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.”
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Photo of Arches National Park