June 14, 2009 - Property Rights, Property Respect

Craig is currently out on targeted grazing projects for the summer. He is hired by property owners to bring in our herd of 240 goats as weed and brush cutters to manage noxious weeds in eastern Washington and invasive species on the west side. Our clients are a mix of private individuals, private homeowner’s associations, and the public (i.e. government owned property). On a recent assignment, the target is primarily Himalayan blackberries which have invaded a former pasture. The goal is to reopen the pastures as part of a working model farm.

Folks often ask if we are worried about predators when our herd is out in the field. Four legged predators haven’t been a concern, it’s the two legged kind we mostly worry about. In urban sites, it’s the 12 – 14 year olds with nothing to do on a Friday night except dare each other to try goat wrangling. On this project, it’s a semi-rural area where the problems are both urban (homeless campers) and rural (ATV riders). Both are trespassing.

Craig visited with the campers to explain that our fences would cut off their access to their temporary home at some point during the project. They were cooperative, and understood they were trespassing. They were good neighbors while they were there, alerting Craig one evening to a possible problem with the fence. They moved on without complaint.

The site is criss-crossed with illegal and unwanted ATV trails. They’ve been handy for the project, providing an easier access through the blackberries for fencing. The trails, or more specifically the trail users, will continue to be a challenge for the property managers as they work to restore the pastures and livestock operation.

Craig heard the sound of an ATV headed up to where the goats were grazing, and figured he’d best go check out the situation. A teenager with his little brother along was parked on the trail, watching the goats. Craig told them they were trespassing, and the teenager asked if Craig owned the property. Craig answered no, and turned the question around and asked. “Do you know who owns the property?” The boy answered that he didn’t, and that he thought nobody owned the property so it was okay for him to use it. His upbringing and his schooling leave something to be desired.

I know we have kids who don’t know their Constitutional history, but how hard is “No Trespassing” to understand? How can you value personal liberty if you have no idea what personal property means? Rights require a respect for responsibility and a respect for what is NOT yours, and this young man lacked both. To top it off, he’s a great example of why ATV riders find land blocked off to them – disrespect for others.