On behalf of thousands of farmers and ranchers across the state, Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Tom Buchanan defended private property rights at an Oklahoma House of Representatives interim study on Oct. 10.
Hosted by the House Transportation Committee, the study examined the impact of “tall structures” within military training airspace throughout Oklahoma. Some argue building obstructions, including wind turbines or communications towers, could interfere with the U.S. Air Force’s ability to conduct operations and negatively affect Oklahoma’s military bases.
Legislation was introduced during the 2017 regular session to regulate the land, along with so-called obstructions to air navigation, within the vicinity of a public-use airport. The measure aimed to protect the airspace surrounding military bases in Oklahoma, but was stalled in conference committee.
Restricting a landowner’s ability to develop or use their land is a taking of private property rights, Buchanan told the committee.
Written and approved by farm and ranch members across the state, OKFB policy states:
“We are opposed to any regulation that limits a person’s right to use their property as they see fit. Landowners in the vicinity of government-owned or operated properties should not be limited to uses of their own lands or be forced to adapt land uses or practices enforced on government properties.”
Private property rights provide for many different uses including agricultural, industrial and residential. Buchanan described each use as a “stick in a bundle.”
“Anytime a rule, regulation or law is passed that restricts, or worse prohibits, the ability of a landowner to use even one of those sticks in that bundle, that is a taking of a private property right,” Buchanan said. “If you take away one of my sticks, you’ve taken away my ability to develop my land as I see fit.”
A cornerstone issue for OKFB members, Buchanan said private property rights are defined as “the ability to do with my land as I wish as long as I don’t interfere with my neighbor’s right to do the same.”
Buchanan cited the Oklahoma Landowner’s Bill of Rights, written by the Oklahoma Attorney General, which entitles landowners to “just compensation if your property is taken for a public use.”
Because military training routes help protect the public, Buchanan argued the taking was for public use. If landowners are prevented from using or developing private land, Buchanan said they should be compensated.
“Oklahoma was established on the protection and the promotion of private property rights,” Buchanan said. “Let’s take care of our private property rights.”
Buchanan pledged to work alongside the Legislature and other various industries to find a solution that protects military airspace while preserving private property rights.
“Anytime there’s something dealing with rural Oklahoma or Oklahoma agriculture, we want to be front and center in the conversation,” Buchanan said.