Comments about ‘Legal analysis supports Utah's law on getting federal land’

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Published: Monday, Dec. 9 2013 2:10 p.m. MST

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Hyde Park, UT

Considering the consensus of government attorneys on the unconstitutionality of legal arguments based on the Enabling Act, it seems unlikely that the legal arguments of succeed. This is especially true because of enormous consequences of a court decision in favor of it, which may cause justices to hesitate. Such a ruling would require that federal government to sell off all land it owned during the creation of every state that mentions such possible sales in their Enabling Acts. This would radically alter the economic and political landscape of the United States.
It also would be unlikely to meet the goals of advocates. They want the public lands given to them, not sold, but the Enabling Acts mention only sales. If states are not willing to buy them, the result may be massive privatization of lands. This runs counter to what advocates say they want, which is state management of the lands.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

Who decided this has 'strong legal footing'? Nothing could be further from the truth.
The State never owned the land.
The feds stole it from the natives. The state wants to steal it from the feds.
Who really believes the state of Utah legislators would be better stewards than the feds? The LAST thing we need is for the legislators to take over. At that point the land will truly become locked up with no access for anyone but the millions who buy it for pennies on the dollar.

R-Valley, NV

Turning the land from federal to state control still leaves the land in government hands. It would be preferable for that land to go to private ownership to add to the tax base, and so the state wouldn't be burdened with upkeep.

The state of Utah may legally be within its rights, but ask any Indian tribe how the federal government is at honoring agreements more than 100 years old.

John Locke
Ivins, , UT

I believe that there is a middle ground for this issue, which can be debated by reasonable people, without reference to ideology or political agendas.

Those lands on which minerals and oil and other fruits of the land, which enhance society and produce jobs, should belong to the state of Utah, and could be gradually developed at a rational pace, over decades. The protection of the land in its development, would be a main priority.

As for wilderness and wild life areas, rivers and streams and forest areas, they could be set aside by laws by the state itself, for preservation in perpetuity, for all generations to enjoy.

Land doesn't have to be "owned" by the federal government to protect it. States are not children. Yes, Utah or other western states in a similar position, would have to find a way to maintain the land as well as protect it from development by those who would pour cement or asphalt over anything for a profit.

I love Utah and we need to retain its beauty and charm for all generations to come. We can and should do this as a state, without government parental-like interference.

SomewhereIn, UT


"My question is how the state of Utah would pay for the upkeep of this land. "

Answer: much more efficiently.

Mcallen, TX

Where do the feds get it's money?

How have they managed the money they tax from us?

Only a fool would think the feds could out manage state parks. Their passed history is horrible.

SomewhereIn, UT

@Ernest T. Bass

"Who really believes the state of Utah legislators would be better stewards than the feds?"

Me. I do.

That said, I do NOT like the idea of any public land being sold to private entities.

Back Talk
Federal Way, WA

Didnt Obama say the "income inequality" the premier issue facing the USA? Maybe that idea could be considered when comparing how other states were treated with regard to land.

If Utah could get this land, would they guarantee not to sell it?

Ridgefield, WA

The reporter should have asked the lawyer for why Federal ownership of the land is unconstitutional or should have read through the Sutherland report/analysis and given their examples. Otherwise it is just reporting on opinions which is pretty empty reporting.

Salt Lake City, Utah

From the Enabling Act: "Second. That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof; ... 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,...."

It is pretty straight forward - as a condition of statehood, Utah gave up the claim to unappropriated lands within its borders.

The United States federal government acquired the land from Mexico, part of it was marked out as the territory of Utah, when Utah applied to become a state the federal government ceded some of the land to Utah but retained the rights to the rest of the land.

It was different with the states east of the Mississippi because the colonies acguired ownership of that land as part if the Revolutionary War and prior to the formation of the United States. As they joined the United States they retained their ownership of the land within their boundaries.

Cottonwood Heights, UT

It appears credence is given to the position because of the opinion of a "constitutional scholar." For that reason, and with respect to counsel, six years in practice, apparently outside of a teaching construct, does not a constitutional scholar make. Further, I would suggest the error in her analysis occurs in misinterpreting that the phrase the United States hold title “until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States.” She interprets this as imposing a duty on the US Government to dispose of the land at some point. I take the exact opposite view when combining that phrase with the promise of Utah to “forever disclaim all right and title” in the state’s Enabling Act. I do not see how to overcome the very strong language to which Utah agreed.

Commerce, Texas

I understand the desire of western states, created out of what had been federal land, to gain control over lands reserved by the federal government, but the question is how the Supreme Court of the U. S. would respond to such a claim. The question would be controlled entirely by the federal law creating the state, including any reservation of federal land within its borders to the federal government. Any right not explicitly reserved to the state in the acts of admission of these states simply would not survive the creation of the states. This is not controlled by state law, nor by the Tenth Amendment; it is a simple matter of real estate law. Furthermore, the federal government's long judicially established sovereign immunity would bar suit to recover title to such lands unless Congress gave its consent to the suit, which will never happen. NO good lawyer would take this case.


Asking a lefty to comment on the land issue is liking asking Donald Duck for advice. They rarely understand the constitution or the history of the Enabling Acts of each state. Many of the "western" states started out just like Utah with their land owned by the Feds. But, instead of allowing the Feds to keep their land, they PETITIONED CONSTANTLY to get the Feds to dispose of the land as PROMISED in the ENABLING ACT. They eventually won. Those western states were the likes of Illinois and Kentucky. HMMMM.

Why then and not now?

Cambridge, MA

To "slave" the upkeep of the lands would be paid for by the royalties and fees collected by the people who use the land. For example, when minerals and oil are extracted from the ground, the government gets up to 18% of the value as royalties. The same is done for lumber. Ranchers and shepards pay a fee to run their animals on forest land.

All of the fees and royalties would remain in Utah, and could maintain the funding needed for those lands.

Rawhide Kid
Sevier County, UT

There surely is some positive reasons for the state to manage this land as it could be done so much more effectively under state law than the complying with all federal laws that overlap each other and create conflict and inefficiencies.
There is constant litigation on the federal level and its obvious the Feds. can't get anything done. Just look at the unhealthy conditions of our forests and the damage to our watersheds. The feds did restore the damage of early settlement, but now they are going the wrong direction.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

@NT: Why do you think the state would be better than the feds?

Spanisfork, UT

Its not absurd for the feds to own so much of Utah's land. Most of land owned by the feds is land we all like, such as our mountains and national parks, or is land that no one wants and that not much can be done with, like much of the desert non-mountainous valley regions in the western half of the state. Of course Utah will sell the land, the whole point for Utah getting this land is to sell it to then have a constant stream of property taxes to fund state services. No they will not manage the land better than the federal government. Land controlled by the national forest service and BLM land just outside of National parks is included in HB 148 demands from the federal government. If Utah controlled these lands they would be sold to energy companies to drill for oil just outside of our national parks and to resort developers and millionaires to turn Utah's mountains into gigantic visually polluting Euro-style ski resort with trams and Gondolas crisscrossing every which way and into private non-publicly accessible luxury log cabin estates for the super rich.

Bob Pomeroy
Bisbee, AZ

The headline is very misleading. Law, and legal 'opinions' are inherently 'arguments', not statements of fact

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