President Trump’s choice of Wyoming native William Perry Pendley for acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has lit a fire beneath leftist MSN.
Why? Because, as they put it:
Trump’s pick for managing federal lands doesn’t believe the government should have any.
And, or course, on a constitutional level, that’s pretty much right. But don’t bother talking the “constitutional rules” with Steven Mufson, the author of the piece.
Mr. Pendley formerly ran the Mountain States Legal Foundation, has argued numerous cases in favor of property rights, and is the author of three non-fiction books outlining the unconstitutional federal “ownership” of huge swaths of western land, and shining a spotlight on the long list of federal government abuses of individual property owners and state prerogatives perpetrated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the BLM.
And, according to Mufson, he argues, in part:
The Founding Fathers intended all lands owned by the federal government to be sold,” he wrote approvingly in a National Review magazine article in 2016. He said 'westerners know that only getting title to much of the land in the West will bring real change.'
And Pendley is pretty much right on both counts.
Under the so-called “rules” of the US government, aka the US Constitution, the federal government is only supposed to run a parcel “not exceeding ten square miles” for the Capitol (Washington, DC) and, with the consent of state legislatures, to have the “power” to purchase and run military garrisons and ports by the Consent of the Legislature of the State “in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.”
The clause, found in Section 1, Article Eight, in case Mr. Mufson or the MSN “journalists” would like to look, was intended to be used for the defense of each state, per the request of each state, and has utterly no connection to so-called “public lands” such as the enormous parks and “national monuments” that the feds have unconstitutionally grabbed since the days of the seemingly unhinged Teddy Roosevelt and the passage of the 1906 “Antiquities Act”.
The only other land the feds could constitutionally control were US Territories, which, if made states, entered the union with the full rights and privileges of all states – and no state had to cede land to the feds.
In fact, Article Four, Clause Three, of the US Constitution clearly lays this out:
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress… The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
But most Americans have normalcy bias. They grew up in a corrupted system that sees the federal government “own” 61.2 percent of Alaska (an additional 100 million acres now is in dispute after an Obama land-grab), 61.6 percent of Idaho, 45.8 percent of Colorado, nearly 30 percent of Montana, 52.9 percent of Oregon, 64.9 percent of Utah, and 48 percent of Wyoming. They see propaganda released by the government, using their tax money, to promote all the “good” things on the “federal land”.
Of course, many don’t see the fires that can be linked to poor federal management of land; they don’t see the aggressive actions of the BLM honing in on land that, legally, is supposed to be run by the states and had been (in the case of Bundy Ranch) legally granted by states and territories to family ranching over a century ago. They overlook the lands that are supposed to be owned by native Indian tribes.
In the contemporary zeal to see public lands “owned” by the feds as wondrous and beautiful, they also overlook the fact that government ownership of any resource introduces the economic principle of the Tragedy of the Commons, which reveals that anything that is not privately owned, but is, instead, run by government through the extraction of everyone’s tax money to varying degrees (even those of the unborn, due to deficits), the people being taxes justifiably want to have a say over it. And this pits people against one another as they vie to have their preferred use be selected by the great overlords of the state.
So when Mufson adds in his MSN piece environmental worries over how federal lands are “rented”, he shows us the manifestation of just that principle – the Tragedy of the Commons – and reflects justified concern. He writes:
Pendley’s legal ties, as well as his policy positions, have attracted scrutiny. Environmental groups are pressing Interior to formally recuse Pendley from any involvement in a court case in which he is still the counsel of record representing an aging businessman, Sidney Longwell and his small company Solenex.
And Mufson continues, showing us more possible problems:
Solenex purchased a 6,247-acre lease in northwest Montana in 1982 during the Reagan administration for about $1 an acre. Longwell wants permission to build a six-mile service road and bridge over the Two Medicine River on lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet Tribe. Interior wants to cancel the lease. He would use the road to bring in drilling rigs and other oil exploration equipment.
The trick is that the corporation didn’t really “purchase” the land. They rented it, for uses the politicians saw fit, and, evidently, according to Mufson, contrary to ancient tribal land rights and usage, and possibly at the expense of the environment.
This is why all federally “owned” lands not only should be sold off to allow for what the Constitution mandates, but also to allow for the revelation of real interests and preferences among the people.
Let the land that is supposed to belong to Indian tribes be returned. Allow each of them to decide how they want to handle their own land, thus allowing real preferences to be shown. And cede or sell off all federal lands to the states and the people therein. Only by allowing private property to he held and traded, to be used as people see fit and sans political gamesmanship – be it for environmental causes, or agriculture, or energy interests – will we see real prices attached to the lands and real uses shown, based on real human preferences.
Not only will land be better protected, this is the only way anyone can say that “people value” those uses for the land.
Right now, the government not only runs the lands unconstitutionally, its control means that, literally, no one can say that those lands are worth anything to anyone. Since no one has had a choice to show what the values are of the land, and since the politicians taxing people to run them aren’t paying for the land themselves, all federal land currently reflects no value.
Only freedom can do that.