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Why the Government Owns So Much Land in the West

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posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 03:16 AM
So we've all heard about how the Federal Government holds all this Federal Land in the West. In Nevada alone that's more than 70% of its land area controlled and managed by Bureau Of Land Management. Understandably this fact alone is enough to make many sympathize with the causes of Bundy and his militia friends. But what are the facts at hand here? Does Bundy and his supporters hold valid grievances?

Over time, it transferred land to state governments and individuals, largely through homesteading and land grants, which allowed farmers to procure parcels of land for agricultural use....

That strategy worked well in the Midwest, where very little land remains in federal hands. East of the Mississippi, for example, the federal government owns only 4 percent of land.

But in the 11 states in the West (including New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, and not counting Alaska), a combination of geography and politics slowed things down.

There were great efforts made by the Federal Government over the course of decades to transfer land over to State and local governments. However these efforts to transfer land hasn't worked out as planned in the West, why is that exactly?

“The whole disposal system sort of hits a speed bump,” said Patricia Limerick, a history professor and director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado.

The many mountainous, arid and difficult-to-reach tracts of land in the West simply weren’t attractive to farmers. Settlers claimed the few valleys where farming was feasible and built towns. The only thing most of the remaining land was good for was grazing, but cattle ranchers and sheep herders needed large tracts of land to feed their livestock, not the smaller parcels they could claim through homestead policies.

And further below, this is probably the most significant point noted here to be made:

But studies have established that there would be substantial administrative costs for states if they took over. And the federal government transfers a lot of its leasing revenue back to states to compensate for the taxes the states might have collected if the land were in private hands. If they owned the land, the states would have to collect rents and administer permits themselves.

An economic study from Utah in 2012 found that taking over land management would cost the state government a substantial sum: $275 million a year.

Clearly State and local officials haven't been all that interested in assuming control of these vast tracks of land in the past. It's costly, it's mostly useless outside of that of ranchers and their cattle and it's typically cheaper for ranchers themselves to lease the land from the BLM for cattle use as opposed to private land owners.

No doubt though, anybody will take free land I'm sure. But transfer of these lands come at a cost and that's the reality. Personally I do believe State and local officials, private citizens, should start taking ownership of much of the lands held by the BLM. I partly agree with this as I believe Bundy himself would never have gotten away with sucking off the government tet because well, it's the government. He would never be allowed to escape paying his fair share if these lands were privately owned.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 03:33 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

Glad you made a thread on this. I had read it before and couldn't understand why there's so much outrage over the federal government owning land which it has tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the States. I say auction it off at the federal level of states/counties don't want to do it.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 05:41 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

I don't think the NYTimes has its facts straight. The retention of lands by the feds has been a long simmering problem. The western states have been making demands for decades, up to and including today. Farmers may not want the land, but others do. And there is plenty of federal land that is flat and usable for many purposes. Just take a drive along the 40 through California, Arizona, New Mexico, and probably Texas as well.

Western States Fighting for Control of Federal Lands

A new report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) highlights a growing rift between Western states and the national government over what the states argue is gross mismanagement of the federal lands within their borders. According to ALEC, more than 50 bills to transfer public lands from the federal government to state control were offered in or adopted by state legislatures in 2015.

Heaven help us if ALEC is involved... but if we don't listen to ranchers and others, that's exactly who will be deciding who gets this land. And it won't be we the people, but the corporations -- international corporations -- ALEC caters to. Like vultures, they know the end is near, because the feds have done such a piss poor job of managing these lands.

Although critics of plans to transfer federal lands to the states question whether states can assume the growing costs of fighting wildfires, proponents argue federal mismanagement has exacerbated the wildfire problem.

No one is happy with how the lands are being managed. Not the ranchers, not the states, not the environmentalists... no one. And it's been going on a long long time.

In Western states, idea of reclaiming federal land still has a strong allure

It's Not Just Militia Members Who Want to Take Over Federal Land

The issues with federal management are legion. As much land as possible needs to be turned over to the people -- not just the states -- via a new homesteading program.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 05:44 AM

originally posted by: dogstar23
a reply to: Southern Guardian

Glad you made a thread on this. I had read it before and couldn't understand why there's so much outrage over the federal government owning land which it has tried unsuccessfully to transfer to the States. I say auction it off at the federal level of states/counties don't want to do it.

Why do you say the feds have tried to transfer it to the states? I know of land grabs... I know of land exchanges... but I don't know of any efforts to return any of the land to our control. I don't necessarily need links, if you can just give me a general idea, I can probably search myself.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 06:13 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

Wow, rarely do I summarily castigate a rationalization but, this befuddlement is baffling.

Your argument for the federal government's failure to dispose of the property that they are required to is excused by the profound complication of realizing that commitment.

Is that about the size of it?

It's complicated?

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 06:37 AM
a reply to: Boadicea

Thanks for your post Boadicea, I've been reading the links. Gives other evidence to the contrary.

I say if Utah wants the land, give it to them if they're prepared to assume responsibility and the costs, regardless of what motives those State politicians may have.

Also, it is still a matter of fact that many State and local officials have crossed off the idea of assuming control of these lands. Some state officials may see benefit in assuming control of some lands (for profits, thanks to energy lobbyists) but many may not for other reasons. From one of your sources:

No Western state has been as enthusiastic about a landgrab as Utah. In 2012, it passed the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which demanded the feds hand over some 31 million acres, potentially opening them up to even more coal mining and oil and gas extraction. An analysis commissioned by the Legislature found that the state would incur huge expenses if it suddenly gained all that land. (Its costs for firefighting on public land would increase sixfold; Ivory has suggested reducing fire risks with more logging.) That fat price tag is one reason former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a land transfer bill similar to Utah's. Nonetheless, the Utah state Legislature has approved spending up to $2 million to prepare to sue the federal government.

So I guess it may really come down to whether the specific land in question will be profitable to business, and whether it's worthwhile. I'd wager the majority of Federally held lands in the West are barren both on the surface and below, and these are the lands that do not concern State and local officials, they'd rather have the Feds continue to maintain them.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 07:24 AM
The government needs to protect some of this land in case we poison what we are using from allowing too much use of unnatural chemistry in the environment. I can see letting this land enter the private sector if strict environmental policies are enforced, that is very unpopular at the time though. Someday it might be more feasible when profit is put behind environmental protection in our society.

Cows do not hurt the land though. So what if they step on a few gophers, people who go gopher plunking kill a lot more than cows do.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 07:25 AM
Don't forget to add the Welfare Ranchers (Walton Cabal; Simplott Cabal et al.) that are already Billionaires many times over, are using tax payer $$$ to inflate their bottom lines.

Here is that info:

And a prior thread in which the above info was introduced. As with any "scheme" there are players that also operate on the crust.

• Also if the info doesn't show up, don't forget the West has water shortages and these ranches and farms usually have watersheds on them for the livestock.

So use Your $$$ to add to their already too much and buy the land and then sell You back the water You'll NEED to survive. As with the Waltons, You don't NEED most of the Chinese crap they schlep in their stores but You do NEED water.

Read for Yourself.

edit on 10/13/2014 by JimNasium because: added prior ATS thread link

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 07:52 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

Thanks for your post Boadicea, I've been reading the links. Gives other evidence to the contrary.

It's a huge mess, ain't it? There are no easy answers. There are so many grubby little fingers in the pie trying to get their share -- fair or not -- trying to confuse the details and everyone else in the process.

In the end, I think the solution will be multi-faceted. But I do hope that a good portion of that land is turned over to the people via a new homesteading program. Just hearing ALEC is involved gets my hackles up.

If nothing else, it's a good thing that the issue is now on the public's radar, and is getting some much needed attention. As we better understand the situation -- and the players -- we can better understand the solutions. I'll be keeping an eye on your thread. We've got a lot of smart folks here at ATS. I'm looking forward to hearing others' thoughts and ideas not just about the present situation, but potential solutions.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 10:44 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

Here's a point to possibly note--yes, the states would take over the tax-funded liability of maintaining and administering the land, but that would take the burden off of the federal government, meaning that the taxes that went to that at the federal level should be abolished and then the state should add the necessary amount to state taxes.

This should created a even-steven effect on the taxpayer's wallet at worst, even lowering the taxes at best, because most of us would argue that a state could administer control over land better than a government based 2,000 miles away. Hopefully that efficiency would equate to a lower sum total of taxes on the individual.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 10:55 AM
a reply to: Southern Guardian

So what you are saying is that the Federal Government is saying "Well we TRIED to give it back but no one wanted it".

Complete and utter horse #.

It is NOT cheaper to lease from the BLM, in fact most small scale cattle operations can't afford it. There is plenty of land that is difficult to farm and even difficult to run cattle on that the Federal Government owns, that is true, but there is also plenty that is prime grazing land as it sits, and even more that could be, but they won't let it go under the pretense of some endangered plant or animal, that more often than not is not all that endangered.

The BLM is talking out both sides of their mouths on this and you're falling for it. What a load of crap.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 11:31 AM
The give-the-land-to-the-states contingent should be thrilled with the agenda for the House Natural Resources Committee today.

H.R. 3650 by Alaska Representative Don Young of Alaska, would allow the western states to each pick out 2 million acres of federal land to take control over, for logging and some mining. Fortunately, this proposal would not allow the state to takeover any lands set aside for conservation. (whew, at least parks like Yosemite are safe).

This bill would ensure that 50% of the annual timber harvest is given out in 10-year leases, and timbers sales are to be maximized to provide sufficient product to every existing wood processing firm in the state.

They will also be considering Rep. from Idaho, Raul Labrador's bill (H.R. 2316) which is similar to the above, with few limits to which federal lands may be cherry-picked. Oh, and he wants the states to be able to take 4 million acres, and to enable clear-cut logging!
Genius level environmental stewardship.

Here are a few more caveats to his bill:

Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act apply only in so far as they
apply under state law.
- The advisory committee must consult with Indian tribes as well as any collaboratives in
existence at the enactment of the act.
- The Forest Service is still responsible for fire suppression.

Wait, What?! The states want the land, but they don't want to abide by federal laws protecting it (doesn't federal law trump state statues, constitutionally?), and they still want the feds to pay for firefighting.
Nice gig.

The bill will take money from rural school districts to initially pay for administration of the new state land....

I sure hope these bills don't make it out of committee.

ETA: Link to a think progress article about the above legislation.
From the above link:

Recent public opinion research from Colorado College found that approximately six in 10 voters in the region — including a majority in Nevada — are opposed to the idea.
(of federal lands being taken over by the state)
edit on 2/25/2016 by Olivine because: (no reason given)

edit on 2/25/2016 by Olivine because: formatting

edit on 2/25/2016 by Olivine because: fixed some wonkiness

edit on 2/25/2016 by Olivine because: more spelling mistakes

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 01:26 PM
a reply to: Boadicea

international corporations -- ALEC caters to. Like vultures, they know the end is near

And isn't this the very case?. When you talk about international corporations, we can see this land grab as only a part of changing the world from one where a democracy might flourish to one where it will never again be able to. And isn't this a offing if Trump is elected. This idea that he is for the American people to my mind is only part of the ruse of the corporate type of mentality.

Instead of nations we will see corporate holdings. Instead of states we will see corporate districts. Instead of citizens we will see corporate peons, which of course is to a degree what we are seeing already.

But may I ask Boad, who are the people that you espouse to have the federal lands turned over to? You and me? What would I do with it? I'd sell it to the highest bidder.
And WHO is to decide who it is to be sold to. Congressmen or Senators who are in the pocked of corporate lobbyists?
So really, would we see just this federal lands like those ranges and all be sold? And so what, other than those who could afford to buy it in the first place to do what with? Grazing? Mining? Prospecting? Logging? Why would anyone want this land in the first place. Regular citizens would not want to buy it because it would cost to much money to do anything with it.

And then, where do we draw the line? Just these vast, uninhabitable lands? Or do we sell off Yosemite Valley, Crater Lake, the great redwood groves?

Even a cursory historical inspection will show us that under corporate control these lands would be gutted of resources and polluted. The biggest bang for the smallest buck. So what is the advantage to the average citizen for selling off these lands, even though as you say they have been poorly managed under federal control?

I just don't know the answers to my own questions Boad. I see this Corporate World close on the horizon and highly suspect that all of this 'let's degregulate our government, make it smaller, sell it's lands' war cry of the militia as just making it all easier for the internationalists. Sadly, though I agree with much of the militia's gut sense of these things, I fear that they are merely dupes to a much larger and oppressive master than we have now.

posted on Feb, 25 2016 @ 03:22 PM
a reply to: Southern Guardian


The BLM administers approximately 36.5 million subsurface acres in Idaho, along with mining claim records and mineral leases for lands managed by other Federal agencies.

Minerals in the Federal estate are categorized as leasable, salable, or locatable. Each classification is administered differently according to federal regulations and may have different requirements for acquisition, exploration, and development.

Rockhounding is non-commercial, recreational collecting of rocks, mineral specimens, gemstones, or petrified wood and is considered a casual use of public lands under most circumstances. Recreational panning is permitted in some of Idaho's streams and rivers by the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) in some streams and rivers. Learn more about small suction dredging on BLM lands.

Leasable Minerals

Leasable minerals are explored-for and developed in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, other leasing acts and BLM regulations. Leasable minerals today include oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal resources, potash, sodium, native asphalt, solid and semisolid bitumen, bituminous rock, phosphate, sulfur, and coal.

The Western Phosphate Field in southeastern Idaho is the largest remaining phosphate deposit in the U.S. The BLM Pocatello Field Office administers the Bureau's largest and most complex non-energy leasable minerals program in this phosphate field.

Please click on the source above there is more to read.

This might be what your looking for.

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 04:34 AM
a reply to: TerryMcGuire

Excellent summation of what up we're up against. I don't have many answers either, but in general it all needs to be used for the best interests of everyone.

We need to maintain our national treasures, like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, as well as recreational areas for folks, but perhaps they should be jointly managed by the states and the feds. The states should have some say in how lands within their state are managed -- I would say they should have the greater say in fact.

I think as much as possible of the land should be given to people to build homes and communities, perhaps for a nominal fee to cover costs to survery, transfer title and stuff like that; with certain stipulations such as they must build a home within say a year and it must be their principle residence for so many years before they can sell the property.

No land sales to corporations or foreign investors. It's OUR land.

The thing is... we know it can be done... where there is the will there is always a way... but the will of our "leaders" is much different than our best interests.
edit on 26-2-2016 by Boadicea because: Changed "feds" to "states" in second paragraph.

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 04:51 AM
a reply to: TerryMcGuire

I looked up the original Homestead Act of 1862 to see how far off I was from the original homesteading terms:

Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act encouraged Western migration by providing settlers 160 acres of public land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a small filing fee and were required to complete five years of continuous residence before receiving ownership of the land.

Homestead Act: Primary Documents of American History

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 04:54 AM
It's nice to go for a hike on BLM land, all natural, no fences, no "stay off my land" signs, and nobody driving up telling you your trespassing. Instead, usually there's a wooden sign at trail heads that reads, "Welcome, enjoy your public land".

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 04:58 AM
Who is to determine what is "best for everyone" though?

A handful of ranchers and other malcontents seeking to use these lands for their own individual profit?

The lands that are Federally-owned at this point are the property of the People of the United States.

The core of this issue deals with the situation of dual sovereignty in our country.

We are at every moment both Americans and Georgians, Texans, Nevadans, Oregonians, etc.

Our state "identification" changes with the simple fact of our residency, but we are ALL always Americans.

Or we used to be ...

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 06:18 AM
a reply to: Gryphon66

Who is to determine what is "best for everyone" though?

Good question. Not just the "who," but the "what." That's what we need to figure out. What would you recommend? Who would you recommend? Who and what would you not recommend?

It seems to me the we the people should at least be part of these decisions.

posted on Feb, 26 2016 @ 06:52 AM
Thanks for the thread I've been meaning to make one addressing the topic. My state is largely Government owned and they and other states are planning to challenge the Government if Utah does well.
"Utah to seize own land from government, challenge federal dominance of Western states":

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Ken Ivory is on the front line of an approaching legal battle to wrestle millions of acres of land from federal control, and legislators in other Western states are intently watching his progress.


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