Caruba: Time for the States to Take Back Their Land from the Feds

By Alan Caruba

Government Property
Time for the States to Take Back Their Land from the Feds
Alan Caruba
Column by Alan Caruba

New Jersey –-( According to a 2012 report by the Federal Research Service;

“The federal government owns roughly 635-640 million acres, 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.

Four agencies administer 609 million acres of this land: the Forest Service (USFS) in the Department of Agriculture, and the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI). Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska. In addition, the Department of Defense administers 19 million acres in military bases, training ranges, and more. Numerous other agencies administer the remaining federal acreage.”

I suspect it may come as a surprise to many people that the federal government owns just over a quarter of the nation’s landmass and, other than land set aside for military bases and naval ports that may seem excessive. It is.

The drama that ensured when the Bureau of Land Management lay siege to the Nevada Bundy ranch over unpaid grazing fees called into attention the fact that the BLM oversees, according to a recent article in the National Review, “the largest piece of leasable real estate in the American West—245 million acres, an area bigger than the mid-Atlantic states and New England combined. The BLM is its landlord.”

In theory one can apply for a license or lease “to make productive use of this land” noted Travis Kavulla in his article, “Public-Land Colonialism.” In practice “The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires an excruciatingly complex process before even mundane land-use decisions can be made.” It is a regulatory nightmare for anyone who might want to create a mine to access coal or valuable minerals or extract oil or natural gas.

The process is subject to government policies, spoken or unspoken, to restrict access. A current case involves actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the creation of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska even before a permit is requested. A May 12 Wall Street Journal editorial noted that “The EPA’s inspector general’s office last week announced it will investigate the agency’s February decision to commence a preemptive veto of the Pebble Mine project, a job-rich proposal to develop America’s largest U.S. copper and gold mine in southwest Alaska.”

The Obama administration has been devoted to stopping all kinds of projects that might generate jobs and revenue from projects like the Pebble Mine. Its opposition to the building of the Keystone XL pipeline is the best known example, but the EPA’s “war on coal” has closed many mines in addition to coal-fired plants needed to provide electricity.

The EPA is requesting jurisdiction over all public and private streams in the nation and this has been called “the largest land grab in the history of the world.” So it is not just public lands that are affected, but private lands as well.

In an article on World Net Daily, Alana Cook pointed out that “The proposed rule tinkers with the definition of ‘navigable’ waters which was the central point of litigation in a battle between the Supreme Court and the EPA regarding the Clean Water Act.” The proposal would “allow the EPA in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Energy and the Army (Corps of Engineers) to dictate on a never-before-seen scale everything from grazing rights, food production, animal health and the use of energy on private lands.”

This is, simply stated, Communism in which the government owns all the land.

As Craig Rucker, Executive Director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) points out, “There is no engine on Earth as powerful at creating prosperity and improving the condition of both man and nature than free markets. There can be no free market without the right to property.” He warns that “Property rights are under siege.”

One of the BLM’s reasons cited for its actions against the Bundy ranch involved “endangered animals” and Rucker said, “Take away a person’s right to choose how to use their land and in effect you’ve seized that land.” The attack on private land ownership is led by the United Nations Agenda 21.

The government’s control over public lands and its grasp for control of the use of all private lands reflects the Marxist agenda of the Obama administration. It is so manifest that, in mid-April, officials from nine states got together in Salt Lake City to discuss ways to retake control of poorly managed federal lands.

There are federal laws that have been on the books a very long time that are intended to protect private property from the actions we have seen by the BLM and the EPA. One is the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, so this issue has been around awhile, but what is generally unknown is how vast federal control is.

In his National Review article, Kavulla noted that “In Montana, one county that is a traditional center of natural gas production has a whopping 53 percent of its subsurface minerals controlled by the BLM. Proposed resource management plans (RPM) in Montana “more than quadruple the land off-limits to ‘surface occupancy’ which makes oil and gas drilling virtually impossible. Only about one million acres of a ten million acre federal estate would be open to drilling activities under standard leasing conditions.”

America is under attack from within by federal government agencies that are striving to deny access to the greatest energy reserves in the world and to control the lives of ranchers and farmers whose work feed the rest of us.

It is time for the states to take back their land from the federal government and to oversee its use for the development of the economy, the security of the nation, and the protection of private property, the keystone of capitalism.

c Alan Caruba

Alan Caruba's commentaries are posted daily at “Warning Signs” his popular blog and thereafter on dozens of other websites and blogs. If you love to read, visit his monthly report on new books at Bookviews.

  • 6 thoughts on “Caruba: Time for the States to Take Back Their Land from the Feds

    1. Chances are the states have the money to reclaim federal lands, it’s just that the money gets sucked out and used for frivolous things.

    2. Millions of Americans were relieved of their land during the depression of the 30’s. They couldn’t make payment or pay taxes and the government just took it and have been in possession of these lands ever since. Land that was stolen from people and now you can’t hunt, fish, or do much of anything on it. No, the government is not ever going to give it back to the rightful owners or their decedents. But they want them and you to pay for it’s upkeep!

    3. There is an interesting constitutional issue involved here. Where in the Constitution does the federal government get the right to OWN land? The answer is in Article I, and Article I, only. The right is given there, for the federal govt to own property for a seat of govt (that is now Washington DC), and to own the land needed for various military facilities. No other right to OWN land is granted by the Constitution, and the Founders were certainly aware of large tracts of land to the west that we were expanding into, as well as large sections within the colonies/States (to be) that remained unsettled. If it had been their intention for the federal govt to own any of it, they could, and I believe, would, have put that into the Constitution. Since they didn’t, the federal govt is arguably not authorized to own land other than Washington DC and federal military facilities. Period. Keep in mind that OWNING land is quite different from the right to ADMINSTER lands that lie within the boundaries of the country, but are not yet within the boundaries of a state (which CAN own land). When the west was being settled, the territories were administered by the federal govt. They used the Army, US Marshalls, etc. to try and protect citizens who moved into the territories, and those citizens were able to own land in the territories when they settled it. When an area becomes a state, the state takes possession of all land within its boundaries that is not yet privately owned. We still have territories (for example, the island of Guam), although they are now typically administered through local elected governments, but only because that was how the federal govt decided to do it. They could have continued using the Army, etc., as in the old west (it was apparently too much trouble politically).
      In the Bundy ranch standoff, it was pointed out that when Nevada joined the Union, the state agreed to allow the federal govt to have most of the unowned land within their borders, for a fee. That is, the new state of Nevada sold their land to the federal govt. The problem is, the federal govt has no authority other than that granted by the Constitution, and therefore, lacks the legal right to purchase that land from the state, or to own it. It is something like what would occur if I went online and “bought” the Brooklyn Bridge. I might have paid for it, but I still wouldn’t really own it. This remains an issue for the SCOTUS to determine, since it is a Constitutional interpretation issue, but it is not a minor thing. It simply hasn’t been addressed yet.

    4. Keep in mind that, once your state owns/controls the land, ALL the fees and revenue it generates will go to the state’s coffers. Then they’d have enough money to manage it quite well. THAT is why the feds are so desperate to keep it under THEIR control instead.

    5. Unfortunately, my state is in the same situation as Jamie’s (unless we both happen to live in Idaho).

      I would rather see Congress redefine the missions of the federal agencies that oversee the lands.

    6. Our state doesn’t have the resources to even keep their parks open half the time. There is no way they could manage state and federal land. I personally don’t want or trust my state to take care of federal land properly.

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