Both Investor’s Business Daily and I today point out that a week ago Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed House Bill 148, the latest volley in the long-running skirmish known as the Sagebrush Rebellion. The bill demands the United States extinguish title to federally occupied lands — about two-thirds of the state — and transfer title to the state of Utah on or before Dec. 31, 2014.
IBD says, “Utah is out in front, but it is not alone. Lawmakers in the Arizona Senate have passed a bill similar to Utah’s while the legislatures in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico are reportedly following Salt Lake City’s lead.”
Oddly enough, the roster does not include the state with the highest percent of landmass occupied by the federal bureaucracy — Nevada.
I point out in today’s Ely Times column what President Lincoln said in his proclamation declaring Nevada a state on Oct. 31, 1864:
“Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in accordance with the duty imposed upon me by the act of congress aforesaid, do hereby declare and proclaim that the said State of Nevada is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states.”
Anyone can see from the accompanying map that this statement is patently false. The Western states were in no way admitted on equal footing. They were extorted into granting to the federal government control of and financial benefits from vast land holdings inside the boundaries of these sovereign states — land never purchased nor legally acquired except as tribute to Washington for the privilege of statehood. Western states were required to “disclaim” unappropriated lands inside their boundaries.
An example of the financial burden is the royalty paid by oil and gas companies who lease federally occupied land. The 12.5 percent royalty is divided between the federal coffers and the states’, rather the state getting all such revenues.
Today’s rebellion through legislation might not fare much better than past efforts, IBD notes, since Washington will likely ignore it as it has in the past. Nevada passed a similar law in 1979 and in 1996 voters approved a constitutional amendment to remove the disclaimer clause.
The problem is that the federal bureaucrats are beholding to the representatives of 49 other states and not to the local populace who could benefit from the beneficial use of the land.
The Bureau of Land Management has spent seven years studying whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority can acquire rights-of-way on BLM land for water wells and pipelines. Mining permits can take a decade to be approved or denied. Oil and gas leases are being denied over sage-grouse habitat without any explanation as to specifically why. Wind and solar projects require years of expensive studies by legions of bureaucrats, and the final decision resides with federal bureaucrats not local land owners.
Where is Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s lawsuit demanding Congress address the state’s petition for redress of grievance? We’ve been waiting nearly 16 years since that election and 23 years since Gov. Bob List signed that law. And never mind that the voters of the state in 1956 approved taxing federal land should Congress ever allow it. That was a joke.