Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Federal lands for sale

A firestorm has erupted locally about the local article about the sale of 26,000 acres of federal land in Idaho. (if that link doesn't work, you can get in from the local blog link.) Some of the lands in Idaho that are proposed for the sale are questionable, looking like developers are getting some preferential treatment. I am opposed to any cronyism (bureaucracies are rife with it) but the greater question here is why the federal government owns so much land to begin with.

Does anyone know that constitutionally, the Federal Government is only allowed to own a small fraction of land that it needs for basic national defense?

principal 105 from article 1.8.17 of the U.S. Constitution

The people of the states empower congress to exercise complete jurisdiction and authority over all lands or facilities purchased within a state, providing it shall be with the consent of the legislature of that state. Such lands shall be used for "erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, doc yards, and other needful buildings."

The NW ordinance of 1787 declared that all new states would come into the union on the basis the equality of the original 13 states

Therefore it was assumed that as soon as a new territory was granted statehood, the people of that state would acquire title to every acre of land other than the very small percentage noted above.

When Ohio was admitted in 1803, the government retained title to all the public lands, but assured that the people would acquire jurisdiction as soon as these lands could be sold to pay off the national debt.

From that time on, Congress established this policy for the new states with the guarantee they would dispose of these lands as soon as possible and private ownership would take place as soon as Congress could sell the lands.

When the territory of the Southwest was obtained from Mexico, the policy was changed further to full retention of ownership. And by the time Alaska was omitted to the Union, the citizens of that state were only allowed to occupy 4 percent of their land.

From "The Makings of America" by W. Cleon Skousen p. 458-459
Ownership of land is so inherent to freedom that our founding fathers considered it one of the 3 God-given rights. The "pursuit of happiness" refers distinctly to the ability to own land. They had seen first hand the lack of freedom that the royalty allowed when the kings and lords owned all the land.

So we see the slope we have descended. The Constitution allows for Federal ownership of a small fraction of land. The growing bureaucracy has slowly grabbed more and more of the God-given right to "pursuit of happiness."

And couple that with the Forest Service acquiring "about 100,000 acres of new land annually." I cannot see any reason for opposing this sale. Unless we want to be children, serfs if you will, of the nanny state that takes "care" of all our God-given rights.

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