The recent standoff between Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM has stirred a lot of controversy over federal lands, but it is not the only case. BLM is planning on seizing 90,000 acres along the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma. Then we have environmental and animal welfare groups filing litigation to stop grazing on federal lands. Despite all of the talking heads on the radio, and numerous interviews with Senators, Congressmen, and attorneys, not one person has touched on the fact that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government very limited reasons by which they may own land within the individual states.
Article 1, Section 8, clause 17 of the constitution describes reasons which the federal government may hold land within the individual states, as well as the conditions by which they may acquire the land. This is extremely simple and straight forward language, which I have broken down and explained below.
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,
This portion of Section 8, clause 17 is describing the formation of Washington D.C. As a gift from the surrounding states to form a Capitol for the fledgling country.
and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be,
As this line states clearly, for the federal government to control lands for any reason in any state, the land must be purchased with the consent of the legislature of that state. Keep in mind that when any territory east of the Mississippi River became a state, the new state held title to ALL of the lands within the new state, other than existing military installations. For some reason, when the territories west of the Mississippi River became states, the federal government forced the territories to cede vast amounts of lands to the federal government as a condition of statehood.
for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings
Here we come to the core of the issue. The ONLY uses for land within the individual states (as laid out in the Constitution) are for defense. Recreation, mining, petroleum, grazing, and timber uses are not among the uses described under Article I, Section 8, clause 17. As this is the only part of the Constitution describing the conditions and uses for which the federal government my control lands within the individual states, these uses are in violation of the Constitution. This would mean the Department of the Interior, as well as all of its various branches are in violation of the Constitution and have no jurisdiction within the individual states.
Taking this case to the Supreme Court and winning would be fairly simple. First there is the precedence that ceding land to the federal government was not a condition of acquiring statehood for territories east of the Mississippi River. Second, there is actually precedence to the federal government being challenged to their right to control land under this portion of the constitution, and the federal government lost in every incidence.
It is time for the states of the west to come together and take their land and resources back from the federal government!