The Utah Legislature has approved legislation demanding that the federal government cede certain federally controlled lands to the state.
A resolution accompanying the bill says such things as:
“WHEREAS, the enabling acts of the new states west of the original colonies established the terms upon which all such states were admitted into the union, and contained the same promise to all new states that the federal government would extinguish title to all public lands lying within their respective borders …
“WHEREAS, the state and federal partnership of public lands management has been eroded by an oppressive and over-reaching federal management agenda that has adversely impacted the sovereignty and the economies of the state of Utah and local governments …
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that … the Legislature of the state of Utah demands that the federal government imminently transfer title to all of the public lands within Utah’s borders directly to the state of Utah. …”
Arizona is working on similar legislation. So why doesn’t Nevada get on board and pass such a bill?
Well, been there done that.
In 1956 the voters of Nevada amended the state Constitution to allow taxation of federal lands, should the Congress ever consent. In 1996 the voters again amended the Constitution to remove the so-called Disclaimer Clause in which all unappropriated land was ceded to the federal government in perpetuity, should Congress ever consent.
Senate Joint Resolution 27 in support of that amendment read in part:
“WHEREAS, The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders; and
“WHEREAS, On October 31, 1864, the Territory of Nevada was admitted to statehood on the condition that it forever disclaim all right and title to unappropriated public land within its boundaries; and
“WHEREAS, Nevada received the least amount of land, 2,572,478 acres, and the smallest percentage of its total area, 3.9 percent, of the land grant states in the Far West admitted after 1864, while states of comparable location and soil, including Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, received approximately 11 percent of their total area in federal land grants …
“RESOLVED, That the Legislature of the State of Nevada hereby urges the Congress of the United States to consent to the amendment of the ordinance of the Nevada constitution to remove the disclaimer concerning the right of the Federal Government to sole and entire disposition of the unappropriated public lands in Nevada …”
Just this week Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents most of rural Nevada at this time, met with reporters and editors of the Nevada Appeal in Carson City and apparently spent much of that meeting discussing the federal government’s abuse of its stewardship of Nevada public lands.
Amodei, who earlier protested a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to reduce the amount of Nevada land available for lease for oil and gas exploration citing a need to protect sage grouse, told the newspaper he challenges the BLM to either prove that energy, mining and grazing pose a threat to rural Nevada sage grouse habitat.
He repeated his charge that wildfire is a bigger threat to sage grouse habitat. “The biggest threat isn’t mining, agriculture, ranching, energy exploration,” he told the paper. “It’s wildfires that destroy sage grouse habitat.”
He told the paper allowing more grazing would do more to protect the birds.
Why can’t we see the forest for the trees? Why is the federal government in charge making such decisions in the first place?
Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “Solution 2013” book on page 82 spells out the argument for state taking control of federal lands. It points out that in 1979, as part of the Sagebrush Rebellion, Gov. Bob List signed into law a bill that states, “The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders because …” This is followed verbatim by the words of SJR27.
NPRI recommends: “Join Utah in demanding federal authorities immediately relinquish ‘all right, title and jurisdiction’ over federally held lands. Lawmakers should immediately petition Congress for a redress of grievances and direct the Nevada Attorney General to pursue legal action to compel the federal government to abandon its unconstitutional claim to state lands.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop appeared with state officials at the Utah Capitol to support the legislation.
“This debate is over 100 years old,” Hatch was quoted as saying. “I believe we’re in a climate where, if we do it right, the lands in our state can finally come under control of our state.”
Do think Harry Reid would say something like that?
The Review-Journal today editorialized on this topic and pointed out the 1996 vote and saying,
“Nevadans already voted in 1996 to amend the state constitution to remove a clause that gives Washington control of unappropriated land. But new legislation would back up our neighbors and provide a powerful reminder to Washington that Nevadans want the freedom and sovereignty to make choices for themselves.”
Better yet, where is Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s lawsuit demanding Congress address the state’s petition for redress of grievance?