM over land and water rights. A couple in Arizona who are embroiled in a battle with the U.S. Forest Service have this to say about their LandGuard attorney: “He has a relaxed, likable style but stays focused on the critical issues; and, as he likes to phrase it, applies gentle persuasion relentlessly.”

Most landowners never dream they could someday find themselves having to defend the right to use their land. In fact, most people consider these rights a constitutional given. However, the courts, including the Supreme Court, are filled with property rights cases dealing with constitutional challenges of environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, eminent domain, takings cases and over-regulating by environmental agencies.

When Fred Purcell bought investment property just east of Austin, Texas, he was well aware of the standard zoning ordinances, utility easements and other fairly normal hoops a landowner must jump through before building or otherwise developing the land. Such procedures are a minor annoyance, at best, but rarely are they totally insurmountable.

But thanks to a trespasser, who was a member of EarthFirst!, Purcell has spent the last eighteen years fighting for the right to use his land. What eventually rendered Purcell’s property useless, in the truest sense of the word, was something he could have never imagined . . . five cave bugs so tiny, it takes a microscope to see them

The group EarthFirst! petitioned U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the cave bugs along with several other species of spiders, scorpions and beetles that, according to them, only live on the over two hundred acre property owned by Purcell. Purcell proved these bugs lived in caves on other property, but that fact didn’t seem to matter and the government listed them anyway.

Fred Purcell is just one of thousands of Americans who, every year, find themselves fighting for the right to actually use the land they own and pay taxes on. Purcell’s story seems extreme but it’s actually closer to the norm.

For some landowners, the loss is much greater. Nevada rancher, Wayne Hage, lost his entire business when government agencies decided to cut his grazing rights and restrict him from using his water. After enduring over a decade of harassment from government agencies, in September 1991, he filed a takings case against the United States. Fourteen years later, the case finally had its day in court and both sides now wait for the final decision.    

Each of these landowners had one clearly defining moment. That moment when they realized they needed expert help. The opposing sides were well funded and armed with an arsenal of skilled legal professionals. If the landowners were to have a breath of a chance, they would need equally skilled, expert counsel who knew the laws affecting property rights, inside and out.

Few can afford such a defense. Allan Parker, Professor of Law and President of the Texas Justice Foundation said: “To take an average case to litigation to protect your property rights might take between $100,000 and $300,000 . . . because the litigation is so expensive, the government can pick you off one by one by one.”

Wayne Hage was able to continue his fight thanks to financial support from Stewards of the Range, another grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to defending and protecting landowners. Tim Lowry, a Stewards’ member whose family has been embroiled in a legal battle similar to Hage’s, says, “Without the San Francisco law firm, we’d be sunk. We were at that point where our case was just about lost when they stepped in. You have to have competent lawyers helping you or you don’t stand a chance, no matter how noble your attempts are.”

Fred Purcell found help through the American Land Foundation, and because of their help, his case is now pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. His attorneys, Austin’s Hazen and Terrill, are considered among the best in their field.

The creation of LandGuard signals a new era in the property rights movement, one that is sophisticated, gaining ground, and bolstered by the best lawyers in the country. It is an era where landowners are fighting back and winning.

For more information on LandGuard, visit www.landguard.org.

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Source :  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/4/prweb227979.htm