The National Forest Service has announced plans to sell off its 193,000,000 acres of federally owned land. Government attorneys have argued that precedence for federal ownership of land has been set, showing the federal government has the authority over these lands. We can show that the precedence used to prove the legality of federally owned lands was flawed by asking one simple question:
Why did the federal government adhere to the stipulations of Article 17 under the Powers of Congress in all statehood expansion east of the Mississippi River?
For those of you not familiar with this section of the Constitution, it says:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;
The precedence set of allowing territories to become states and NOT withholding large tracts of land east of the Mississippi River would indicate that the federal government is NOT allowed to hold interest of large tracts of land within a state.
The fight needs to be taken to the federal government on a three pronged attack. First disprove that the precedences used to support the government's claims that federally owned lands are legal. Secondly it needs to be pointed out to the Supreme Court in (historical terms, not legal) that the founders of our country, and the drafters of the Constitution were trying to create a government which would not own large portions of the country. The third prong of attack is using someone who is versed in the English language at the time the Constitution was written to describe what the article means in today's language.
By approaching the matter in this way we can prove that the government was acting beyond its authority when it withheld lands from the territories when granting statehood. That precedence used showing the federal government has the authority to control multi-use or recreational lands was false. It will also show that the intent of Article 17 in the Powers of Congress section was purposely written to prevent federal ownership of land.
In actuality, this proposed sale could prove to be an opportunity. The attorney generals of every state having USFS or BLM controlled land should be banding together on this fight. These states should be suing to have all land held by the federal government, falling outside of Article 17, returned to possession of the states. This would allow states to receive the income now going to the federal government for grazing, mining,logging and National Parks.
If you would like to read exactly what the powers of Congress are, click here!