A Washington State house bill would begin the process of reclaiming lands owned by the federal government within state borders.
House Bill 1192 (HB1192) was introduced on Jan. 15 by State Reps. David Taylor (R-15), Graham Hunt (R-2), Elizabeth Scott (R-39), Matt Shea (R-4), Dan Griffey (R-35), Liz Pike (R-18), Chris Reykdal (D-22), Bob McCaslin (R-4), VIncent Buys (R-42), Roger Goodman (D-45), Larry Haler (R-8), Joe Schmick (R-9), Larry Condotta (R-12), Larry Pollet (D-46), Lynda Wilson (R-17), and Jesse Young (R-26). It would attempt to address what has become a hot-button issue in recent years: the federal occupation of vast swaths of land primarily in the western states of America.
HB1192 states that “the United States shall extinguish title to all public lands; and transfer title to public lands to the state of Washington. If the state subsequently transfers title to any public lands received under subsection of this section, the state shall: Retain five percent of the net proceeds the state receives from the transfer of title; and transfer ninety-five percent of the net proceeds the state receives from the transfer of title to the United States. In accordance with the Washington state Constitution, the amount the state retains… must be deposited into the permanent common school fund.”
The federal government has until the end of 2015 to comply with provisions mandated under HB1192. Certain lands would be excluded from the law and kept in the hands of the federal government including a variety of national parks, lands managed by the United States forest service as a national volcanic monument, lands owned by the US military and Department of Energy, and lands belonging to Indian tribes.
The basis of HB1192 comes from the state legislature’s findings that “federal funding and the resulting capacity for responsible management of federal public lands are in serious jeopardy while critical threats such as beetle kills, invasive species, watershed degradation, access restrictions, and catastrophic wildfires continue to escalate.”
It is worth noting that the federal government is given discretion to own land by the Constitution in three distinct forms: territories, enclaves and other property. Territories referred to land that was owned by the federal government but had not been formally made into states. Enclaves referred to land within a state that was owned by the federal government for essential purposes such as ‘Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards.’ Other property refers to land holdings for enumerated purposes, and gives the federal government limited discretion to possess land.
However, the Constitution does not authorize permanent land-grabs by the federal government. It authorizes Congress to make “all needful Rules and Regulations” pertaining to land. ‘Needful’ was a word carefully chosen to indicate that the regulatory power only expanded to powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The feds were expected to sell off non-essential land and distribute the subsequent monies in ways that benefited the public good such as paying off the debt or tax cuts.
The current regime of federal land management is blatantly unconstitutional. The founding fathers never intended to create a Republic where the feds could impose draconian fees on peaceful individuals and force them from the land. As a matter of fact, that is exactly the arrangement that the Constitution was written to prevent, as it clearly violates the principles of fiduciary government, sympathy and independence.
When the historical record is examined, it makes it abundantly clear that the Republic has gone awry since the days of the founders. Systematic attacks on the property rights of Americans have been justified through deliberate misreadings of the Constitution. This will only be changed when the public wakes up, re-discovers their rights and takes action against unjust federal power. That is what HB1192 is all about. Washington residents have the chance to rebuke systemic violations of the Constitution, and should take full advantage of this opportunity.
If you live in Washington, call your state representative and politely urge them to co-sponsor and support HB1192. Afterward, call your state senator and politely urge them to introduce similar legislation in their chamber. You can find their contact information HERE.
All Other States, visit the American Lands Council for more specific steps you can take to fight federal land grabs in your state. In the mean time, contact your state legislators and politely urge them to introduce similar legislation to HB1192. You can find their contact information HERE.