Wednesday, 23 April 2014 16:00

Lawmakers Unveil Plan to Liberate Western Lands and Evict Feds

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With the now-infamous federal abuses against the Bundy ranching family and its supporters in Nevada helping to awaken a sleeping giant, liberty-minded elected officials from Western states are coming together with citizens to take action in defense of the Constitution and the West. Their mission: to wrest control over the vast expanses of land and wealth in the region that are unconstitutionally claimed by the Washington, D.C.-based political and bureaucratic classes. Now, a new alliance of lawmakers and citizens has a concrete plan to make those goals a reality.

As The New American reported this week, more than 50 elected officials from nine Western states met on April 18 at the Utah Capitol for the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands. Among them were state House speakers, state senators, a U.S. senator, county commissioners, and more. The goal, multiple organizers and attendees explained, is to strip the federal government of the almost 50 percent of land in Western states that it claims to “own” in defiance of the U.S. Constitution and various agreements.

One of the lawmakers who participated, Washington State Rep. Matt Shea, a liberty-minded Republican who also stood with the Bundy family, says that lawmakers from Western states are determined to protect the Constitution and their constituents. “Legislators from across the West are saying enough is enough,” Rep. Shea told The New American after the summit in Salt Lake City. “We are banding together to fight federal overreach wherever it rears its ugly head, not just talk about it.”

To do that, last week, another alliance of lawmakers, citizens, businessman, ranchers, sheriffs, officials, and more came together and created the Coalition of Western States United Against Tyranny, or COWS for short. Already, the network has seen phenomenal growth, with more than 25 lawmakers joining up by April 22, Rep. Shea explained. “COWS has grown massively in just one week and legislators from all over the West are jumping on board,” he said, adding that he was “absolutely” optimistic about their prospects for success.

COWS advocates a five-step process to evict the self-styled federal landlords from the Western United States, Rep. Shea explained. In the short term, county governments should draw up management plans for the land in coordination with state and federal agencies. Already, federal law requires that U.S. bureaucracies work with local officials, though in practice, that rarely happens. At the same time, states should also introduce and pass legislation to prohibit any net loss of private land to government.

In the longer term, federally (mis)managed lands should be transferred over to state authorities, “because government closest to the people is best,” Rep. Shea continued. “The federal government cannot possibly know how best to manage land in the thousands of different locales like the people of those areas could,” the popular Republican lawmaker explained, echoing the sentiments of countless other policymakers and activists who say the federal government needs to be stripped of its vast, unconstitutional land holdings.

“Clearly,” Shea says, “the people of Western states would do a better job managing those lands.” In fact, among the most common complaints on the issue in the West is the fact that the feds have done a terrible job maintaining the land they purport to own — especially when compared with the areas managed by state and local governments, or even private citizens. The COWS lawmakers said an excellent, proven process for transferring federally managed lands into state control has been laid out by the American Lands Council and others.

Then there is the issue of keeping promises. As the Western territories were officially becoming states, like in the East, the federal government agreed to eventually transfer those lands. However, as with so many other promises made by the D.C.-based political class, so far, it has not been fulfilled. “The enabling acts of the Western States make it clear the federal government was meant to be a steward only until such time that the states could manage,” Rep. Shea explained.

 

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