Roger Barrus

The BigThink website documents that the federal government controls more of Utah – on a percentage basis – than 47 other states, putting its brand on some 35,000 square miles of land there.

Now in what could be described as a Sagebrush Rebellion on steroids, a resolution advancing quickly in the state Legislature asks the feds to relinquish their control over that land.

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“Be it resolved, that the Legislature of the state of Utah calls on the United States, through their agent, Congress, to relinquish to the state of Utah all right, title, and jurisdiction in those lands that were committed to the purposes of this state by terms of its
Enabling act compact with them and that now reside within the state as public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management that were reserved by Congress after the date of Utah statehood,” says the State Jurisdiction of Federally Managed Lands Joint Resolution.

Its chief sponsor is Rep. Roger Barrus, and it already has been approved in the House and advanced to the Senate.

It continues, “Be it further resolved, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior, to the United States Director of the Federal Bureau of Land Management, to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and to the members of Utah’s Congressional Delegation.”

While a resolution does not have the force of law, it was through resolutions that many of the articles through which states are in rebellion against their federal government today got started.

Those issues include firearms freedom acts, rejection of REAL ID, rejection of federal marijuana laws and a refusal to apply interstate commerce limits to intrastate commerce.

Some states now are proposing to set up state commissions that would evaluate federal mandates for their constitutionality.

It is in the West where most of the federal government’s 650 million acres of land is located. Some 22 million is in Utah.

According to BigThink, the lands are used as military bases, parks, reservations and are leased for forestry and mining operations. In Nevada, the federal government controls 84 percent of the land, in Alaska, 69 percent, and in Utah 57 percent. Other states are Oregon, 53 percent; Idaho, 50 percent; Arizona, 48 percent; California, 45 percent; Wyoming, 42 percent, New Mexico, 41 percent and Colorado, 36 percent.

Agencies with say-so over the acreage include the BLM, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Defense, Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.

Barrus told the Salt Lake Tribune, “We call on Congress to revisit how public lands are being managed by the BLM.”

House endorsement came on a 61-9 vote.

The resolution cites the Constitutional Convention’s aims that “state governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty and independence which they before had and which were not exclusively delegated to the United States Congress.”

It explains that “the federal trust respecting public lands obligates the United States, through their agent, Congress, to extinguish both their governmental jurisdiction and their title on the public lands that are held in trust by the United States for the states in which they are located.”

If that is not done, the resolution said, “the state is denied the same complete and independent sovereignty and jurisdiction that was expressly retained by the original states, and its citizens are denied the political right to establish or administer their own republican self-governance as is their right under the Equal Footing Clause.”

The resolution explains that use of the more than 22 million acres at issue “has been eroded by an oppressive and over-reaching federal management agenda that has adversely impacted the sovereignty and the economies of the state of Utah and local governments.”

Now, suddenly, it explains, the Department of Interior has “arbitrarily created a new
category of lands, denominated ‘Wild Lands,’ and has superimposed these mandatory
protective management provisions upon BLM operations and planning decisions in violation of the provisions of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, and Presidential Executive Order 13563 concerning openness in policymaking.”

The result is Utah officials feel the state is better off running land inside its borders itself than having bureaucrats in Washington making those decisions.

The Sagebrush Rebellion developed on a small scale during the 1970s when federal bureaucrats imposed a large number of new rules and regulations on lands throughout the West, interrupting business and other uses of the lands that had been going on for years.

The current general antipathy toward Washington probably is expressed most strongly in legislation under development in Tennessee, Arizona and Montana.

Generally, the state proposals would establish a commission for the review of “all federal laws and regulations for constitutionality.” State officials then would decide whether they qualify and could be in effect in the state.

The plan has been promoted by The Patriots Union, a Wyoming-based organization that is taking on the battle against what it considers an overreaching federal government.

WND also has reported that a large number of states are battling Washington over specific issues state lawmakers and governments believe they should decide.

Attorney Stephen Pidgeon, a spokesman for the Patriots Union, said states are starting to assert their rights under the Constitution.

He said the idea is as old as the administration of Jimmy Carter. At that time it was called the “Sagebrush Rebellion,” when Western states fought back against Washington’s control of land inside their borders, especially oil-rich and coal-filled land resources.

“There is no constitutional right for the federal government to hold natural resources, federal parks,” he said. “For states such as Utah, which has been fighting with the federal government to regain ownership of its own lands, [this nullification plan] offers a strong argument to chase the government off its property.”

The issue is being forced into the headlines by President Obama’s law that effectively nationalizes the decision-making process for health care.

But states also have raised the issues of currency, the REAL ID Act, marijuana laws, guns, health care regulation and others.

“Under the Constitution states are required to use coinage of gold and silver,” Pidgeon said. “But the federal government has inflicted on the states the fraud of a debased fiat currency.

“This is the best mechanism that has been developed to date to put the beast back in the cage,” he said.

Officials with the Patriots Union say dozens of states are working on the idea of a nullification plan.

Major components of the proposal are:

  • Establish the constitutional grounds for state nullification;

  • Establish a swift method for nullification of any unconstitutional federal act, past, present or future;
  • Establish that only the U.S. Supreme Court has “original jurisdiction” under Article III of the U.S. Constitution;
  • Establish that the people (not the courts) have the final word;
  • Establish the very limited role and power of the federal government under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments;
  • Reject modern expansions of power via misinterpretations of the commerce, welfare and supremacy clauses
  • Regain state and citizen control over the runaway Fed.

The legislative proposal is a huge leap beyond what has developed in the states where officials are telling Washington to back off.

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