They went that-a-way… but they’ll be back.
It’s an election year, so I suppose we ought to be prepared for the smell of sagebrush wafting from the Utah state legislature as our representatives once again don their black outlaw hats. The House Natural Resources Committee has approved a package of public-lands bills to issue a demand to the federal government that it transfer federal lands within Utah, national parks included, to the state by the end of 2014. If Congress fails to comply, the bills would allocate $3 million to begin litigation to force the federal government to relinquish ownership of the land.
There is not a lot that can be said about this except that it is of course utter nonsense. The Property Clause in Article Four of the U.S. Constitution gives the Congress absolute power over federal lands. A state government is in no position to issue demands, and there is no legal basis for any kind of lawsuit. In case our state representatives have never read the Utah Enabling Act, Section 3 Part 2 states: “[T]he people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof…”
In other words, in exchange for statehood Utah politicians agreed to give up any claims to ownership of federal lands in Utah. Forever.
“It’s debatable whether its constitutional or not,” says Governor Herbert. Um, no. This is not debatable. Unless our governor and state legislature are proposing to secede from the Union, then their land grab plan is complete hogwash.
UPDATE: Check out Jesse’s blog for a lively discussion of this insane proposal: The Federal Lands Fight is Worth It.