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Opinion Editorial From: Karen Budd-Falen, Budd-Falen Law Offices
I admit I do not know a lot about the stock market (lawyers don’t do math, or at least this one doesn’t) but I do understand that the point of the stock market is to bring investors and companies together, allowing the investors to provide financial backing for companies that investors believe are on solid financial footing. Investors then hope to receive a dividend or return on their investment. The first U.S. stock market was created in 1792. In 1817, that market was renamed the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). After the crash of the stock market in 1929, Congress created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ensure transparency, fair prices for trading and a high degree of liquidity for traders. The SEC is a federal agency that works independently and without political pressure.
Unfortunately, that mission is about to change. On September 29, 2023, the SEC announced a proposed rule that looks to be politically motivated, does not protect investors because they never get a monetary return on their investments and harms the American economy rather than supporting it.
The proposed rule allows for the formation of private companies (called Natural Asset Companies (NACs)) to acquire private lands and eliminate most all economic use of those lands. While I believe in the Constitutional protection for the use of private property, I am sure the founding fathers did not envision a federal agency to allow foreign governments (including those whose interests are completely averse to America) to acquire and eliminate use of private and public lands, while being funded through the NYSE.
This crazy trading scheme is based on several faulty premises. First, the ownership and use of private property is governed by state law, not federal law. As stated above, the SEC proposed rule specifically allows foreign ownership in NACs. According to research by the National Ag Law Center, in 2023 alone, 12 states passed laws restricting foreign ownership or investment in private lands located within their states. This is added to the 12 states that already have state laws limiting foreign ownership of private land within those states. Henry Kissinger famously said,
“Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.”
Do we really want countries that hate America owning and controlling American agricultural land, energy
production, timber assets and American minerals?
Second, the SEC equates “no use” to the conservation and sustainability of natural resources. This is a completely false premise. Often human management is what sensitive environments need to keep them healthy. Not allowing human management to be part of “conservation” will be both detrimental to the environment, and to the natural resource industries that are essential to local economies. The SEC proposed rule notes that destruction of federal lands can be caused by wildfire and climate change. However, the elimination of well managed livestock grazing and timber production by NACs will increase these destructive harms, not eliminate them. Both livestock grazing and the harvesting of timber reduce the risk of wildfires by reducing the fuel load needed for those fires. According to a June 22, 2022 article in Rangelands Magazine, “Moderate grazing decreases wildfire probability by decreasing fuel amount, continuity, and height and increasing fuel moisture content. Grazing, through its modification of fuels, can improve fire suppression efforts by decreasing flame lengths, rate of fire spread, and fire severity.”
Also concerning is the SEC’s statement that NACs are required to manage their acquisitions for “ecological and socially equitable goals.” Is displacing a 5th generation rancher in rural America truly an ecological or socially equitable goal? It is certainly not for the rural communities, rural counties and the citizens who live in these areas.
It is frightening that a federal agency that is supposed to be independent would feel the political pressure to implement a rule on climate change. Comments are due to the SEC by January 18, 2024. This proposed rule is not what the founding fathers would have envisioned.
This article was written and supplied by: Karen Budd-Falen
- Budd-Falen Law Offices
- 300 E. 18th Street
- Cheyenne, WY 82001