Comments about ‘Letters: What federal land?’

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Published: Thursday, May 16 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Ogden, UT

You've got it backcward. All of the land is federal land before states are created. You should be asking to see the documments where the federal government gave the land in question to Utah when it became a state. If no such documents exist (and they don't), the lands remain federal lands.

Martin Blank
Salt Lake City, UT

Here in Utah, at least, the bill of sale you're looking for is titled "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo." You're welcome.


You may not have missed an amendment - but you are missing a significant part of US history.

Prior to the creation of the Federal government and the United States, there were only the states and each state owned certain land. All the land that comprised what became the original United States was already owned in this manner.

Later land became part of the United States through purchases by the Federal government (Louisiana Purchase, for example) or treaties (such as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo) made with the Federal government by which the land became property of the Federal government of the United States.

US citizens who were allowed by the Federal government to live in territories on this land were eventually able to petition the Federal government to make the territory a state - at which point some of the land in the territory became land that belonged to the new state and some of the land remained the property of the Federal government

There is more to US history than just the Constitution.

Durham, NC

Chester - sorry, but there is a bill of sale for the state of Utah... to the federal government. After the end of the Mexican War, the us bought the area known as Utah from Mexico, who was the owner of it. So yes, there was a bill of sale... and it was to the federal government, not the state.

Read up on the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, The federal government paid 15,000,000 usd for the area now known as Utah.

Kearns, UT

Wow. Where to begin? Since the letter writer opined about other people reading the Constitution I guess I could start by quoting Article IV Section 3 Paragraph 2 of the US Constitution:

"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."

And because the letter writer asked about a bill of sale, and since the above passage of the Constitution specifically points to Federal Property, it may be instructive to note that these portions of land were not bought from the States, because they were actually purchased from Mexico as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican American War. As a part of that treaty the United States agreed to pay Mexico $18,250,000 for the lands it was to receive. This resulted in these lands becoming Federal Property well before any of these lands were accepted into the Union as States.

I hope that was helpful.

South Jordan, UT

The "Bill of Sale" you are looking for is the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. You know, the one that ended the Mexican American war that gave the US the land that the state of Utah now sits on? This was all federal land before states even existed.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

The only land owned by the Federal Government is the District of Columbia and those parts mentioned in the letter.

We are a federation of States. The State is not a "county" of the Federal Government. The Federal Government's job is to facilitate commerce between the States, to act as arbitrator when problems arise, and to raise up an army and navy to protect the States from enemies. Nothing in the Constitution mentions that the Federal Government owns any land inside the boundaries of any State.

The Federal Government cannot "give back" something that it does not already own.

Martin Blank
Salt Lake City, UT

Mr. Richards, whatever shall you do with the Utah Constitution, Article XX, Section 1? It reads: "All lands of the State that have been, or may hereafter be granted to the State by Congress, and all lands acquired by gift, grant or devise, from any person or corporation, or that may otherwise be acquired, are hereby accepted, and declared to be the public lands of the State; and shall be held in trust for the people, to be disposed of as may be provided by law, for the respective purposes for which they have been or may be granted, donated, devised or otherwise acquired."

Why did the state constitution concede that its lands had been "granted to [it] by Congress"? How strange that you aren't citing the relevant constitutional argument.

Open Minded Mormon
Everett, 00

Don't forget the "Alaska Purchase".
The United States bought the entire State from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 Million - what a country?!

FYI -- Manhattan Island New York was purchased for 60 Dutch guilders from the Native Americans -- roughly $1000 in today's value.


Martin Blank
Salt Lake City, UT

You have to excuse Mike, he's still living in 1776 and ignores everything Abraham Lincoln did for this country.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

When Utah was a territory of the United States, it was "owned" by the Federal Government. When it was granted Statehood, it accepted its position and responsibility among the Federation of States. It because equal to all other States and was no longer a "territory" controlled and administered by the Federal Government.

"State lands" and "Federal Lands" are two separate entities. The Utah State Constitution allows the State to own land. The U.S. Constitution has no provision for the Federal Government "owning" land, except for the District of Columbia and for military bases required for the protection of the States.

The Federal Government "administers", it does not own. The people and the States "own". The people and the States are required to carry out every responsibility except for those duties enumerated in Article 1, Section 8, that the people assigned to the Federal Government. Notice how each of those enumerated duties is larger than can be performed by any individual State and that those duties define the relationship that must exist between the States for the federation to work properly.

Tooele, UT

Re: "You've got it backcward [sic]. All of the land is federal land before states are created."

Actually, the "backcward" thinking is to suggest all power and authority resides in the federal government, unless and until it deigns to dribble a little to the states.

In those states created prior to Nevada, admission operated as an automatic cession of public lands to the state, as required by the Constitution. When Nevada was admitted, suspicion of Mormon "celestial empire" doctrine was used to justify illegally forcing ceding its right to its lands, as a condition of admission. The same illegal policy was forced on other politically-weak petitioning states with a Mormon population. Hence, intermountain Western states, including later-admitted Arizona and New Mexico, must unfairly contend with an absentee federal landlord in dealing with most public lands, unlike others without significant Mormon populations -- Nebraska, Colorado, the Dakotas, Washington Oklahoma, and even Montana, which was gerrymandered to exclude Mormons.

Unconstitutional federal land claims in the intermountain West are simply an artefact of anti-Mormon prejudice. Nothing more.

HS Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

What an absurd, baseless article. Seriously, this issue has been resolved years ago and any person or politican who still thinks Federal land is Utah's land is simply stated, a buffon.

Kearns, UT

Mike Richards,

Since your referenced the Utah State Constitution, you should probably re-read Article 3 Section 2 of the Utah State Constitution, which states:

"The people inhabiting this State do affirm and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries hereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes, and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the Congress of the United States."

This section is important, because the State of Utah not only divests itself of all "unappropriated public lands", it also notes that the title holder (or owner) of those lands is the United States.

I will agree with your assertion that this means that the people own these lands. However, you should recognize that this means that a New Yorker has as much claim to Federal Lands in Utah as does a native Utahn.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

Interesting legal points raised here. I guess that's why we have courts. Personally, however, I would prefer Utah's pristine lands remain public to they can be preserved for the future. I simply don't trust the state of Utah to do that.

Far East USA, SC

Some of you are challenging with actual state and federal constitutional language.

What you do not understand is that some (not to name names) reject as invalid, any constitutional language or Supreme Court rulings with which they disagree regardless of how clear it is.

While posting exact language, you may get accused of "spinning"

You may as well be talking to a rock.

Oakley, UT

Just a thought... What is the Federal Government? Is it an entity like General Motors? Is it a private organization?

To me, at least, it is a composite of the States and controlled by their representatives. By granting statehood, and deliniating the borders thereof, the "composite" has granted all lands therin to the State thus created with the exception of certain lands used for the "National" interests such as Parks and Military bases/Forts.

Amendment 10 to the Constitution limits the powers of the Federal Government to those deliniated in the Constitution..all other powers are rendered to the States and/or the people...

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

WOW! just... wow!

UNVELIEVABLE that this letter was printed.

This letter is a prime example as to why we really REALLY need to require students to take more history classes in school.

What does biology, math, and chemistry benefit you when you know absolutely nothing about where we came from, the basics on this country, and the background to this state? How are voters supposed to be informed when they don't know any of this?

Please take more history classes folks. They could eliminate a lot of confusion I see on this board.

Res Novae
Ashburn, VA

The opposition to the Louisiana Purchase claimed that it was unconstitutional for the Federal government to buy and hold title to land. Their challenges were unsuccessful.

Are we really arguing constitutional law issues that were settled in 1803?

I've heard it said that anywhere you look in the State of Utah, you can see land owned by the federal government. The rebuttal to arguments against federal ownership and control is staring you right in the face.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Those who claim that the Federal Government have all authority except what is expressly forbidden belong in the camp that tells us that the Federal Government can own land inside a State (not just military bases).

Those who claim that the Federal Government is restricted by the people and has only the authority enumerated by the people in the Constitution belong to the camp that tells us that the Federal Government cannot own land inside a State (military bases excluded).

Is the Constitution the Supreme Law of the Land or isn't it? Except for military bases, is the District Of Columbia (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17) the only land that the people allow the Federal Government to "own"?

The Constitution expressly tells us that a State cannot be subdivided to create two States; therefore New York has no claim on any lands inside Utah, nor does any other State. That is forbidden by the Constitution. (Article IV). The People of New York have no claim on the land of Utah. They are not citizens of the State of Utah. Utah is not a "suburb" of New York.

Claiming rights and authority that do no exist is unethical.

The Real Maverick
Orem, UT

Mike Richards and company, it's simple.

Utah cannot even maintain their own roads and schools. And you want them in charge of more land??? Huh?

Would you give your child control over your mortgage and bank account when they have been just convicted of drug selling and addiction?

Utah shouldnt be rewarded more land Until Utah shows a capability to maintain the land they already have.

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