Property Rights: the Heart of Opportunity

We recently submitted a statement on House Joint Resolution 38:

Private property is at the heart of opportunity in America, and it has been since before our formal founding. In response to actions by the British government, the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress adopted in 1774 resolved that colonists were entitled to life, liberty, and property.

In Alaska, with private land ownership (other than Native land) being less than 1% of all land, and with landowners having no sub-surface rights, private property rights have a very special value.

The history of ARTA’s conveyance of lands not explicitly owned by the federal government would appear to be a direct violation of the rights of the affected private property owners.  While there is no disputing that easements are important for rail operations, any claims the Alaska Railroad Corporation makes to such easements must have historical documentation of having been obtained via the proper legal process. That process would include notification of affected parties. In the instances which are addressed by HJR38, it would seem that did not happen. It would further appear that since the legislature did not approve said conveyances, violation of A.S. 42.40.285 occurred.

Due process is a foundational tenet of law in America, as expressed in the 5th Amendment of our Constitution:  “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” These property owners are owed that due process.

In light of our current situation, it would be wise for Alaska’s federal Congressional delegation to pursue action on behalf of all property owners affected by this issue.