To the Editor:
I often hear or read about what is termed “Federal Lands”. But the Supreme Law of the land is the US Constitution, which specifically limits the ownership of land by the federal government. Article I Section 8 states:
“The Congress shall have the Power to lay and collect taxes Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States: …
To exercise exclusive in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (Not Exceeding 10 Miles Square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by Consent of the Legislature of the State, in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful buildings; — And to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the Foregoing Powers …”
This means the Federal Government is limited to owning 100 square miles for Washington, DC, plus necessary locations for federal military use; i.e. National Parks, Wildlife Preserves, National Monuments, etc. don’t qualify! And neither do so-called Executive Orders.
Furthermore, Article IV, Section 3 states:
“The Congress shall have the 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.”
This Article is addressing territories, not states. An example was when the Northwest Territory was purchased all the land was under the jurisdiction of the US Federal Government, and as each state was admitted to the Union, the land encompassed by that state was ceded to that state. However, the Federal Government acts as a Trustee, and not as an owner due to the limiting power of Article 1 Section 8, much as in the case of an inheritance going to a child until he or she reaches an age.
Clause 1 of this Article also establishes the “Equal Footing Doctrine”, meaning all states admitted to the Union after the original 13 shall have full equality with those states, and since each of the original 13 was comprised of non-federal land, each succeeding state was admitted with state ownership of its land. So BLM, NFS, FEMA, NSA, FBI, and all the rest of the federal alphabet bureaucracies have no jurisdiction in the individual states.