Ben Swann – by Annabelle Bamforth
The issue of federal agencies seizing public and private land is gaining more national attention, largely due to media coverage of the Bundy Ranch conflict with the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. This attention has been prompting others to come forward to share their experiences dealing with federal land seizures in the United States.
Another individual is shedding light on these disturbing practices. In videos exclusive to Benswann.com, land owner Bill Johnson discussed the attempts from the BLM and the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) to take control of enormous, valuable properties in California.
Johnson owns approximately 11,000 acres of land in Riverside County in Temecula, California. His property includes Vail Lake which spans about 1,000 acres. Three million acres of wilderness surround the property. The BLM manages land on the northern and southern sides of this massive property, and both the BLM and the MSHCP have been claiming “habitat conservation protection” rights on about 260,000 acres of land to aggressively restrict what Johnson and other land owners do with their property. Johnson said that these agencies are actively trying to push him and other land owners out of the area with endless regulations and intimidation.
Johnson said that tactics to drive out land owners included lying to them about the process being voluntary and falsely promising to purchase the land legally. He explained that the main strategy of the BLM and MSHCP is to render most of the Riverside County land useless to private owners in order to gain complete control. When MSHCP declared the land “habitat”, farming, building, or any other developments became impossible, and the values of the various properties have been dramatically reduced. In the video below, Johnson describes previous dealings with federal agents seizing property.
Johnson believes that “habitat conservation” is simply a ruse to coerce him and others into surrendering their land to federal authorities. He said that the goal of the MSHCP is a “very coordinated and concerted effort” to devalue property and re-market it to developers who give large campaign contributions to politicians who are responsible for driving out the original land owners.
Johnson said that he heard Karin Watts-Bazan, of Riverside County Counsel, inform a property owner that “this is our core area property. We want to buy it, just try to build on it.”
Johnson has begun forbidding any government agent coming onto his property without a court order. He intends to pursue taking 200,000 acres out of county control, with the help of other land owners, and turning it into a “sovereign city”. He rejects the idea of MSHCP planning and would work with others to have their own land planning. Johnson believes this is the best way to raise the value of their properties and “unleash an economic boom out here that’s had a wet blanket over it for the benefit of a bunch of builders that are outside the area.”
Johnson said that on Memorial Day there will be a “massive demonstration” of land owners who are standing up to the federal manipulation of their property. He believes that freedom is “irrepressible” despite the attempts made by the government to impose tyranny. In the video below, Johnson explains freedom and optimism despite the circumstances.
“Freedom is in our DNA,” Johnson said. “It’s in our souls, it is our God-given right, and people want it. And I think you can squash it. I think you can run code enforcement all over it, you can intimidate it with guns and badges, you can call their property ‘habitat’, you can do all those things but at the end of the day, freedom is going to well up. And it’s welling up now. This is, after 20 years, finally our moment.”
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