Skip to comments.The Royal Forests (by Tom McClintock)
Posted on 01/07/2011 2:59:54 PM PST by CounterCounterCulture
|During the despotic eras of Norman and Plantagenet England, the Crown declared one third of the land area of Southern England to be the royal forest, the exclusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats. The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties. This exclusionary system became so despised by the people that in 1215, five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redress of grievances that are hauntingly similar to those that are now flooding my office.|
House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 7, 2011.
Much of my district comprises forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Over the last two years, I have received a growing volume of complaints protesting the increasingly exclusionary and elitist policies of this agency.
These complaints charge the Forest Service, among other things, with:
Imposing inflated fees that are forcing the abandonment of family cabins held for generations;
Charging exorbitant new fees that are closing down long-established community events upon which many small and struggling mountain towns depend for tourism;
Expelling long-standing grazing operations on specious grounds causing damage both to the local economy and the federal governments revenues; and
Obstructing the sound management of our forests through a policy that can only be described as benign neglect, creating both severe fire dangers and massive unemployment.
Practiced in the marketplace, we would renounce these tactics as predatory and abusive. In the public service sector, they are intolerable.
Combined, these actions evince an ideologically driven hostility to the publics enjoyment of the publics land and a clear intention to deny the public the responsible and sustainable use of that land.
Most recently, the Forest Service has placed severe restrictions on vehicle access to the Plumas National Forest, despite volumes of public protests. Supervisor Bill Connelly, Chairman of the Butte County Board of Supervisors writes that The restriction applies to such activities as: collecting firewood, retrieving game, loading or unloading horses or other livestock, and camping. He writes, The National Forests are part of the local fabric. The roads within the National Forests are used by thousands of residents and visitors for transportation and recreation. These activities generate revenue for our rural communities, which are critical for their survival.
This is not a small matter. The Forest Service now controls 193 million acres within our nation a land area equivalent to the size of Texas.
During the despotic eras of Norman and Plantagenet England, the Crown declared one third of the land area of Southern England to be the royal forest, the exclusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats. The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties. This exclusionary system became so despised by the people that in 1215, five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redress of grievances that are hauntingly similar to those that are now flooding my office.
Mr. Speaker, the attitude that now permeates the U.S. Forest Service from top to bottom is becoming far more reminiscent of the management of the royal forests during the autocracy of King John than of an agency that is supposed to encourage, welcome, facilitate and maximize the publics use of the publics land in a nation of free men and women.
After all, that was the vision for the Forest Service set forth by its legendary founder, Gifford Pinchot in 1905: "to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."
In May of 2009 and April of 2010, some of my California colleagues and I sent letters to the Forest Service expressing these concerns. I have also personally met with senior officials of that agency on several occasions in which I have referenced more than 500 specific complaints of Forest Service abuses received by my office.
All that I have received to date from these officials are smarmy assurances that they will address these concerns assurances that their own actions have belied at every turn.
It is time for Congress to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the abuses by this increasingly unaccountable and elitist agency, to demand accountability for the damage it has done and is doing to our forests health, to the publics trust, to the governments revenues and to the nations economy and to take whatever actions are necessary to restore an attitude of consumer-friendly public service which was Gifford Pinchots original vision and for which the U.S. Forest Service was once renowned and respected.
The power elites are after our rights as citizens to have property, any kind of property.
Houses to forests.
The fraudclosure is about stealing all of our houses, while they also make the West their private reserve.
The US Dept of the Interior, disband it and give the land back to the respective states.
Tom would look good in Robin Hood attire..
He sure kilt it in a skirt not so long ago.
Well, this is getting more fun every day. Every single Federal Department is about to get their wings trimmed. Maybe.
The majority of the western states, with enough energy underground to power the world for a couple hundred years, is under the thumb of either the Feds or the super-rich.
The BLM and the USDA could stand to get a gastric bypass.
The US Forest service is killing the forests.
Defund, Disembowel, Dismember! Change we can believe in.
Which speaker was this written to?
The point is moot. Some of the national forests/parks are already under the control of Mexican Drug Gangs (WE HOPE!!!). U.S. citizens are warned not to go there. The rest of them will be soon.
Actually, Obama is only interested in destroying the US economy. The "Royal Forests" are part of his scorched earth destruction of jobs.
U.S. property owners own nothing. They rent their property from the Federal Government. Stop paying taxes/rent, and you're evicted. It's merely a matter of time before our masters dispense with the pretentions and sieze the property and evict the peasants whenever they feel like it.
Remember that elderly woman who died when she learned that her house--a house built by her grandparents and in which she, her parents, and her grandparents had lived all their lives--was not hers, and she was evicted and the house destroyed because it was in "the public viewshed"--and apparently this offended some of the "Liberals" and their love of "the environment"?
In the end, we’ll have to sell off all the national forests, the national parks, and the state of Alaska to pay off the debt.
It is way past time for Congress to reclaim the legislative powers granted it by the people in Article I Section 1.
We The People did not grant any power whatsoever to the US Forest Service. IMO, the entire administrative state is illegal.
“We The People did not grant any power whatsoever to the US Forest Service. IMO, the entire administrative state is illegal.”
Quite so. The eco-fascist pigs at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior tried to ban recreation boaters from the park. The boaters took up a collection, spent $600,000 and got their (the American People’s) island back from these Nazi pigs.
The one good thing is that the Marxist park superintendent died at the end. Since then, the eco-fascists have been keeping their heads down.
The Isle Royale incident is a classical example of how to fight these federal fascist pigs.
Now if Congress had any guts back then, the entire park service on that island should have been arrested, found guilty and thrown in prison.
Savage Beast wrote: Remember that elderly woman who died when she learned that her house—a house built by her grandparents and in which she, her parents, and her grandparents had lived all their lives—was not hers, and she was evicted and the house destroyed because it was in “the public viewshed”—and apparently this offended some of the “Liberals” and their love of “the environment”?
..... this sort of outrage should be the subject of films.
I sincerely appreciate the ping. McClintock is right on. This is insufferable.
Until the reign of the Viking, Cnut, in the early 11th century, freemen could hunt anywhere, restricted only by the exclusive right to hunt associated with land ownership (”ratione soli”.) During the reign of Cnut, the king withdrew certain lands from free common access and reserved them for his own use, maintaining them primarily for exclusive royal hunting purposes or “chases.” Hunting in the Forest provided a substantial share of meat, nuts berries and wild edibles for the king, the nobility and their retainers.
In later reigns, it became a practice for kings to “forest” occupied areas. By virtue of “sovereign ownership” of all land, kings claimed the right to assert exclusive hunting privileges. Essentially, these were severed as a separate estate in the land and retained or granted severally. At one time, it has been estimated that almost one-third of the country had been converted into “royal forest.” by royal proclamation. Regulation of the hunting of game rested upon the theory of the Crown’s “sovereign ownership” of land and resources associated with it.
The Latin term “foris” actually referred to exclusion from the application of the ordinary law and not to a wooded land. A separate system of “Forest Laws” and enforcement mechanisms were introduced by the Normans, which set forth permitted use and dealt savagely with violators. English common law, equity and associated rights did not apply to crimes committed in relation to “forested” lands.
The Forest Charter under the Magna Carta codified Forest Law and set up a commission directed to make “perambulations” of the royal forest and to review forest extensions declared by Henry II, Richard and John, retaining only those that were legitimately within the king’s own demesne (personal properties.) When Henry came of age he forced a revision of the boundaries in his favor. These remained essentially the same until 1300, when Edward I was forced to deforest large tracts.
The Forest Charter designated the courts to enforce Forest Law. Local forest courts met every six weeks. Special forest inquisitions were held to deal with serious trespass with the royal forest eyre (circuit court) retaining ultimate jurisdiction. The local courts dealt with minor offenses to the “vert” - the greenwood of the forest: cutting; clearing; gathering dead wood, honey and nuts; allowing cattle to graze or pigs to feed on acorns or beechnuts. When a graver offense to the vert or a crime against the “venison,” (the right to hunt deer,) was committed, a special court was called to hear the case before the forest officers. The offender was either sent to prison until the next eyre or “attached” by other’s pledges to appear before it. Any evidence - arrows, antlers, skins, poachers’ greyhounds -was delivered to the forest officials to be produced before the justices.
Every seven years the forest eyre, made up of four barons and knights appointed by the king, traveled from county to county hearing the accumulated forest cases. Trespassers were brought from prison or produced by the sheriff. The foresters and other officers produced the record of special inquisition and the evidence. These were usually accepted as fact without further hearing and sentence was pronounced - usually a year and a day against the payment of ransom or fine. If the offender was poor, he was sometimes pardoned or if he had already spent a great deal of time in jail waiting, he was released. If he failed to appear, he was outlawed.
Every three years an inspection of the forests was made by a body of 12 knights, the “regarders” who were supposed to report any encroachments on the king’s demesne - the erection of a mill, fishpond, enlargement of a clearing, enclosure of land without a license, or any abuse of the right to cut wood.
The hierarchy of officials that admisistered the forest was headed by a justice who directed the whole forest administration of England. Next in authority were the wardens, also called stewards, then Baliffs or chief foresters, who had custody of single forests or groups of forests. Below them were officers called verderers, knights or landed gentry nominally in charge of the vert but actually performing a variety of duties. There were also foresters who acted as gamekeepers, responsible to the wardens and appointed by them. Usually, each forest also had four agisters appointed by the wardens to collect money for the pasturing during certain seasons of cattle and pigs in the king’s demesne forests. The agisters counted pigs as they entered the forest and collected the pennies as they came out. Landowners inside the forest also employed woodwards, their own foresters.
Many barons set up private forests or “chases” in wooded areas not set aside by Forest Law or through grants from the king of “vert and venison.” In the rein of Edward I, the royal forest of Dean contained the private chases of 36 landowners, mostly great magnates of the area.
Once the king granted a forest to a private baron, royal Forest Law did not apply and jurisdiction was surrendered to the baron who owned the chase. Under manorial law, the baron’s foresters could arrest trespassers against the venison, but only if they were caught by the manor in the act and with evidence. Then they were imprisoned until they paid a fine to the lord.
Sometimes districts were enclosed with palings or ditches and became private parks. The baron who created the park was obliged to keep it effectively enclosed so that the king’s beasts could not enter. At the time of Henry III, no license for park creation was necessary as long as it did not infringe upon royal forest. Later, a license was required. Some barons installed deer leaps which allowed deer in, but not out. Many of these were ordered removed and certain parks were ruled a legal “nuisance” when close to the king’s forest.
Vension could be taken as an exception to the forest law by an earl or baron for his party travelling through the royal forest. This had to be done in the presence of a forester or while blowing a hunting horn. The taking was recorded in the rolls of the special forest inquisitions as “Vension taken without warrant.” The specifc taking of deer could also be granted by the king, recorded as “venison given by the lord king.”
Forest officers were a hated class and local sympathies were often with the poachers. Usually the sons of knights or freeholders, foresters often abused their powers for gain - felling trees, killing deer, grazing their own cattle, embezzling, taking bribes, extorting stock or crops from the people (including nobles) at harvest. (Reference: E.F. Lincoln’s The Medieval Legacy, London, Macgibbon & Kee; c1961.)