The New Highland Clearances: The Assault on WV Property Values

Rex Tillerson, fracker, former CEO of Exxon, and current former Secretary of State, knows how important property values are. He was so concerned with the inevitable property value loss that would  result from a fracking project impacting his Texas home, that he sued to avert it.

Not HIS backyard, by gum!

His affluenza meant he didn’t want to suffer consequences to his own property values. Predictably, it didn’t keep him from fracking near other people, and destroying their property values. (This is actual affluenza: Tillerson believed that because he’s wealthy, he deserved better treatment than the poor people he victimizes.)

Look. It’s not news that a house is far more valuable with a view of a mountain or holler than it is with a view of a factory or crater. It’s more valuable with a creek of fresh water and fish than it is filled with coal ash and oil. A barbecue is more enjoyable with the birds chirping and the scent of honeysuckle than it is with engine noise, compressor stations, diesel fumes, and methane. Even for just a night or two, you’re going to pay more for an ocean view room than you will for the exact same room facing the street.

It’s more valuable with fresh water for your animals than with lead from your tap…

So why do our WV legislators seem to work so hard so corporations can forcibly devalue rural WV? I wish I had a better answer than “money.” There are good folks from both parties fighting to protect property rights… and then there are those who’ve been purchased.

Truth is, West Virginians are an inconvenient infestation in the hills and hollers as far as Resource Barons are concerned…. so, since our politicians work primarily for them, these New Clearances are being enshrined in law.

The Three Part Assault on WV Property Values:

The war fought by the wealthy against the poor takes the form of Forced Pooling, the #CancerCreek bill, and the #MoreSpillsBill among others here in WV.

Resource Barons destroy our property values in three ways:

  1. The forced loss of property value by eminent domain for private gain (pipelines).
  2. The forced loss of property value by legalized theft (forced pooling).
  3. The forced loss of property value by industrial encroachment (removing protections from nuisance noise, lights, sights—this was done by WVDEP rule).

And it’s working.

Property rights and property values are important. Without them…

When the Highland Clearances occurred in rural Scotland, in the space of about 50 years, the population simply disappeared from the highlands. Scotland’s rural areas were suddenly among the most sparsely populated areas of Europe. Essentially, the moneyed class in Scotland determined that they could make money grazing sheep because the price of wool was so high. How inconvenient that the land they wanted to profit from was inhabited by families who had lived there for generations! Luckily for the greedy, the English system of law they wanted to operate under was quite different  than the Scottish system of law that gave those people the right to live there.

So, the people were brutally driven away—and worse. Those who didn’t have the money to move were unceremoniously evicted, with their homes burned or knocked over and their property utterly destroyed. John Gordon of Cluny, for instance, called his tenants to mandatory meetings to “discuss fair rents,” but then simply clapped them in irons and tossed them all—men, women, and children—onto boats headed to North America, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They were sold into indentured servitude. Some were simply killed.

These were “improvements” to the land.

“Perfect!” thought the aggressors, wiping their blood-stained clubs off in the furrowed fields. “Now this’ll be a great place for sheep!”

WV was settled by Scots… and if you’re of Scottish descent, well it’s happening to us again, folks. They’re coming for us. In fact, they’ve come already.

The call is coming from inside the statehouse!

How the Assault on WV Property Values destroys our state

My husband and I have 45 acres, mountain and holler, a little crooked house, and a gorgeous view. That’s basically our only asset of any value: our farm. Our land. That IS why we live out here, after all. You don’t move to rural WV for the numerous lucrative job opportunities you can’t get elsewhere. You move here, or stay here, because of OTHER things you can’t get anywhere else. You love the peace. You want a view of the stars. You adore listening to the peepers in the spring, and hearing the wind sussurating in the leaves. You want a little creek, filled with fresh clean mountain water, all to yourself.  You want some hunting property, a place to camp. Apple trees. Morels.

In fact, a little 45 acre WV farm, no matter how dilapidated the condition, somehow transported to, say, California Wine Country would be worth millions and millions of dollars. Heck move a mobile home with its quarter acre to Los Angeles, and it’s suddenly worth a ridiculous amount of money! But here in WV, corporations want to ensure you don’t even have the right to hold out for a good price, because how inconvenient would it be for them if property values here went up?

And when you’re forced to take their low-ball, that lowers the so-called “fair” market price for every neighbor within 10 country miles. This is how they are literally stealing from our communities: the loss of property values is a huge part of the Extraction Debt they owe us.

Extraction Debt is a financial bomb. Our communities are forcibly stripped of property values, and those values are destroyed for future generations. But it’s not just money. We even pay in years from our lives. You can look at the maps of health impacts from fracking and mining operations—maps showing how mining and fracking communities have reduced life expectancies—and see the smoking craters where those financial bombs are going off.


Many folks just run when that bomb hits.

That the media even wonders why WV is so poor when this is what they legislate is a matter of no little mystery to me. Regardless, this is a structural problem that must be fixed if we want things to get better for ALL of us.

That’s what Forced Pooling is all about, that whiney, entitled affluenza you may have been witness to in the public hearings on these bills: “You have to sell it to me for way below what it’s worth to you, otherwise I can’t make millions!” is really an argument our representatives should simply laugh off as crazy, particularly when Extraction companies can declare bankruptcy on miner pensions and then pay themselves million dollar bonuses for saving that money.


These companies are perfectly able to offer a price to buyers that would make it worthwhile for them to sell. But gosh, they wouldn’t be making as much money. And their affluenza derangement means that it doesn’t occur to them that the owner should able to hold out and say “Gee, $2500 just isn’t worth it to me, given that I’d potentially lose $25K in property values.”

How dare we not want to lose property values if it affects their bottom line! Like Rex Tillerson, they seem to actually believe the only property values that need protecting are their own.

These assaults on our constitutional rights shift any profit we might make, any value we might leave to our kids, into the hands of Resource Barons.

Because here’s the thing: if they really want to purchase what we have, all they have to do is offer a price we’re willing to sell for. But there are Lords of Misrule legislators on both sides of the aisle are fighting to legalize that theft for them, in exchange for political bribes campaign donations. That way they don’t have to offer a good price. They can toss the beggars some coins and laugh as we fight one another for them.

Ha. Ha. Funny right? Joke us if we can’t take a screw!

It is not a partisan issue. It’s just us fighting for our lives, our futures, and the futures of our children.

Republican or Democrat, all of us want our constitutional property rights to be protected.


Historical Excerpts about the Highland Clearances… that will sound painfully familiar, especially if you’ve been following #NoDAPL:


“Mr. Taylor, a native of Sutherland, well educated in the evicting schemes and murderous cruelty of that county, and Sheriff-substitute of Ross-shire, marched from Tain upon the morning of the 31st March, at the head of a strong party of armed constables, with heavy bludgeons and fire-arms, conveyed in carts and other vehicles, allowing them as much ardent drink as they chose to take before leaving and on their march, so as to qualify them for the bloody work which they had to perform; fit for any outrage, fully equipped, and told by the Sheriff to show no mercy to any one who would oppose them, and not allow themselves to be called cowards, by allowing these mountaineers victory over them

“[N]o time was allowed for parley; the Sheriff gave the order to clear the way, and, be it said to his everlasting disgrace, he struck the first blow at a woman, the mother of a large family, and large in the family way at the time, who tried to keep him back; then a general slaughter commenced; the women made noble resistance, until the bravest of them got their arms broken ; then they gave way. This did not allay the rage of the murderous brutes, they continued clubbing at the protectless creatures until every one of them was stretched on the field, weltering in their blood, or with broken arms, ribs, and bruised limbs. In this woeful condition many of them were hand-cuffed together, others tied with coarse ropes, huddled into carts, and carried prisoners to Tain. I have seen myself in the possession of Mr. Ross, Glasgow, patches or scalps of the skin with the long hair adhering to them…”

“In this unfortunate country, the law of God and humanity may be violated and trampled under foot, but the law of wicked men which sanctions murder, rapine, and robbery must be observed. From the same estate… in the year 1843 the whole inhabitants of Glencalvie were evicted in a similar manner, and so unprovided and unprepared were they for removal at such an inclement season of the year, that they had to shelter themselves in a Church and a burying-ground. I have seen myself nineteen families within this gloomy and solitary resting abode of the dead, they were there for months. The London Times sent a commissioner direct from London to investigate into this case, and he did his duty ; but like the Sutherland cases, it was hushed up in order to maintain the majesty of the law, and in order to keep the right, the majesty of the people, and the laws of God in the dark….”

For a century [tenant] privileges have been lessening; they dare not now hunt the deer, or shoot the grouse or the blackcock; they have no longer the range of the hills for their cattle and their sheep; they must not catch a salmon in the stream: in earth, air, and water, the rights of the laird are greater, and the rights of the people are smaller, than they were in the days of their forefathers… The swords of the Rosses of Glencalvie did their part in protecting this little glen, as well as the broad lands of Pitcalvie, from the ravages and the clutches of hostile septs. These clansmen bled and died in the belief that every principle of honour and morals secured their descendants a right to subsisting on the soil. The chiefs and their children had the same charter of the sword. Some Legislatures have made the right of the people superior to the right of the chief ; British law-makers made the rights of the chief everything, and those of their followers nothing. The ideas of the morality of property are in most men the creatures of their interests and sympathies. … Sad it is, that it is seemingly the will of our constituencies that our laws shall prefer the few to the many. Most mournful will it be, should the [people] have been cleared away, ejected, exiled, in deference to a political, a moral, a social, and an economical mistake,—a suggestion not of philosophy, but of mammon,—a system in which the demon of sordidness assumed the shape of the angel of civilization and of light…”



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