Sunday, December 13, 2015

Enabling Act implications

Enabling Act implications
The cost of Hoarding
Sovereign States
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Earlier this week the Department of Education for the state of Arizona made a public statement calling for the transfer of federal lands to the state. The state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and several state legislators gathered at a Phoenix Plaza to request the transfer. Their argument was based on the fact that federal land agencies lose $.27 per acre for every dollar spent in management.
            What too many people don’t know is that state’s enabling legislation, the same as my home state of New Mexico’s, set forth the requirement to reserve four sections within each Township, sections 2, 16, 32, and 36, for the purposes of revenue generation for the education of the states’ sweaty masses. Notwithstanding the fact that many federal legislators in 1912 did not support the idea of either state’s entry into the Union because of their suspect populous, the idea of educating those western urchins was solved by deeding lands to the states with the marching orders to fund classrooms and gleaming hallways.
            Arizona does a pretty good job of that by generating more than $14 for every dollar spent in the management of its state trust lands. (New Mexico’s efforts are better and attributed to oil and gas revenues that are scarce in Arizona). Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem, R-11, standing alongside the superintendent, noted they could actually do better than their federal handlers by an additional $2B annually if the state managed federal lands within their boundaries (New Mexico would outperform even that by even due to the noted difference in revenue sources).
            A realistic debate of the problem, however, is long overdue. It isn’t just federal mismanagement of lands that is being painted. It is more specific. When the management of lands is predicated on the fiduciary responsibility of generating positive net returns, positive net returns do occur. When there is no such directive and the management of lands reverts to nebulous matters of conservation, protection of objects and or the transfer of wealth to special interests, expanding losses in revenues and … freedoms inevitably result.
            Sovereign States
            The State of Arizona is actually a worthy model of human accomplishment. The state currently ranks 21 (down from 18 in 2006) among all states in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while it sits at the number 16 spot in terms of state size. That is right between Alabama and Georgia which also bracket its performance in their GDP ranking of and 26 and 10, respectively.
You have been taught Arizona is the sixth largest state in the Union?  It may be in footprint but it isn’t in terms of lands from which the state can actually create jobs, build homes, and expand opportunities for future generations. Government of one form or another owns 57% of the state which means that the state’s future rests squarely on its private lands consisting of 31,420,000 ± acres. A total of 41,311,200 acres are owned outright or held in trust by Washington and or Phoenix. As such, Arizonans cannot count on any aspect of private property rights to be secured or upheld through investments on those lands.
The State of Arizona, the actual sovereign state of the people, ranks alongside the noted states of Georgia and Alabama as well as Illinois, Wisconsin, and Arkansas when private property and the merit of equal footing with eastern states is factored. Other western states like Nevada and Alaska are worse off. When the sovereign rights of those states are factored similarly, Nevada is wedged between West Virginia and Maryland. Alaska, nominally the largest state in the union, takes its place between Idaho and Utah in private property!
It is a good thing American people are actually gullible and obedient beings … the farcical constitutional breach of sovereignty in the West is stifling.
‘O Fair New Mexico’
New Mexico earns somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 per acre in the management of its state trust lands. That stands in juxtaposition to negative earnings per acre by land agencies on the 28,143,100 ± acres owned or held in trust by the federal government. Both of those compare to the state’s GDP spread across gross state acres of $1227 per acre. Without going into further detail to derive an actual return to private property, the difference between negative earnings, $80 per acre earnings, and $1227 per acre earnings (which comes disproportionately from privately held lands) is shocking. The consequence of government land ownership of any sort is staggering. Hoarding has consequences!
That brings the subject down to southwestern New Mexico where any attrition of private property has become economically unacceptable. A drive through the once self sufficient towns of Lordsburg, Reserve, Deming, Hurley and even Silver City is depressing. The tax base is already struggling and three of the four counties implicit in the preceding would be ranked in the top 20 most at risk counties in the nation if they had enough populations to make the cut.
Yet in those counties (Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, and neighboring Dona Ana County), the state and federal governments are in designating thousands more acres of higher level protections and buying private land for environmental mitigation as if it actually existed in an economic vacuum. The cost to customs and culture is beyond staggering and yet local pleas are simply ignored.
Two examples are in order for discussion. Both are ranches, both have been acquired by the State of New Mexico and both are taking private lands off the tax rolls. The Double E Ranch in the Gila watershed in Grant County was established by the Hooker family that came to New Mexico Territory in a reverse migration from California in the 1870s. The ranch is now owned by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish ostensibly for the trendy pursuit of habitat mitigation. If cattle continue to be run on the property, it will not be done by that agency. If water resources on the ranch are maintained or expanded, it will not be from the livestock operation that once funded and maintained it. It will be tax dollars. If the state leases that once existed for the livestock operation are renewed, it will be from tax dollars to pay New Mexico State Land Office lease requirements.
The sound of that is somewhat akin to chalk grating across a blackboard. Paying state leases for Enabling Act purposes of funding the educational system with money extracted from a citizenry facing a declining tax rolls is simply ludicrous if it isn’t constitutionally criminal.
The second ranch is the Broad Canyon Ranch in Dona Ana County. It is now owned by the state’s parks and recreation group. The occasional State of New Mexico personnel seen on the ground herald it as a “game refuge”. Neighboring operations are perplexed how any “game refuge” can be established without legislative approval, and, furthermore, how any state agency can post such lands to hunting and trespass that include federal BLM holdings while thumbing their noses at the contractual obligations that private citizens are held to in the same circumstances. Private citizens are required to maintain base waters by their grazing contracts. Private citizens are also required to run cattle on these lands if and when conditions allow such activity.
This allotment has no cattle. The actual water base is now defunct. In fact, this allotment no longer has a drop of water on it other than the residual pools in the Rio Grande River channel following seasonal irrigation releases. Aside from the contractual breaches, any objective citizen should question the viability of any game refuge, whether legal or not, if all water sources outside of the river channel are nonworking or nonexistent.
The matter of the renewal of this grazing lease by the State Land Office will be watched. The title holder has two options to convince the Commissioner. It can seek a renewal on the basis of livestock grazing which has been the case since 1912 or it can up the ante and seek a more expensive commercial lease in order to convince the Land Commissioners to act in its favor. Both options require the transfer of tax money with the collateral impact of contributing to a declining tax base while not protecting species that once had water when cattle were present. In the case of the Broad Canyon allotment, cattle and game refuges seem to be mutually exclusive.
A private citizen wouldn’t get the lease renewed nor would he get the same extension by the BLM in the allotment renewal … our government seems to play by a different set of rules.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “The continued sniping of private property and ranching allotments being carried in parallel with expanding land protection designations is taking place amidst a community where there is now a 17% recruitment of next generation stewards … is there any wonder futures are in doubt?”

Here are some appropriate quotes from others:

When Plymouth Colony was founded in Massachusetts in 1620, the Pilgrims at first held their property in common. They were on the verge of starvation when ownership was privatized in 1623. The change succeeded. It "made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been," William Bradford reported. The communal arrangement had not worked because it "was thought injustice."

More recently, a vast experiment in life without private property was conducted in the Soviet Union. It lasted for seventy-four years, and it conclusively showed that transferring the control of property to the state is a formula for social impoverishment. There wasn't much in the way of justice either. As for liberty, that was lost completely. An Iron Curtain had to be constructed north-to-south in Eastern Europe, and a wall divided Berlin.

 ---Tom Bethell

Few concepts have been more important for human survival, yet maligned as unjust by intellectuals, as the concept of private property rights. Since at least the time of Aristotle, the superiority of private property over collective ownership in generating incentives to use scarce resources effectively has been recognized. It was a core idea of the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers such as David Hume and Adam Smith, as well as the American Revolutionaries such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. 

---Peter Boettke

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