STATES RIGHTS & FEDERAL LAND CONTROL

STATES RIGHTS & FEDERAL LAND CONTROL

This issue calls for strong voices

States Rights

The list of areas in which the federal government has overstepped is lengthy. Among the most egregious is the right to control land. The union is obligated, as a result of the agreement signed in 1896, to allow Utah to control land within state borders. For numerous reasons the federal government has decided, over decades, to disregard its legal obligations. Control land you control resources. Control resources and you control people. Controlling people is the most un-American of goals for the federal government.

There are two particularly helpful resources to understand the needlessly complicated topic of Utah’s, and all western states’ right to control land within its borders: Statehood the Territorial Imperative by Bill Howell and Bill Redd and the November 2014 An Analysis of a Transfer of Lands to the State of Utah.

When Utah transitioned from being a territory to a state, the federal government was obligated, in the terms of the agreement signed to bring Utah into the union, to treat it like all the original 13 states. When it comes to land, it is easy to see in this map that the western states are treated very differently from states in the east.

In Utah’s case, more than 31 million acres are controlled by the federal government.

Most Utahans do not know that the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) exists and it administers land that generates income to fund schools. In addition, they likely do not know, “Most SITLA trust lands are public school lands and, with few exceptions, are largely scattered across the state in noncontiguous parcels interspersed with private and federal lands. Where state lands have development potential but are surrounded by federal lands, federal agencies become the de facto managers of trust lands, complicating state trust land development and resource use.”*
Each year the state legislature has to find ways to fund education. As taxpayers, we get tired of hearing about how difficult it is to fund our schools. We must start by getting access to the land that is already owned by SITLA and do so without some complicated form of land swap.
Fortunately, in the case of two of the national monuments in Utah, President Trump listened to representatives here and shrunk the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalanate. Previous presidents used the Antiquities Act to manipulate their ability to illegally claim land for federal control. As a result, the Antiquities Act, in its present form, must be either repealed or completely reformed.

Not only that, but western states, that have for years been working toward a major law suit must continue to be encouraged to follow this path. Western members of Congress must continue to educate eastern members about the situation and get their support to honor the contract signed on January 4, 1896 to bring Utah into union.

* November 2014 An Analysis of a Transfer ofLands to the State of Utah.