Legislator calls on feds to give up land ownership
By: BOB UNRUH
If President Trump wants to be known as a president seeking the restoration of the U.S. Constitution, one of his goals should be to turn federal lands - the millions of acres run by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service - over to the states.
It's because the Constitution doesn't allow for federal ownership of land unless it's for certain limited purposes, argues a former California lawmaker.
Steve Baldwin served in the California Assembly from 1994 to 2000 and was minority whip during that time. He's argued in a new report in the American Spectator that two recent cases highlight the problem with the federal government owning vast acreages.
And he says the solution is in the Constitution.
"Most Americans have no clue what our founders said about federal land management. The Constitution's Property Clause (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2) gave Congress the power to dispose of property, but does not mention a power to acquire property. However, under the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), the federal government was given the power to acquire land but only for the purpose of carrying out its enumerated powers. This would include parcels for military uses, post offices, etc.
"Nowhere does the Constitution give the federal government the power to retain acreage for unenumerated purposes such as grazing, mineral development, agriculture, forests, or even national parks. This was wisely left up to the prerogative of the states and the people."
He noted the issue has arisen before.
Sen. Tom Coburn has come up with the answer to a Washington bureaucracy that doesn't seem to care about the Constitution, or American people: An Article V convention, which he describes in "Smashing the DC Monopoly: Using Article V to Restore Freedom and Stop Runaway Government."
"Most Americans have forgotten this, but the shady tactics of federal land management agencies were a big issue in Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign. At the time, the movement of those fighting such abuses was called the 'Sagebrush Rebellion,' and this issue propelled tens of thousands of voters to support Reagan's candidacy. To be honest, though, Reagan was unable to carry out any substantial reforms regarding federal land ownership.
"If Trump wants to go down in history as a president who restored the federal government to its proper limited role, then he should revitalize this forgotten section of the U.S. Constitution and transfer all non-enumerated federal land back to the states. Such action will allow states to control their own destinies, create better managed parks and preserves, and create tens of thousands of new jobs by energizing natural resource industries such as oil, natural gas, mining, and timber.
"This is a perfect issue for him. Be bold, Mr. President, and just do it."
The two issues that came up recently, he explained, were Trump's decision to reduce the size of federal land grabs under Bill Clinton and the fight over the Bundy Ranch grazing rights.
"Both events illustrate how the federal government has used its massive land holdings to control the lives of Americans," he said.
At this point, the federal bureaucracy has acquired some 640 million acres of the nation, about one-third.
"The majority of land in Nevada, Alaska, Utah, Oregon and Idaho is owned by the feds. In Arizona, California, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, federal ownership exceeds a third. Indeed, if all 11 Western states were combined into one territory, the feds would own nearly 50 percent of it," he wrote.
The Utah land fight saw Trump knock down the size of the lands demanded under Clinton and Barack Obama from 3.2 million acres to about 1.2 million.
"Not surprisingly, the left went ballistic, but the truth is Trump is the one acting in accord with the Constitution and in the best interest of the people of Utah, and even the environment," he pointed out.
"Both of these land grabs were initiated with little or no input from Utah's civic, political, and business leaders. And, of course, as with most Democrat 'environmental' initiatives, cronyism and corruption are evident. For example, Bill Clinton's Utah land grab - the 'Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument' - placed off-limits all energy development, including the world's largest known deposit of clean burning coal. Not coincidentally, this proviso also quietly benefited the owners of the world's second-largest deposit of clean burning coal: the Lippo group, owned by the Indonesia-based Riady family and, of course, large donors to the Clinton Foundation (and huge Clinton donors going back decades)."
In the Bundy case, in which a federal judge recently dismissed counts and ordered the government not to file more charges because of massive prosecutorial misconduct in the first case, the Bureau of Land Management launched a police-state action against the ranching family over payment of grazing rights fees.
The family argued the land belonged to the state and the feds had no right to charge fees.
Baldwin's report explained how former BLM Special Agent and whistleblower Larry Wooten pulled back the curtain on the government's nefarious activities.
Wooten wrote, "the investigation revealed a widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical, and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff at the BLM's office of Law Enforcement and Security."
For example, Wooten explained, the BLM posted photos of the Bundy family with x's on their faces "as if they were to be eliminated."
His report includes statements attributed to officials such as "Go out there and kick Cliven Bundy in the mouth (or teeth) and take his cattle."
Other comments by the government included, "rednecks," "retards" and "douche bags," the report said.
Baldwin explained that there certainly were nefarious components to the Bundy ranch fight.
"Reports ... indicated that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had teamed up with Chinese billionaire Wang Yusuo in an effort to create a massive 9,000-acre solar energy farm on the same federal land apparently used by Bundy to graze cattle. And Yusuo's company, the ENN Group, contributed over $40,000 to Reid over the course of three election cycles. One BLM document makes clear that Bundy's cattle grazing negatively impacted potential solar farm development on this land," he explained.
When that plan fell apart, Reid began working on another project "which, again, targets the area Bundy's cattle grazes on."
According to Courtwatcherblog, "Harry Reid's interests are clear. He doesn't care about public lands, but what he stands to profit off of their sale, no matter if it's sold to China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, or even South Africa... the facts show Harry Reid's interests in the Bundy men being in jail, make it a lot easier to grab their land..."
Baldwin said returning land to the states would restore the constitutional standard, and would energize the economies of many states.
Baldwin explains that it was during federal convention debates in 1787 that Elbridge Gerry, later vice president, issued a warning. He said federal ownership of land "might be made use of to enslave any particular state by buying up its territory, and that the strongholds proposed would be a means of awing the state into an undue obedience."