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for people who care about the West

Cherry-picking clauses


The conservative fantasy that the federal government can’t own land in the states is based on an ability to ignore relevant parts of the U.S. and state constitutions (“Fact-checking Trump’s Antiquities Act order,” HCN, 5/15/17). For some reason, they think that Article 1 Section 8, which is written specifically about the District of Columbia, is the only applicable part of the U.S. Constitution. They then deny the existence of Article 4 Section 3, which says that Congress gets to decide how to dispose of and manage any federal property. Their interpretation also depends upon entirely ignoring clauses in each state’s constitution and foundational legislation that specifically, and forever, give up any claim to title to federal lands not specifically granted to the state upon founding.

It’s like complaining that your great-great-great grandfather sold a piece of land with clear transfer of title but because you don’t like it and weren’t consulted (or born), the validity of the deed should be questioned and the property should be given back to you. Except that in this case the Supreme Court has already said, repeatedly, that the federal government has a clear right to own and manage lands.

Tim Baker
Eureka, California