Tuesday, 22 April 2014 11:56

Western States Want Feds to Surrender “Federal” Land

Written by 

Elected officials from across the American West, from top lawmakers to county commissioners, held a historic gathering in Utah in recent days to discuss how Western states could wrest control of the almost 50 percent of land in the region currently claimed by the federal government. Aside from constitutional concerns — with a few exceptions, the U.S. Constitution does not authorize ownership or control over land by the political class in Washington, D.C. — the Western leaders and legislators cited economic harm, environmental degradation, loss of tax revenue, and numerous other reasons for the effort.

Meeting at the Utah Capitol late last week for the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands were more than 50 elected officials from nine Western states: Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Multiple state House speakers were in attendance. Even U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who is developing a reputation as one of the few solid Constitution-supporting lawmakers in the Senate, addressed the gathering in support of Western states and their mission to gain control of the territory in their borders.

Meanwhile, across America, and especially the West, growing masses of citizens celebrated the effort to put the out-of-control federal government back where it belongs — inside its constitutional cage rather than in states where it has no legitimate business. Following the nationwide scandal surrounding the abuse of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his supporters in an effort to crush his business by the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management, the outrage over out-of-control federal land machinations is reaching a boiling point.

While the summit was organized before the Bundy-BLM fiasco stirred national fury against the federal actions, the confrontation at the ranch between productive citizens and rogue bureaucrats reportedly provided additional urgency to the efforts. “What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” explained Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, one of many high-profile leaders in the state who say the federal government needs to hand over the land. “The majority of these states have more federal land within their borders than land of their own. It is about fairness.”

Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, one of the summit organizers, noted that there is an estimated $150 trillion in mineral resources “locked up in federal lands” across the West — wealth that is desperately needed by struggling American families in a flailing economy. Aside from that, the federal government has been an especially poor steward of the land, he added, endangering Utahans and other citizens across the Western states. 

“The acres harvested are dropping precipitously,” Ivory was quoted as saying. “At the same time, the catastrophic wildfires are increasing dramatically, the cost, the acreage. That’s killing millions of animals; it’s destroying habitat and watershed. So, if we don’t stand up to act now, and seeing that trajectory of what’s coming, we know that down the road those problems are only going to get bigger.”   

Indeed, state officials in Utah, facing an increasingly power-hungry federal government with a “current fiscal trajectory” that is “unsustainable,” have been taking the lead on the effort. Among other initiatives, state policymakers are preparing for a future where Utah will have to become financially independent of a federal behemoth that is drowning the public in debts. To that end, the state passed a law in 2012 demanding that the federal government surrender control over the land inside Utah borders that bureaucrats and politicians in D.C. claim to own.    

Outside of Utah, those sentiments are growing as well. Numerous state lawmakers and leaders from across the West said the time had come for the people of the Western states to take control of their destiny. Instead of mandates from faraway politicians and bureaucrats infamous for their inability to balance a budget or properly manage much of anything, participants said states could do a better job.

“It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke was quoted as saying, adding that land managed by states was being kept in far better condition than forests and rangeland controlled by the federal government. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.” Others said much of the land should simply be put in private hands, perhaps auctioned off to bidders with the proceeds used to pay down the federal government's gargantuan and growing debts.

Organizers of the summit also said states could and would do a better job — although that is far from the only reason for the feds to relinquish the vast expanses of territory it purports to own. “Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” declared Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, one of the summit organizers, adding that federal lands have increasingly been managed with “politicized science” and bad policy. “We have to start managing these lands. It's the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms.”

While the federal government claims to “own” relatively small amounts of land in the east of the country, when it comes to states on the other side of the Mississippi river, the situation is radically different. Nevada, for example — the site of the recent showdown between heavily armed federal “land” bureaucrats and the ranching family — Washington, D.C., purports to own more than 80 percent of the state’s territory. In Alaska, the figure is about 70 percent. In Utah, where the meeting was held, the feds claim about two-thirds of the land. By comparison, in New York, it is less than one percent.

Much of the land purportedly under federal jurisdiction contains extremely valuable resources: oil, timber, coal, minerals, water, and more. If it was under state or private control, the people of the American West would be able to benefit from that vast wealth much more directly. Instead, with the feds claiming to be in charge, states and citizens are reduced to begging the D.C.-based political and bureaucratic classes for permission to do anything and for crumbs that may be left over from whatever economic activities are permitted.   

Perhaps the most important factor in the escalating showdown, though, is the U.S. Constitution — the contract whereby state governments delegated certain limited powers to the federal government. In Article I, Section 8, the American people, acting through their sovereign states, granted this authority to their agent: “To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.”

In other words, the federal government’s purported claims of jurisdiction over an estimated one-third of America’s landmass are brazenly unconstitutional. Whether federal courts are willing to concede that should be irrelevant — the language of the Constitution is clear, and there is no need for "interpretation" by federal supremacists in the federal judiciary. 

Federal land-lording is also unwise for a variety of pragmatic reasons, experts argue, and there can be little doubt as to how America’s Founders would have felt about it. “I would say the last thing you want is the federal government's ownership of lands,” R.J. Smith, a senior fellow in environmental policy at the National Center for Public Policy Research, told Newsmax. “That's not why this country was founded. That's what the Founding Fathers were trying to escape — the king's house, the king's land, the king's everything.”

Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, education, politics, and more. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU.

Photo of Arches National Park

Related articles:

War on the West: Why More Bundy Standoffs Are Coming

Feds Exploit “Threatened” Bird for Massive Land Grab

Questions Raised About Senator Reid’s Connection to Bundy Ranch Dispute

Burning Up the West: Feds, Greens Cause Catastrophic Fires

Judge Blasts Federal Conspiracy; Ranch Family Vindicated — Again!

Remembering a Champion: Helen Chenoweth-Hage

The United Nations’ Big Green Machine, by Helen Chenoweth-Hage

The EPA's Property Wrongs in America

Eco-Villains? No — Just Pawns in the Federal Land-grab Scam

This Land Is My Land — Isn't It?

Obama EPA Hands Control Over Wyoming City to Indian Tribes

National Heritage Areas: The Land Grabs Continue

The Real Agenda Behind UN “Sustainability” Unmasked

Exploiting Indians to Seize Land

10 comments

  • Comment Link Greta Hyland Wednesday, 14 May 2014 13:29 posted by Greta Hyland

    This article is absurd on so many levels. Do you really think it is going to be better to put the land in the hands of private owners? How much do you think grazers will pay then? What about OHVers? Have you ever gone hunting in Texas or in the East where you have to get permission from the private land owners? You guys are shooting yourselves in the feet by supporting this. Wake up. You think the feds are bad? Wait until real "kings" known as tycoons and billionaires own the land. It will be gone. This measure will not help average families, it will help the few at the expense of the many. Oh, and one more thing: see the Property Clause in the constitution - if you respect the document so much, you should read the whole thing. Unbelievable.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Friday, 25 April 2014 21:49 posted by MemphisMickey

    These are the JBS own words:
    Tangent: Civil Disobedience
    [A]s also stated in the Blue Book, we believe that a certain amount of government is an absolute necessity for any civilization. Because, without law to protect a man’s life, family, and the results of his productive labor, there can be no freedom — as both the wisest Greeks and Romans had already learned two thousand years before us.
    — Robert Welch, July 1978 Bulletin
    It is not proper to test a law by disobedience to a law. Respect for law must be cultivated as a virtue in a free society. Moreover, civil disobedience has often been employed as a Communist tactic to induce passage of more restrictive laws and to increase the government’s enforcement powers.
    Citizens must obey all civil and proper laws that protect life, liberty, and property. Questionable laws should be obeyed until they can be legally corrected or repealed by an orderly legislative process. Over a period of years, The John Birch Society has legally blocked passage of many unconstitutional and dangerous measures by exposing them to public scrutiny. And the Birch Society is ambitiously engaged in the lawful process of repealing and rescinding other bad laws, as well as blocking proposals for questionable constitutional amendments.
    17
    Tangent: Militant Revolt
    The basic strategy involved here is also one reason why so much of the Communist agitation and propaganda of the poor misguided fools at the bottom is being aimed, in open and vicious hostility, at the very Insiders in the upper levels who are subtly encouraging, promoting, and controlling it. For their interest and plans do not lie in the success of these militant revolutionary operations, but in the public reaction which such increasing lawlessness and defiant treason will ultimately produce. The straightjacket of brutal force can then be subtly woven over the American people by the very power which these Insiders can gradually seize and exercise, with public acquiescence, as a means and under the excuse of putting an end to such rampant anarchy, crime, and confusion.
    — Robert Welch, November 1969 Bulletin
    Movements calling for the forceful or violent overthrow of our government (including those advocating even the slightest semblance of militant revolt) must be vigorously opposed. Actions of this kind are led either by misguided fools or by our mortal enemies. The problems in Washington stem only from the ignorance or neglect of the people. Neither Congress nor the White House is occupied by forces beyond our power to expose by vigilant, peaceful, and honorable means. Every necessary and lawful mechanism is now in place for expelling the politicians who violate their oaths. Additionally, we have the means for exposing the power that props them up.
    The American people do not need a revolution except in their understanding and fortitude. It would be a serious mistake in strategy not to capitalize on the strength of the system we have inherited and which the enemies of freedom are working so hard to destroy. If Americans today understood the principles of good government and the forces of despotism, our problems would be solved readily through the normal political process. Without this understanding, what hope can there possibly be that freedom could come out of insurrection and revolution?
    With widespread understanding, revolution would be unnecessary — the electorate would empower a constitutionalist Congress followed by the restoration of good government. Without that understanding, particularly of who the good guys and bad guys are, any attempt at rebellion would play into the very hands of those seeking total power.
    Make no mistake about it, the power behind the scenes in Washington would be very pleased to see a violent revolution in America. It would bring about the very conditions under which that real enemy could surface and openly take full dictatorial control. As the JBS educational army advances, members and friends must not be tricked into employing methods having even so much as the semblance of anarchy, violence, or force.
    18

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Friday, 25 April 2014 21:32 posted by MemphisMickey

    No I will not quit. I will not give up. The insiders want YOU to fight back. They want YOU to justify their suppression
    .

  • Comment Link Nora Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:23 posted by Nora

    Sale of the land or anything on it to the Chinese is an unlawful transfer. Nemo Dat. You can't sell what you don't own. If I tried to sell off the Golden Gate Bridge, it would be about the same situation.
    Our biggest challenge as a nation is to get rid of the whole Department of Justice and replace it with Constitutional Sheriffs. Holder is the cog in the machine that keeps America from moving forward with prosecution of the unelected who are behind the destruction of this country. He needs to be in jail. So does Obama, Soros, Rockefeller, Gates, Pelosi, McCain, Reid, Rumsfelt, and all the stockholders of Monsanto.
    What a crock it is to hear Dirty Harry Reid talk about "domestic terrorism" perpetrated by the Bundy family, when he is the biggest criminal in Nevada. He's the domestic terrorist. I hope this summit resolves to put the federal land grabbing miscreants on trial for their crimes and forces the BLM agents to personally pay damages to the Bundy family for killing their bulls and calves and destroying their water systems.

  • Comment Link Frank M. Pelteson Wednesday, 23 April 2014 10:23 posted by Frank M. Pelteson

    The analog situation of Robert Mugabe, the communist dictator of Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia; and communist dictator Barack Obama, of the formerly free United States of America is clearly evident.

    Both cases have resulted in the loss of a standard of living, deliberately imposed by communist madmen. In Rhodesia there is a runaway inflation and a high death rate, so it's is a forerunner of what's ahead in the United States.

    And in both cases Council on Foreign Relations member Henry Kissinger had something to do with it.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Wednesday, 23 April 2014 05:01 posted by MemphisMickey

    Diana, go to your local "Federal" building and move in saying you are going to live/work there since the Feds don't own it.

  • Comment Link Tionico Wednesday, 23 April 2014 01:04 posted by Tionico

    This article is one of the very few pieces on this subject I've seen that gets to the root of it all: FedGov are restricted by the Constitution to own/control ONLY the District of Columbia, and post offices.post roads, and military bases. Ownership/control of these vast tracts of land is contra our Constitution... and they KNOW it (or are criminally negligent in not knowing it).

    There are two simple cures: state legislatures need to begin enacting laws along two lines: first, simply declare that, per the Constritution, ALL lands (excepting post offices, military bases, etc, allowed in the Constitution) within the boundaries if that state immediately become lands under the jurisdiction of that State. No "law enforcement", taxation, assessments, permits, fee imposition or collection, activities can take place from the time of ratification as law, going forward.

    Second, an additional set of laws making it illegal, and with severe sanctions for violation, for ANY Federal agent to be armed, or to initiate any law enforcement or policing activity within the boundaries of the state in question. NO BLM agents can show up armed, as happened in Clark County Nevada recently. No SWAT missions, not even military action against civilians (already contra the Constitution, but let's make it crystal clear as some of these dufi never excelled at reading comprehension).

    Third, NO revenue collection activities related to any lands within that state can occur by FedGov agents within the state.
    ALL revenues derived from any former Federlly owned/controlled lands within the state accrue to the state. Further, the State now have control over all former Federal lands not otherwise excluded, including the right to sell or transfer ownership to any party deeemd appropriate by the government of that state.

    SO.. FedGov are defanged and declawed..... and will remain thus in perpetuity within that state.
    Now, FedGov are defanged and declawed.

    And lastly, but equally critically, NO FedGov enforcement of any laws, warrants, writs, etc, may proceed unless FedGov first attend at the office of the Sheriff in the County in which the desired activity is expected to take place, That sheriff shall review the evidence and testimony presented ty the Feds, consider what he already might know about the individuals, properties, possessions, activities, etc, , and either grant or deny approval to proceed. And that FedGov agency shall ONLY operate under the supervision and awareness of thatr Sheriff or his duly appointed deputy.

    Now, we have the lands back, along with all revenues associated with them... full control now rests in state hands, including revenue, activities, land use, etc. As it SHOULD have been upon that state's acceding to the Union. FedGov are, per the COnstitution, now subordinate to state and county law enforcement officials and protocols.

    End of problems as we now see are out of control with FedGov.

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:24 posted by Old Mullet

    It seems that very few people are interested in the "long term" reasons for the government encroachment on private property rights. American citizens have been so well indoctrinated with animal rights (wildlife corridors across the nation) and military "buffer zones (expansion of federal land around bases) and recreational areas for future generations (now being called International Parks). There are many more but it all comes down to this decade's push for human "footprint" reduction as an important segment to AGENDA 21. We all NEED to learn this U.N. administrated plan/document which is a crucial part of "One World Government". Key people such as G. Soros, and B. Gates are at the top of the list for contributors and planners. Federal land ownership was never meant to be, according to our Constitution. Just think how much better military bases would be if each state owned the land (as they should) and leased it to the military.

  • Comment Link Diana Tuesday, 22 April 2014 18:53 posted by Diana

    People just keep ignoring the elephant in the room. The Feds don't own anything. They are purportedly supposed to manage Federal lands. Granted, Obama has signed over the water and mineral rights as repayment to the Chinese for the debt, but it doesn't belong to them. Instead of concentrating efforts on bogus claims by the Feds, they need to be arresting and trying these politicians for treason.

  • Comment Link Joyce Tuesday, 22 April 2014 18:32 posted by Joyce

    Kudos - Way to go West and may all the other states follow suit to reclaim all of our National Parks and all the acreage inside our states borders that the federal government has gradually usurped away from its rightful owners over the years with more of the Bundy land grabbing schemes - denying citizens their rights because they have shamefully made deals to sell off the lands to wealthy foreigners under the guise of EPA - which really has no concern whatever over the fate of the bats, snails, darters, owls or whatever except to use them to obtain the land for their illegal deals.
    Fortunately the real deal behind trying to grab Bundy's land was exposed before they succeeded in their land grabbing scheme - also the BLM was exposed in their hypocrisy of trying to put the deal through over cares of survival of the desert tortoise and they had just killed off thousands of these tortoises themselves, supposedly for lack of funds. Is there no honest agency left that has connections to the federal government?????

Please Log In To Comment
Log in