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Category: Monticello College Comments: 13

My Experience At The Utah State Legislature: Part Two, State Sovereignty

 Read Part One Here

Simulation - Committee Hearing

This week went by as fast as the first week. However,  I got so caught up in reading and writing that I was negligent in prepping and briefing bills.
I will do better in week three.  It turns out that all of those simulations of committee meetings and floor debates that we have done in the past are very much like the real deal…without the consequences of course.
We had some great meetings during this second week.  We met with a delegation from another state who is very interested in the Legal Tender Act that Representative Galvez sponsored and passed last year. There is a second bill coming and a joint resolution that is making its way through the process right now.
This effort (legal tender – you must click on this link) will prove to be, in my opinion, one of the most important directions that Utah is taking.  The press it has received over the past 12 months is unbelievable.
There was also good discussion regarding the Article V bill being presented by Rep. Daw, although this may take a while as there is considerable push back from legislators and the general public. More on this in future posts.
The third initiative I am excited about is the work being led by Rep. Ken Ivory.  I am going to ask you to help me a little on this, so let me give you a brief outline.
The process for a territory to become a state or states, is called an Enabling Act (this link is the Enabling Act for Utah. All US states except for the original 13, have Enabling Acts).  The general process is as follows:
1. State borders are defined out of territorial land (which of course is owned/controlled by the US government).
2. The national government agrees to “extinguish” title (sell to private parties) to the land within the borders of the new state and the state agrees not to claim any taxing power on that land until title is extinguished.
3. This process is intended to occur in a reasonable time as based on the Equal Footing Doctrine.
4. Once the US title is extinguished, the state has the right to levy property tax to support the functions of government.
The problem is that there 12 states (including Alaska) for which the US government has not yet “extinguished” title, 12 states for which the US government still has title to anywhere from 36-84% of the state lands.
If this bothers you, if you think that it’s weird that the federal government still owns so much of these states’ lands, I am asking you to go to this link Are We Not A State? and click the “like” button.  Be sure to check out the videos.
This has everything to do with being Sovereign States and personal liberty.  Stay tuned for next week’s adventures at the Utah State Capitol.

The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly 30% of its total territory. These federal lands are used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, or are leased to the private sector for commercial exploitation (e.g. forestry, mining, agriculture). They are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.
This map details the percentage of state territory owned by the federal government. The top 10 list of states with the highest percentage of federally owned land looks like this:

  1. Nevada           84.5%
  2. Alaska            69.1%
  3. Utah               57.4%
  4. Oregon           53.1%
  5. Idaho              50.2%
  6. Arizona           48.1%
  7. California        45.3%
  8. Wyoming         42.3%
  9. New Mexico     41.8%
  10. Colorado          36.6%

Notable is that all these states are in the West (except Alaska, which strictly speaking is also a western state, albeit northwestern). Also notable is the contrast between the highest and the lowest percentages of federal land ownership. The US government owns a whopping 84.5% of Nevada, but only a puny 0.4% of Rhode Island and Connecticut. The lowest-percentage states are mainly in the East, but some are also in the Midwest and in the South:

  1. Connecticut      0.4%
  2. Rhode Island     0.4%
  3. Iowa                  0.8%
  4. New York          0.8%
  5. Maine                1.1%
  6. Kansas              1.2%
  7. Nebraska           1.4%
  8. Alabama            1.6%
  9. Ohio                  1.7%
  10. Illinois               1.8%

Source: Stanford Magazine
 Don’t forget to go to this link Are We Not A State? and click the “like” button.  

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Comments (13)

  • Ammon Nelson

    I just quickly read through Utah’s Enabling Act and I may have missed something, but I didn’t read where the US government agreed that they would eventually sell back all state lands. I saw that until it was done, the state had no authority to tax these areas, but I didn’t see that. Could you help me find it?

    February 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm
    • Shanon Brooks

      Great question. Here is the language:
      (look carefully at the phrase in quotes)
      Second. That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof; and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes;
      “and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States,”
      the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States,
      It is stated that the government will sell the land off or “extinguish” its title to the land. When? As no time is specified, it is implied by normal contract law that it must be done in a timely fashion.
      Also study the “Equal Footing Doctrine.”

      February 4, 2012 at 2:53 pm
  • Chris Nichols

    I wasn’t aware that the Federal ownership was so high in the western states. It would seem to me that the original 13 and the first early states, that came after the Revolution, would not have as much Federal ownership because they were already well populated and the earlier patents and grants would have effectively already divided the lands up among the citizenry.
    The western lands obtained from the Louisiana Purchase and onward were actually bought and owned (so to speak) by the Federal government and it seems that they have retained much of that claim.
    I haven’t studied the Louisiana Purchase that deeply, but now I am wondering if that was such a good purchase? The French were not likely to be able to defend such a large territory and we could have taken it by force or even sheer numbers (colonial era occupiers?).
    Did we buy it to repay them for their help in the Revolution?

    February 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm
    • Shanon Brooks

      Cheaper in lives and cash than fighting for it. Study “Equal Footing Doctrine.”

      February 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm
  • Alix Kowalczyk

    At least the Feds don’t own NY….our monsters come from within.

    February 5, 2012 at 9:37 am
    • Shanon Brooks

      But still easier to slay that from without.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm
  • Alix Kowalczyk

    The devil is in the details. If you read any deeds at the County Clerk’s Offices, you will see some amazing things, that will affect title to a property FOREVER (or until challenged in a court). Words like “extinguish”, “life use”, “rights of reversion”, “mineral rights” should all be highlighted in neon lights. Any property coming out of the Federal government is a nightmare to research. Our government at work.

    February 5, 2012 at 9:43 am
    • Shanon Brooks

      The “legalese” is what we all need to learn more of. Why? Some may ask, “it’s so boring.”
      As you said Alix, at the end of the day, the legal is what wins.

      February 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  • mark ure

    nearly a third of the country and half of the west is under burecratic control with no direct accountability to the electorate who live around and have purchased grazing and mineral rights on these lands. that is a bad idea and the and has created a lot of problems both economically and environmentally for the west.

    February 6, 2012 at 9:02 am
    • Shanon Brooks

      That is exactly why we are moving forward with Are We Not A State? ( We take this phrase from the Dred Scott case when he declared, “Am I not a man and a brother?”
      Please go to this page and help us influence the Utah State legislature specifically and all other state legislatures collectively, to step-up and take their rightful place as sovereign states (republics).
      This is the best move to:
      stabilize state revenue
      wean ourselves off of federal monies (which all fiscal projections show as unsustainable)
      develop vast natural resources
      protect private and individual rights

      February 6, 2012 at 9:39 am
  • My Experience At The Utah State Legislature: Part Three, Teaching the People | Shanon Brooks

    […] Read Part Two Here […]

    February 14, 2012 at 10:21 am
  • Steve Smith

    I never understood the impact of Federal ownership of land to the economies of the states. Here we are in the West, with a much smaller population density than the Eastern States, and thus, less tax revenue to begin with, then the Federal Government’s ownership of land deprives us of more revenue from taxes, grazing fees, mineral development, etc.
    What’s really galling is how so many Eastern liberals tend to treat the West as their own private playground that they keep tied up in “Wilderness”, or “National Monuments”, or “Primitive Areas”.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:22 pm

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