This article was written by Douglas V. Gibbs and was originally published here.
According to Article I, Section 8, aside from adding territory as spoils from war, the only way the federal government can own property is if they “purchase” it with the “consent” of the State legislature for the purpose of “needful buildings.” Much of the land west of the Mississippi River owned by the federal government was not obtained in either manner. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management unconstitutionally regulates/manages (or should I say “mismanages”) a massive portion of the United States.
Confrontations have emerged in Nevada and Oregon, of late, with the Bundy name attached to both situations. The iron grip by the federal government on these lands has led to limitations on land use, be it for grazing, farming, timber or other uses that in our short history as a country was not so much of a concern not very long ago.
According to Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah, the land belongs to the ranchers, and farmers, and ultimately to the citizens. “This land is your land,” he says, “and not the federal government’s.”
“It’s like having your hands on the lever of a modern-day Louisiana Purchase,” said Mr. Ivory, who founded the American Lands Council and until recently was its president. The Utah-based group encourages the federal government to give the land back to the States, and the people, and seeks to accomplish this “encouragement” through legislative and judicial means.
Ivory agrees with what folks like the Bundys are trying to accomplish, but he believes more can be accomplished through a more bureaucratic tactic.
In his home State of Utah, the local legislators have passed a law demanding that the federal government return federally controlled land to the state. The federal government has refused to comply, so now a $14 million lawsuit to claim 31.2 million federal acres of canyons, scrub desert and rolling mesas is in place.
Last year, Colorado had a Republican state senator from the agricultural eastern plains of the State sponsor a bill to create a Colorado Federal Land Management Commission, to study turning over federal lands to the State. The measure never made it out of the Republican-controlled State Senate.
Oregon’s lone Republican Representative Greg Walden, the Republican who represents the Oregon district where the Bundy takeover was playing out, stood up in Congress to deplore the tactics of the armed protesters, but sympathized with their frustration.
“More than half of my district is under federal management, or lack thereof,” Mr. Walden said, expressing anger at the Bureau of Land Management. “They have come out with these proposals to close roads into the forests. They have ignored public input.”
In July 2014, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas proposed preventing the federal government from owning more than half of any state’s land. (Five states are more than half federal land, according to a Congressional Research Service report.)
Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz has proposed a bill that would eliminate all Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement personnel.
The House Natural Resources Committee have recently considered three related Republican bills: one would allow states to take over 2 million acres of federal forests, primarily for logging; another is focused on an aircraft range but would transfer the rights to some roadways across federal land in Utah to counties; a third would let States manage tracts of federally owned land through pilot programs.
The Bundys have emboldened an incredible movement
As all of this unfolds, new land disputes are emerging regularly. The Bundys have emboldened an incredible movement.
Environmentalists oppose transferring control of federal lands. Their authoritarian agenda is easier to pursue when all they have to do is work through a single entity like the federal government, and a complicit one, at that. Allowing the individual States to have a say in how land can be managed might allow hunters and anglers to have a voice, a development the environmentalists have long stood against.
Note: Hunters and anglers are adamant about preserving the wilderness. They want hunting and fishing lands to be unchanged so that they may be used by generation after generation in their original pristine condition.
As it stands now, to use Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, ranchers and wilderness enthusiasts have to pay the federal government for the privilege. That goes for grazing, as well. Ranchers have tried to work with the government, but layers of grazing restrictions and environmental rules have made it nearly impossible to work with the federal government.
While people appreciate the rural nature of federally owned lands, they are angry about BLM policies that have whittled away logging and mining jobs, left national forests vulnerable to wildfires and has blocked human access to enjoy public land.
“The land policies now are, basically, lock it up and throw away the key,” said Leland Pollock, a commissioner in Garfield County, Utah, a county roughly the size of Connecticut with pine forests and stunning red-rock spires. “It’s land with no use. The local economy’s really suffered as a result. Grazing has been reduced. We used to have a thriving timber industry—that’s all but gone.”
While the armed standoffs may be fueled by constitutional reasoning, there are more than just the federal government goons these people have to deal with. The media and the court of public opinion is also watching. Being right is not enough in a culture where perception is a primary key in everything we do. The Bundy gang have been called “right-wing extremists” who are willing to use “dangerous and irresponsible” means to fuel their “lawlessness and violence.”
Notice, the whole point of the fact that the federal government illegally (unconstitutionally) manages the land in question gets lost in the rhetoric.
While more confrontations may be on the horizon regarding the federal government’s control of what should be State land, the liberal left democrats are looking for ways to silence the groups who are making the noise.
The Democratic Party-aligned Center for American Progress has called on Congress to look into groups who occupy federal lands so as to “illuminate” a “network of patriot militias, financiers, and special interest groups that are currently fighting to seize control of U.S. public lands.”
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid commended the report, saying in a statement, “It is time for Republicans to come to their senses and stand up to these extremists and denounce the horrible values they represent.”
Horrible values? Is individualism and State Sovereignty a couple examples of horrible values to Senator Reid? Remember, Harry Reid is the guy who has said in the past that the Tea Party’s belief in limited government is “anarchy.”
Collectivism at work. Authoritarianism in action
Collectivism at work. Authoritarianism in action.
The Center for American Progress Report calls the movement to return the federal land back to its rightful owners a “radical county supremacy movement … which argues that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement authorities in the United States.”
Your County Sheriffs ARE your last constitutional line of defense against an intrusive federal government. They are your highest level of “elected” law enforcement officials for the purpose of protecting State Sovereignty, and the unlawful intrusion of the federal government into State issues. Federal Supremacy, or at least the liberal left’s false definition of it, is at the root of this whole thing about the feds thinking they can do as they please. The federal government was not created to be involved in, or manage, internal issues. Studying the United States Constitution, and the documents related to it, reveals that the federal government was created to protect, preserve and promote the union, and State Sovereignty by being given authorities regarding external issues, disputes between the States, and internal issues that are directly related to the union like the postal system, or protecting intellectual property through entities like the patent office and copyright office. All other issues are “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” (Tenth Amendment). After all, prior to the writing of the U.S. Constitution, all authorities belonged to the States (this is a concept known as Original Authority). Federal Supremacy only applies to constitutional laws and actions by the federal government. The illegal seizure of lands, or the ownership of lands as a result of extortion (an original condition for statehood in many of the cases of Western States) does not automatically make those lands federally owned in a legal manner.
“If the land agencies actually tried to listen and solve the problems of the people instead of imposing a dogma on them, we wouldn’t have this issue,” Utah Republican Representative Rob Bishop, who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, told Reuters.
Ultimately, the goal must be to return the lands, and mineral rights, to the States. There is nothing in the Constitution that allows the federal government to own the land, manage the land, nor require the States to ask permission from the federal government to use the land for any reason. The very fact that the States have had to involve the federal government in things like the Keystone Pipeline (aside from the issue regarding the pipeline crossing the federal border between the United States and Canada), or whether or not they can drill for oil or mine for other resources is not only unconstitutional, but appalling. Internal issues are none of the federal government’s business. Those issues belong to the States. The States created the federal government to protect, preserve and promote the union, and State Sovereignty, and for nothing more. For the federal government to demand more, and seize more, such as we are seeing regarding BLM land, is nothing less than tyranny.
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