The PJ Tatler

'I Feel Like I Can't Trust My Government'

A Colorado couple faces the prospect of having their land taken away from them by their county. They haven’t committed any crime. They didn’t even misuse the land. Their offense is that they used their own motorized vehicles to drive on it — sparingly, according to the AP.

The view from the deck of the small, century-old cabin was a dream come true for Andy and Ceil Barrie — a sweeping panorama of 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks towering above the forest of centuries-old bristlecone pines.

It convinced the couple to buy a 3-bedroom home in a subdivision below, where they could live year-round, and the 10-acre parcel surrounding the cabin in the midst the White River National Forest.

Now the county government, alarmed that the couple drives their ATV up a 1.2-mile old mining road to the cabin, wants to take the Barrie’s land — and it’s doing so by claiming eminent domain. Rather than using the practice of government seizure of private property to promote economic development, the county is using it to preserve open space.

The owners are understandably shocked. They have allowed hikers to traverse the tract without incident, so they’re not fencing it off or anything of that nature. They’re not trying to develop the land. They just want to drive an ATV on it to get to the small, solar-powered cabin. They do own the land. For now.

The U S. Forest Service told the Barries they couldn’t use a motorized vehicle on the road to access their 10 acres, which float like an island in the 2.1 million acres of the White River National Forest.

The Barries countered that they had a legal right to traverse the old road and prepared a court challenge. Summit County contacted the Barries and asked to buy the land. The Barries said it wasn’t for sale.

The county commissioners voted to condemn the property on Oct. 25, endorsing a staff report that found that “public motorized access” to the property could damage the alpine tundra and streams, as well as habitat for the endangered lynx.

They have tried working with Summit County, and even offered to demolish the cabin that came with the land when they bought it. Instead, the county has gone the jackboot eminent domain route to seize the land involuntarily.