The Lies Told By Opponents of the Federal Lands Transfer Movement

Let’s take the basic misinformation that we’ve heard handed out by opponents of the Federal Lands Transfer movement, one at a time: 1. “The federal government spends $billions annually to ‘manage’ our public lands, no western state can afford what it costs the Feds in any state.” The opponents fail to see the fundamental flaw […]

Let’s take the basic misinformation that we’ve heard handed out by opponents of the Federal Lands Transfer movement, one at a time:

1. “The federal government spends $billions annually to ‘manage’ our public lands, no western state can afford what it costs the Feds in any state.”

The opponents fail to see the fundamental flaw in this argument: The American People, as a whole, can’t afford the cost of what the Feds are spending (and wasting) in managing the federal lands.  It is purely a loss proposition at this point which, by definition is unsustainable.  If any enterprise, local or state government in America accepted the federal cost structure for doing anything, every one of them would go bankrupt tomorrow. The current ObamaCare fiasco should make that plain.  

In the State of Idaho, for example, the millions of acres already managed by the Idaho Dept. of Lands actually returns net revenue to the state Treasury.  Applying the same IDL model to the rest of the state will simply result in more net revenue.  Returning the management of the former federal lands to true multiple-use will increase that net revenue stream even more.

2. “Various Supreme Court decisions state that the “equal footing doctrine” doesn’t apply to economics”

Firstly, actually applying the “equal footing doctrine” to the economic sphere was directed by the Supreme Court of the United State (SCOTUS) since the Coyle v. Smith Decision of 1911.   To say that the economic freedom and self-determination of being a “free and independent state” doesn’t apply to legacy federal control of the land is probably one of the worst and most ludicrous doctrines, ever. It’s are right up there with Dred Scott, Wickard vs Filburn, Kelo, Citizens United and, most recently, the Roberts decision in NFIB V Sebelius (ObamaCare decision) among many, many others.

Coyle v. Smith basically said, “No state can have the Sovereignty of a newly admitted state and its people held hostage by either Congress or the black-robed oligarchy.”   It cannot be denied by the Enabling and Admission Acts or, by direction of Congress.  Nor can SCOTUS direct  the organization of a state Constitution where no powers of the US Constitution are present and is also disallowed by the 9th and 10th amendments to the US Constitution.

3.  “The western state’s Founders never intended to keep any of those lands and ‘forever disclaimed’ them.”

First of all, does anyone reading this article or in the opposition actually believe that Idaho’s Founders thought they and all the future citizens of western states were giving up more than 50% of the land to perpetual federal control when 37 existing states didn’t even give up 5%? Of course, not. Did they have the authority (See Coyle again) even if they did? No. Why did no state east of the Rockies do the same?  They knew they could not give-up things that did not belong to them alone but forever belong to the citizens of any state and their posterity to follow.  When they die People instantly lose their property (and all other) rights and delegated powers to those that succeed them.  The “disclaimed” language is exactly the same as all the other states east of the Rockies.  Why was 95-97% of their land disposed of properly yet not in the western states?

4.  “According to the Treaty of Guadalupe and Louisiana Purchase set different legal criteria in disposal of the lands because the federal government paid for the land.”

This ridiculous view stands at complete odds with the language of the Enabling Acts, Admission Act, Federal and State Constitutions. Or, the fact that the lands of the Northwest, in particular, cost the federal government nothing under the Treaty of Oregon but cost the people plenty of blood, sweat and tears to pioneer and develop those states.  

However, whether the federal government paid for or were ceded the lands under treaty and had jurisdiction over the lands as a territory,it was made immediately irrelevant and moot when a state completed the process of state admission.  At that moment all previous claims were extinguished and free title was to pass to the new state, except for Indian Lands and such property and fortifications as applied to Article IV of the US Constitution.  Every thing else was to be disposed of and have previous title extinguished in favor of the new state.  

Gee, sounds just like any other property transaction between two parties when a sale is completed, doesn’t it?  Clear title must be passed for everything that comes under the sale contract.  And no future fundamental rights on the land so designated can be removed in such “law.”  If it could then eventually all rights could be removed and future generations would have none, a completely absurd proposition.  See these analyses of Utah’s HB-148 here and here.

5.  “The state cannot possibly manage those lands.”

The Idaho Department of Lands, for one example, has put forward a pretty convincing case that they’re doing much better with the 6 million total (2.5 million forested) acres they now manage and protect than the federal government does with the 34 million they currently control in Idaho.  Most western states could likely do the same,  I wish someone in the opponents camp would put forth a credible case of why the model that works on 6 million acres, returning net revenue to the state Treasury, can’t be scaled -up.  Is there some mystery “glass ceiling” we’re going to hit that no one else knows about?

6.  “There’ll be no more hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation in Idaho.”

This one is probably the most ludicrous positions being espoused by the Outdoor (Outfitters, Hunting, Fishing, Recreationists, etc.) lobby and others in the “environmental” camp. If no state east of the Rockies has more than 5% of their state lands under federal control, how does that explain the tens of millions of hunters, fishermen and recreationists that hit the field in those states every year?

I did 2/3 of my hunting and a lot of fishing on private land in eastern Colorado when I lived there. It was not hard to gain permission and, in fact, most landowners were under the obligation to grant permission if they also accepted state Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) monies for managing their private lands.  Similar programs can be established anywhere.  The programs benefit outdoor enthusiasts and landowners.

Much of that hunting and fishing and outdoor recreating is better than on any of the federal land.  The argument is just misdirection by opponents and a lot of balderdash.  Plus, they always fail to mention that Wilderness, Primitive Areas, WSA, Monuments, Parks and any similar special designation lands and property will stay under federal management after the transfer.  Hopefully, the Feds will do a much better job maintaining those facilities when their role and control shrinks.

7.  “All the land will be sold off to private owners and western state folks will no longer have access to their public lands.”

This is a statement made by those who do not understand economics. As stated above, this proposal does not effect already designated wilderness, monuments, parks, certain reserves and installations. Much of the transfer land has no other commercial or private economic value other than the public ones it was supposed to be used for before closed off by the Feds. It will simply be held by the state for those same purposes.

Some percentage should be sold off to better economic use because western states should be able to develop their economies on lands they should control on equal footing with every other state. And that does not preclude, as terms of the sale, that traditional outdoor and other access issues be maintained, as well. Few, if any, of the Founders of the US or in the western states would have ever conceived of all land being closed off from all economic development forever. Never.  There’s way too much documentation to the contrary, even among the conservation-minded of the time.

8.  “Indian Tribes will lose their traditional rights and land under this transfer to the state and then come under state control.”

I’ve heard and read this bald assertion multiple times without one shred of supporting information and documentation.  It seems to only be one of many hyperbolic Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) factors thrown into the opponents argument to gain public sympathy and misdirect the issue.  There is nothing in the proposal that abrogates any Treaty with any Tribes, nor could it, as that clearly still falls under federal jurisdiction.  For those Tribes with rights and claims that have otherwise been negotiated without Treaty, during the period of federal control, obviously they would be grandfathered-in to the final terms of the transfer of control.  I have heard no talk among the supporters of state and private control, through the federal lands transfer, of removing any Tribal rights or claims whether they be under Treaty or not.  Most of the opponents argument is sheer hyperbole and polemical ranting.

The bottom line is that the federal lands transfer has Law, history, tradition, economic rationale and common sense behind it.  The opponents have, to the contrary, emotion, hyperbole, misdirection, conscious and specious mis-construction, defamatory and inflammatory rhetoric on their side.  They remain factually-challenged and appear desperate in their ad-hominem attacks on the supporters of the transfer.  That’s just one measure of the weakness in their position.  The idea they’re trying to pose that; states in the west cannot manage their own land as well or better than the majority of the rest of the states is baseless, just flat ridiculous and a non-starter.

States need to act with a strong report to recommend the transfer legislation in the strongest possible terms and enact legislation demanding the transfer be completed. Over one hundred years have past for most of these states with a lawful and binding obligation, of their supposedly “co-equal” states and federal government, wholly unmet.  The federal government has ignored their duty to dispose of the land in favor of the people and the state.   It’s time to close that period and open the next chapter with states that are whole, equal, free and independent in their ability to determine their own destiny through the actions of their own people as the contracted guarantee of a Republic demands.

Get onboard and let’s get busy!