LAW OF THE LAND

Field and Stream - - ON THE COVER -

TRANS­FER PRO­PO­NENTS have claimed that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment lacks the con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to own pub­lic lands. Pro­fes­sor Mark Squil­lace, the di­rec­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado Nat­u­ral Re­sources Law Cen­ter, makes clear, how­ever, that the Con­sti­tu­tion’s Prop­erty Clause af­fords Congress full au­thor­ity to do just that. He also notes that, upon en­ter­ing the Union, West­ern ter­ri­to­ries agreed to acts re­lin­quish­ing their right to claim pub­lic lands not set aside for them at state­hood. “The no­tion that the states should have the au­thor­ity to es­sen­tially have those lands re­vert to them is not any­where in these en­abling acts,” he says. So, in short, ig­nore what the Bundys say: With­out a con­gres­sional de­ci­sion, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has full au­thor­ity to re­tain pub­lic lands, for all peo­ple.

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