Every day, little by little, I learn that the federal government is growing stronger, more powerful and meaner. Some things are right there in my face such as Obamacare, the IRS intimidation scheme, the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious debacle and a 200-strong federal SWAT team on Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. Other things are more obscure, but the never-ending saga of government transgressions bring them one-by-one into focus. Take the Cliven Bundy issue-the herd of cattle stepping on old tortoises and getting in the way of the Chinese building a solar power harvesting network.
It wasn’t until the Bundy issue I learned that various branches of the federal government have SWAT teams. I’m not talking about the FBI; Customs and Immigration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; or the Secret Service. I am talking about the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Social Security Administration to name two. Good Lord, pity the 65-year-old guy that exceeds his trout bag limit-two federal SWAT teams holding him at bay on some pond behind his house. I can hear them barking out, “Drop the trout, gramps!”
If staring at all those M-4s doesn’t cause your live bait to shrivel, perhaps this will: the federal government owns about 30 percent of the 2.27 billion acres we call the United States. It owns nearly 650 million acres, some of which are National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and military installations. I don’t have a problem with any of them, but they’re a small percentage of the Fed’s total holdings.
Feds claim it’s their right under the U.S. Constitution, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2, which states, “The congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States,” but nowhere does it say the federal government can own millions of acres of land just for the sake of owning it. In fact, the federal government owns 98.5 percent of the land in Alaska, making it the largest “federal” state in the union. The government also owns 63.8 percent of Idaho, 63.6 percent of Utah, 52.6 percent of Oregon and 47.5 percent of California.
Oddly, I couldn’t find much federal land in any of the East Coast states other than a few military installations. It turns out the federal government didn’t give Western states all their land when they qualified for statehood. Apparently the various Western states were so excited to get coveted statehood that they went along with the conditions despite the confiscation of, for most in the West, at least a third of their land. Not surprisingly, more than a few of those states want their land back.
States wanting their confiscated land returned, so as to be on equal footing with states that actually own their land, call their long-term bid to do so the Sage Brush Rebellion. Without control of their own land, they are not on equal footing and instead may be more servile to the federal government than states that own themselves.
Nicolas Loris, the Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, “Inaccessibility and unnecessary regulations inhibit economic growth in various parts of the country.” Loris notes that studies indicate that “opening up offshore areas for drilling in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf – just one region where offshore drilling is possible but not permitted – would create 280,000 jobs in that region alone.”
While U.S. oil production has gone gangbusters in recent years, most of that production has been on privately-owned land such as North Dakota’s Bakken formation. For instance, the total daily federal onshore oil production is only about one-third of what is produced every day at the Bakken formation.
The Cliven Bundy saga, as well as the Feds talking about confiscating vast tracts of Texas land currently privately owned, brings the issue onto the public stage. Sage Brush Rebellion states would do well to stand tall and demand the return of what’s rightfully theirs. The time is right to stand up to an out-of-control administration, but in the end the best assurance for the citizens of this once-great nation to restore its greatness and to regain control of their government is to turn out the vote.