Rusty Rogers: Rod Miller Is Wrong About Acquiring Federal Land

in Rusty Rogers/Column

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By Rusty Rogers, guest columnist

Once again our state legislature is looking at the possibility of reclaiming the land the federal government laid claim to in 1890. One member of the Cowboy State Daily family (Rod Miller) has said that surrendering that land was wisdom. I am not sure why giving up millions of acres is wisdom.

Before placing the statehood committee on a pedestal, it would probably be a good idea to find out why they would do such a thing when even then it was clear there was a fortune under the land. Coal, oil and various other minerals some of which are only now being recognized as valuable.

I far as I can find out it was a compromise of sorts. It is clear if you look into the actions of the federal congress at the time that state hood was not going to happen unless the land was surrendered. Wisdom or coercion.

Once a territory becomes a state the federal government has no authority to retain land without their permission or release. Hence the request to surrender the untitled land prior to statehood.

Constitutionally the federal government may acquire and retain land for its enumerated powers. This includes parcels for military bases, post offices, and housing for federal employees engaged in enumerated functions. It grants no authority to retain acreage for non-enumerated purposes or to retain land once a territory becomes a state.  Research by Rob Natelson.

It cannot, however, just hand land back to the states willy nilly. There are methods and rules to be followed. It would in short be a mess.

More liberal writers and courts have taken a somewhat different view of the subject but none have disagreed with Rob’s findings. However disappointed they might be. Land is power and wealth and that’s why the federal government wants it. It’s also why Wyoming wants it back.

It should be in the hands of the states or the people. There are very good reasons our founders limited the ability of the government to own land. Though some of our more liberal brethren believe the feds to have the power to own and land for any reason, considering carefully the words of our founders it is quite clear they would not have wanted that at all.

So, do we take our land back or not. Yes we should own all the non-private titled land within the state boundaries excepting the national parks, military bases etc. Do we want to go through that right now? Probably not. Many Wyomingites are very much against the idea. Mainly those who make their living on the loosely regulated federal lands.

I personally think we should first fix our own land use laws. They are designed specifically for the protection of large agriculture and ranches also mining, drilling etc. But not for the public. That needs fixing first. Wyoming state public land use laws are not people friendly. Let’s fix that first.

The state of our country right now needs our attention far more than a renewal of the Sage Brush Rebellion. The state of Wyoming is under attack from the so-called democratic socialists now running things in DC. Our legislature need to be paying attention to defending the state’s rights and liberty.

Some of this year’s bills are in that direction. First things first.

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