Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

30 March 2010

Utah Challenges Federal Land Ownership

Utah Republican Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill on 27 March 2010 authorizing Utah to file eminent domain proceedings against federal land that limits access to state land that may be used for energy development.  The federal government holds an outrageous portion of Utah, as it does of most Rocky Mountain and West Coast states.  In the case of Utah, the federal government holds 57.4% of the state and that land is generally used not at all or very unproductively.  This fact considerably constrains the income earning ability of the people of many of these western states.  It also reduces our energy supply, intelligent forestry, mineral extraction, ranching, and who knows what other productive uses of this forever fallow land.  In a time of recession and when Washington is controlled by people of a very different political persuasion, this particularly rankles.

There is virtually no chance that this act by Utah will succeed in the courts.  The courts have ruled that the Constitution grants the federal government sovereignty over state lands that it acquires.  This Utah attempt to condemn federal land is an exercise in frustration, but as such, it is significant.  The Governor has said he will first try to negotiate access to state lands across federal lands before going to court.  He hopes the eminent domain authorization will at least get the federal government's attention.

The Obama administration announcement that they are declaring the polar bear an endangered species has angered state officials in Alaska.  The polar bear population has in fact not been in decline, so this is purely an act of environmental political correctness on the part of the Obama administration.  This and other federal interferences are preventing the drilling of oil and gas in many areas in Alaska.

In the late 1970s, the Sagebrush Rebellion attempted to get the federal government to reduce its land holdings in the West.  Anger rose during the Clinton years, as the federal government cut back on logging, mining, and ranching on federal lands.  George W. Bush opened the lands for more use and the anger receded.  After Obama took over, his Interior Secretary canceled 77 drilling leases in Utah in February.  The Utah legislature, hard pressed for tax revenues, as most states are, had been hoping to use tax revenue on leases of state land and income of energy-producing companies to help cover education costs.

Heidi McIntosh, associate director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, chortled that the state was just frustrated that the federal government owned land that blocked the development of state land and that the state could do nothing about it.  They probably cannot, but the Sagebrush Rebellion is being given new life.

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