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Feds Evict Families from National Forest and Burn Down Their Homes

During President Obama’s time in office, the federal government expanded its land ownership more than any other time in the history of the United States. His tenure was punctuated by large government overreach whose implications even affected the Arctic areas of Alaska.

But 25 years ago, he wasn’t president and he was not responsible for the handful of families from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that has affected them irreversibly.

The families who owned cabins in the wooded and mountainous regions of the Ontonagon River weren’t aware when they first made the cabins that they would become permanent homes for generations of children to come. They also couldn’t have predicted that the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) that leased the land to them would end up abandoning their utilities in the region and sell the land back to Michigan.

Once the federal government’s Parks Service purchased the land, they issued 25-year eviction notices to these families. That was under President George Bush, Sr.

Hoping the federal government would just forget the deal over the course of so many years, they went on with their lives. When the anniversary arrived in March, they could not have known their feelings when the rangers knocked on their doors.

As the deadline approached, efforts by local politicians to sway the Forest Service failed.  A resolution was passed last year in the state Senate calling on the agency to grant exemptions to the families, partly based on the roughly $45,000 in total taxes and fees that cash-strapped local municipalities stood to lose from all of the camp owners each year, and partly based on the 15,570 single-family cabins currently permitted on National Forest System lands throughout the country under the Recreation Residence Program.  Why not, they argued, add these mere 155 people to that number?

It didn’t work.

“It’s just not right,” said state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, the sponsor of the resolution.  He argued that the trails leading into the woods were provided and maintained by camp owners, and with those trails soon to be gone, only the most adventurous hikers would ever make it this far into the woods, thus defeating the Forest Service’s stated purpose of opening the land for everyone.

“They said it’s for all of us so we can enjoy it, and then they turn around and block things off, which means you and I can’t go out there.”

One ranger even claimed that the presence of the cabins impeded the enjoyment of hikers and travelers in the area. When they were confronted with the fact that “no hikers” ever wandered that far into the mostly inaccessible mountainous regions, the answer was silence.

Casperson said he has brought the issue to the attention of federal officials both inside and outside the Forest Service, with no luck.  “The clock has ticked down here,” he said.  “I think if the right people were aware of it and the appropriate people stood up it could be changed, but it’s getting late.  Once these people tear these things down, it’s over.”

All the cabins have been burned to the ground and the roads accessing them have now been permanently blocked or destroyed.

Just another example of the federal government demonstrating the power to destroy American lives and livelihoods without recompense.