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Lederman Lies about Conservation Plan: Niobrara/Ponca Seeks Willing Landowners

Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes) is hollering about outsiders taking away South Dakotans' and Nebraskans' property rights. No, he's not finally getting his property-rights ducks in a row and protesting TransCanada's use of eminent domain to seize land for its Keystone pipelines. Heck no—junketing Lederman loves putting Canadian oil profits over local land rights.

Senator Lederman is actually opposing a federal conservation plan, the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area:

Our Federal Government is threatening to take 90,000 acres of privately held property in South Dakota and Nebraska under the Land Protection Plan (LPP) for the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area. You only have until September 30, 2013 to voice your opinion about this threat to private property rights.

I encourage you to read about the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Area,, which impacts private property owners in southeast South Dakota and northeast Nebraska. Viable agricultural land is threatened in this area. Taxable private property is threatened in this area [Senator Dan Lederman, "Proposed Federal Land Grab Threatens Private Property Rights," blog, 2013.09.15].

Senator Lederman must be reading a different Niobrara Confluence and Ponce Bluffs Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Land Protection plan from the one I'm reading. There is no threat to private property rights, viable agricultural land, or taxable private property. Here's what's actually happening:

The National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing three alternatives to acquire conservation easements on or outright purchase 5% to 15% of land in the project area along the Missouri River between Pickstown and Sioux City. (The proposed easement-purchase ratio would be 4 to 1.) The feds' preferred plan is 10%: 80,000 acres in the Niobrara Confluence upstream of the Gavins Point Dam, and 60,000 acres in Ponca Bluffs downstream of Gavins Point. The plan speaks unvaryingly of working with willing landowners. Because Senator Lederman apparently missed it, I'll write it big:

This plan is designed to work in partnership with willing landowners only.

[National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Draft EIS: Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas, March 2013]

If that's not clear enough, check out this flow chart of the feds' acquisition process:

Land acquisition process for the proposed Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Land acquisition process for the proposed Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas, Nebraska and South Dakota. DEIS NC/PBCA, March 2013, p. 168

See that little arrow and octagon to the left of "Offer to landowner acceptable"? "No" means no; "End" means end. The flow chart goes no further. Contrary to the false fears Senator Lederman stokes in his comment section, there's no threat to condemn the property. Nowhere does the plan force anyone to surrender property rights.

The government will pay landowners to maintain grasses, forbs, low shrubs, and trees on the conservation easements with these restrictions:

  • Haying, mowing, and seed harvesting for any reason will not occur before July 15 in any calendar year.
  • Grassland, wildlife habitat, or other natural features will not be altered by digging, plowing, disking, or otherwise destroying the vegetative cover, and no agricultural crop production can occur on the habitat areas delineated.
  • Draining, filling, and leveling of wetlands will be prohibited.
  • Altering and stabilizing the riverbank and shoreline will be prohibited.
  • Livestock confinement facilities such as feedlots will be prohibited [Draft EIS: NC/PBCA, March 2013].

The owners can still graze the land freely. They still pay taxes and control noxious weeds. Don't like those conditions? Don't sell. Uncle Sam will take its conservation business elsewhere.

This conservation plan protects species while boosting local tourism and economic activity. It never threatens to take landowners to court to eminent domain their land, unlike TransCanada, which strongarmed landowners all along its pipeline routes with the threat of using the American court system to take American land for private foreign profit.

Senator Lederman has been silent about the property rights of South Dakota and Nebraska landowners facing the very real threat to their property rights from Canadian tar sands pipelines. But he is making stuff up to rouse opposition to a sensible and voluntary federal conservation plan.


  1. bret clanton 2013.09.16

    I am not a fan of perpetual easements but I like the concept of " willing landowners ".

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.16

    I can understand concerns about perpetual easements, but Lederman isn't talking about future landowners' concerns. He's suggesting that this plan somehow threatens present landowners. The source of that fear appears to be in his head, not in the text of the plan.

  3. Rick 2013.09.16

    Thanks for reprinting page 168, Cory. Only a moron could reach a different conclusion IF they bothered to read any portion of the plan. The feds have made this so transparent that the only threat is you may become bored and nod off poring through the details.

    If I owned property at the gated community where Mr. Lederman lives, I would look upon this as an enhancement to my property values. The view across the river would remain pristine, and void of Mr. Lederman's dreams of a filthy oil refinery or a factory hog farm corrupting the air, water and landscape.

    If, indeed, there is a conspiracy involved, you are being sneaked upon at the speed of a snail. A completely transparent snail.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.16

    And now Team Lederman is trying to make it sound as if NPS and FWS are keeping affected landowners in the dark. Good grief! They send everyone in the area a postcard saying clearly that they are working on a conservation easement plan. They include a link to the full proposal. That's about the most cost-effective direct notification they could do, isn't it?

    And on top of that, if the plan goes through, an affected landowner will also get a letter or a personal visit from a federal representative with an offer and a check. How much more notification does a landowner need?

  5. Dave 2013.09.16


    Regarding Lederman's (and Pat Powers') claims that landowners have been kept in the dark:

    Came up with these few examples after about 30 seconds of Googling. Pretty certain all media in southeast South Dakotan has been sent notices to get the word out for some time now. I'd say an admirable job has been and is being done by NPS and FWS officials to keep everyone in the loop.

  6. Bernie 2013.09.16

    There has been lots of scare-mongering down in this corner of the state from people who just distrust any government program (unless they are facing a crisis of their own or want to take the kids camping), and from others who just haven't read the proposal. It looks like a very good deal for landowners, and it's also going to hopefully improve access to one of the most amazing and natural and wild waterways in the USA so it can be enjoyed by everyone. Thanks for shedding some light on it Cory.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.16

    Why would people scare-monger over a plan that offers such benefits for the outdoors industry? Is there anyone whose bottom line really suffers from neighbors' choice to participate in conservation easements?

  8. Rick 2013.09.16

    I think I know where Lederman is trying to pivot to with this pack of lies. He's incapable of original thought. For now, keep the focus on the ridiculous falsehoods he's spewing.

  9. Richard Schriever 2013.09.17

    Condemnation under eminent domain and making just payment for the condemned land is NOT taking away anyone's property rights anyhow; Even if it WERE to happen. That process is PRECISLY in line with how property rights are defined in the constitution.

  10. bret clanton 2013.09.17

    You are correct Richard. Do you think the framers of the constitution intended this as a tool to be used by government institutions only ?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.17

    Bret, I'll certainly agree that eminent domain should only be used for transfers to public use, not to shift property rights from one private owner to another private owner, as is happening with Keystone.

  12. Roger Elgersma 2013.09.17

    I have been to Niobrara state park on the Nebraska side. There is a lot of swamp land there on the east side of the park. Who would not want some money for a swamp. The west side and the South Dakota side on the north is hills. In that area the hills are not farmed. Says something about the low quality of the land for farming. Only the valleys are farmed in that area. So most of the land is of low value for agriculture purposes so it should be available at a rather low price and the landowners would be getting more value out of that land than they are now. They do not even have to offer a very high price and they will get plenty of offers. The righties may have to chill out on this one or make fools of themselves.

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