Sunday, February 21, 2010

State of Utah to feds: Give us our land back! ~ By Henry Lamb

Henry explains why it's time for the Federal government to give back the land they own in the Western states to the states. Obviously, it will be the environmental activist whackos that will put up the major obstacles in the courts.
Environmentalists and socialists are quick to claim that federal lands are "public" lands, which belong to all people. Except for public parks authorized by elected representatives of the people, there is absolutely no justification for government to own any lands, aside from the lands authorized by Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution.

If the federal government is justified in owning 33 percent of all the land area in the nation, why is it not justified in owning 66 percent, or 99 percent? Of course, environmentalists and socialists would prefer that the federal government own all the land and absolutely control its use. This position is diametrically opposed to the concept of private property honored in both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution.

By Henry Lamb

Posted: February 20, 2010 ~ 1:00 am Eastern

© 2010

In a modern David and Goliath battle, Utah state Rep. Christopher Herrod has introduced HB143, which, if enacted, would authorize the state to use eminent domain to take land from the federal government. About 60 percent of the state is owned by the federal government.

Herrod and his backers hope to inspire other Western states to join their effort to force the Supreme Court to hear their arguments. The federal government owns most of the land in all Western states.

As a condition of statehood, the citizens of Utah were required to "… forever disclaim right and title to unappropriated public lands." In the same July 16, 1894, Enabling Act, the federal government agreed to grant four sections of every township, and various other grants of land, to the state to provide permanent funding for schools and other government purposes.

Herrod and his backers contend that the federal government has not lived up to its end of the bargain, and its failure has imposed economic hardship on Utah. Virtually every other Western state can make the same claim. Moreover, the federal government has imposed environmental regulations that have further stifled the state's ability to use its natural resources.

A particular target of eminent domain will likely be the massive reserves of low-sulfur coal that was locked away forever by the Clinton-era designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Estimates of the value of the coal deposits reach into the tens of billions of dollars.

Backers of the initiative recognize that it will be an uphill battle. The Legislature's own research staff concludes that "there is a high probability that a court would hold that the federal government is the sovereign of public lands." Nevertheless, the state's attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, is ready to lead the fight in court, and Herrod's bill sets aside $3 million for the legal battle.


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