Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Federal Lands

                    The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.8.17:  "The Congress shall have Power …. To exercise like Authority over all over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings."  In this provision in the U.S. Constitution, the people of the states give the authority and power over lands and facilities that the Federal Government has purchased - with the consent of the applicable state legislature - to Congress.

                    W. Cleon Skousen noted that this provision appears to give "each state the RIGHT to assume title to all lands within its boundaries which the federal government is not using for the purposes specified in this section."  (See The Making of America:  The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution," p 458.)

                    Our Founders wanted the federal government to be independent of states and cities as well as all foreign governments.  They also wanted the states to maintain their sovereignties.  For that reason the Founders wrote the enclave clause in the U.S. Constitution.  The enclave clause not only gave Congress exclusive legislative authority over Washington, D.C., but it also gave Congress exclusive authority over military installations.

                    Justice Joseph Story wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States"The public money expended on such places, and the public property deposited in them, and the nature of the military duties, which may be required there, all demand, that they should be exempted from state authority.  In truth, it would be wholly improper, that places, on which the security of the entire Union may depend, should be subjected to the control of any member of it.  The power, indeed, is wholly unexceptionable; since it can only be exercised at the will of the state; and it is therefore placed beyond all reasonable scruple."  (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p 145.)

                    The enclave clause pertained to the thirteen original states and was assumed to apply to any new states entering the Union - particularly new states where the federal government owned most of the territory.  "The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared that all new states would come into the Union on a basis of complete equality or equal footing with the original thirteen states.  Therefore it was assumed that as soon as a new territory was granted statehood, the people of that state would acquire title to every acre of land other than a very small percentage granted to the federal government for the `erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock yards, and other needful buildings.'
                    "But Congress did not allow this to happen.  When Ohio was admitted into the Union in 1803, the government retained title to all of the public lands but assured the people that Ohio would acquire jurisdiction as soon as these lands could be sold to help pay off the national debt.  This, then, became the established policy for new states:  1) The Federal government would retain all ungranted public lands.  2) The government guaranteed that it would dispose of these lands as soon as possible.  3) The new state would acquire jurisdiction over these lands as fast as they were sold to private individuals."  (See The Making of America, p 458.)

                    Skousen explained that this policy was eventually applied to all the states located east of the Mississippi River and those included in the Louisiana Purchase.  Those states eventually gained control of all the land within their borders except for small amounts kept by the federal government for constitutionally allotted reasons.

                    Skousen also explained that Congress "radically digressed from the Constitution" when the territory located in the western states was acquired from Mexico.  Congress did this by "virtually eliminating the sale or disposal of federal lands.  The general policy was to permanently retain major portions of each of the western states for purposes not listed in the Constitution.  This policy resulted in the government becoming the permanent owner and manager of over 35 percent of the American landmass.  At the present time, vast areas within the boundaries of these states are permanently designed as part of the federal domain for national forests, national parks, national monuments, coal and oil reserves, lands leased for profit to ranchers or farmers, and huge tracts of land with valuable resources completely locked up as `wilderness areas.'"

                    Skousen listed the following percentages for "land in each of the western states still held by the federal government:  Arizona (45%), California (45%), Colorado (36%), Idaho (64%), Montana (30%), Nevada (87%), New Mexico (35%), Oregon (52%), Utah (66%), Washington (30%), and Wyoming (48%). 
                    "The most flagrant example of all, however, is found in the conditions under which Alaska was admitted to the Union in 1959.  The people were only allowed to occupy approximately 4 percent of their state.
                    "… It is obvious that the federal government is currently occupying millions of acres within certain states without the `concurrence' of those states."  (See The Making of America, 458-459.)

                    It appears that Congress has been unlawfully taking land since our war with Mexico.  In addition, Liberal presidents have been taking land from states in recent years.  President Jimmy Carter, through executive orders and such, securely locked up millions of acres in Alaska and areas in Utah that residents of those states are prevented from using, and President Bill Clinton did more of the same.  It is obvious to me that the federal government has gone outside the authority granted by the Founders in the U.S. Constitution in the matter of federal lands. 

No comments:

Post a Comment