We are writing with some exciting news from the State of Utah, which may just lead the way to a brighter tomorrow -- both environmentally and economically -- for the entire American West, where a majority of land remains under the cruel thumb of distant federal bureaucrats.
A full two-thirds of Utah's land is managed by the federal government. By contrast, the feds control a mere 5% of lands east of the Mississippi. Residents of Western states have long bemoaned this unfair treatment (and rightly so). It often felt, however, as if they would always have to resign themselves to “second-class statehood.”
Now it seems that Utah has found a credible way to fight back. A commission of Utah lawmakers hired some of the nation’s most esteemed legal minds to study the feasibility of challenging – and beating – the federal government on the issue of public lands.
The commission’s findings, issued Wednesday, should encourage those of us who value federalism. They believe the federal government’s continued holding of Western land might be found unconstitutional under the following well-established legal theories:
Equal Sovereignty Principle– Western states appear to have less de facto sovereignty relative to Eastern states, in apparent violation of this principle.
Equal Footing Doctrine– Under this doctrine, newly-admitted states are supposed to have the same rights as older, pre-exiting states.
Compact Theory– When Utah accepted statehood, the federal government promised to dispose of its lands in a “timely” manner. Surely, 119 years would strain anyone’s definition of “timely.”
For the growing movement to “Free the Lands,” Wednesday’s news from Utah was truly historic. With the release of this key report, the State of Utah has taken a critical step towards finally wresting its lands out of federal hands – and empowering other Western states to follow suit.
If Utah's attorney general decides to move forward with litigation, we believe this case would merit close attention from voices for limited government nationwide.
On social media, we encourage use of the #FreeTheLands hashtag. If you'd like more information, or if you have local insights to share, don't hesitate to kindly let us know.
To read the commission’s full report, please click here.