Eminent domain. These are two words that should make most Americans shake in their boots. Why? These two words are indicators that the freedoms promised to citizens by the Constitution can be taken from them at any time on the whim of the federal government.
According to thefreedictionary.com, the definition of eminent domain is:
The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.
By very definition, the citizen has no power. The government is given all authority and power to take what they want and to pay what they want for it.
An egregious case of eminent domain is being fleshed out in the State of Nevada. For generations, the Sheahan family has owned a piece of property near Area 51, a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The Groom Mine is the Sheahan family property that is filled with mineral wealth that could be mined as well as with the remains of Sheahan family members. Decades ago, the government slowly began to encroach upon the privately held land. The Las Vegas Sun reports:
Since the 1940s, the property has been slowly surrounded by federal land, making visits onerous and mining all but impossible. The Air Force has offered to buy the land twice since 2014. But the Sheahans have refused, holding out for a higher price.
The Air Force argues leaving the land in private hands will disrupt missions and pose security risks. “The Air Force has found that civilian presence within the confines of the (Nevada Test and Training Range) has led to more mission cancellations, resulting in an increasing impact on national security-related test and training activities,” said Staff Sgt. Darlene M. Seltmann, a spokeswoman for Nellis Air Force Base.
A federal judge recently acted, and the government has officially won the case to take the family land away from the Sheahans. Here is how it happened according to lasvegasnow.com:
Last month, the U.S. Air Force condemned the Groom Mine property when the family who owns it rejected a government buyout they felt was unjust.
The I-Team broke the story of the family’s fight with the government.
The Sheahan family, which until now owned the mine, knew they faced an uphill fight. They also expected the government would probably take the land through eminent domain even though the Sheahan’s owned it since Abe Lincoln was in the White House.
Now — literally with the stroke of a pen — a federal judge has turned the land over to the U.S. Air Force. The only part of the fight left for the Sheahan family now is compensation and what will happen to the equipment, buildings, even human remains, still at the site.
The Sheahans plan to continue their battle with the US government to get a more appropriate price for the land and to have the ability to remove what is theirs from the property.
Every time eminent domain forces US citizens to give up what rightly belongs to them, it is a harsh reality check for citizens. We are reminded that the freedom we think we have is truly only in our minds.