Henry Lamb, Executive Vice President of the Environmental Conservation Organization and Freedom.org, wrote an interesting article on whether lands owned by the Federal government is legal and whether the State can acquire federally owned land via eminent domain. In Utah, the writer cites the original Congressional Neighboring Act. What may be missing from this article is the Fourteen Amendment limitations upon State activities.
Mr. Lamb is certainly clear in one issue, that this is something that will only be decided by the United States Supreme Court.
In 1894, two years before Utah became a state, Congress enacted an "Enabling Act." This act says that:
"...the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof;...." (Section 3)
In the very next section, the act says that:
"...the proposed State of Utah shall be deemed admitted by Congress into the Union, under and by virtue of this act, on an equal footing with the original States…." (Section 4)
Moreover, there is no logical reason for the feds to continue their ownership of land within particular states. State governments can do a better job of utilizing the resources and protecting the environment than can the federal government. Private owners can do a better job at utilizing the resources and protecting the environment than can the state government.
It is high time for the federal government to get out of the real estate business. It is high time that the land and resources of America be returned to the citizens. Surely, both the federal and state governments could benefit immediately were they to sell their land to private interests. Progressives—Democrats and environmentalists—disagree. They are convinced that the government, not private owners, must control the use of land.