Monday, February 11, 2013

Transfer of Public Lands Act

Oh, Fair New Mexico
Transfer of Public Lands Act
Lessening the death grip
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            One of several claims to fame for Monte Roth was the epic Golden Gloves fight he had with a future world champion. When prompted, Monte would give a blow by blow account of the near upset. He would duck and dodge as he fought the fight again in his reenactment.
            “Yes sir,” he would say. “If he’d had just one arm tied behind him, I would have whipped him that day!”
            The boxer Monte fought that day was a young Cassius Clay. The point of Mr. Roth’s real life story looms larger these days. Even one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport can not compete with one arm tied behind his back. There is a limit of what even the greatest can do.
The dilemma is not limited to individuals. It applies to corporations and states. In the case of corporations in an open market place, competing with constant limitation invariably results in failure and bankruptcy. In the matter of states, the result is the loss of it most talented youth through a death spiral of job creation. Western states have long faced that threat. They are forced to compete on a national level with states that are allowed the full benefit of the Constitutional intent for disposal of public lands.
If western states were allowed to fight the good fight without one armed literally tied behind their backs … maybe the nation wouldn’t face the dismal likelihood of economic calamity.
The New Mexico model
New Mexico is a real life tale of two states.
One state is the model that most resembles the neighbor to the east, Texas. It is there, east of the Rio Grande, private property ownership exceeds government ownership. It is also there that the majority of the state’s tax and revenue harvests occur.
Oil and gas are the major providers, but that is not the entire story. It can be argued that it is there the genesis of entrepreneurial innovation still exists in abundance. The major impetus is the dominion of private ownership in the face of government.
The western side of the state, the area where county boundaries generally touch or lie west of the Rio Grande, is where the modern day subsidy and welfare sink has been created. It is there where fully 75% of the land ownership is government in the form of local, state, and federal dominion, collectively. Of course, the federal government is the major player and they dominate the landscape and the land planning.
If population was greater, the western half of New Mexico would dominate the list of counties in the nation at highest risk. Only Luna County in the southwest makes the list because it reaches the cutoff for population. If large counties such Catron, McKinley, and Rio Arriba reached the census cutoffs, they would dwarf the poverty scales in the selection process. They struggle to keep youth, they suffer from high and debilitating rates of alcoholism, and it is there welfare recipients exceed employed citizens. The counties are examples of the expanding collapse of societal structure.
With such poverty, the assumption would be that the area is void of resources. On the contrary, western New Mexico is rich with timber, uranium, copper, silver, coal, and, to the north in San Juan County, oil and gas is the salvation of local economy. The area is a sleeping giant of natural resources mired in a government induced welfare coma. It is becoming an extractive resource and agricultural wasteland. It is a model of supreme and growing environmental despair. It has become an under achieving society.
It is a world champion … fighting with one arm tied behind its back.
Transfer of Public Land Act
The Constitution set forth the limits of federal ownership to include the District (of Columbia) … and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State … for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; … Never in the imagination of the Framers was the concept of building off limits natural and resource reserves for the environmental elite a figment of hallucination.
In fact, the intent was to render lands into the hands of citizenry for two very important matters. First was the reduction of debt. Second was the creation of national wealth. The latter equated to the acceleration and expansion of the economy.
It was so profoundly important to hasten the disposal of public lands through the creation of states that the model of pricing was not what the federal government could glean from the sale, but what the price point would be to trigger the transfer. All lands not sold automatically became the responsibility of the new states. It became their problem to deal with the ultimate disposition of the lands and the federal government would not encumber the nation with added debt in the matter.
The next generation federal leadership in the first quarter of the 19th Century, though, forgot those tenants. They withheld the disposal of the ‘western’ states and a revolt ensued. Documents from each of those states demonstrated outrage over the breach of constitutional promise regarding the disposition of lands within their boundaries.
From one of the states affected, the following was recorded:
“… the system of disposing of the public lands of the United States now pursued is highly injurious … to the States in which those lands lie, and to none, perhaps, more so than to the State of Missouri.
Such public lands were in form and function blessings to be bestowed for the purpose of building wealth and firming the underpinnings of economy. The Congressional Public Land Committee of 1828 agreed. In their report to Congress, the committee reminded law makers such disposal of lands was essential to the education of youth. Furthermore, without such lands the states could not increase the comfort and wealth of the frontier without the ability “of taxing the soil” to pay for such mutual benefits. Most importantly, it was essential to the general welfare that new states share an equal standing with original states in order to gain the foundation necessary to create permanent wealth and well being.
This past week, the New Mexico Legislature debated the modern day version of the western states uprising of 1828. House Bill 292, The Transfer of Public Lands Act, was ushered forth for the purposes of existinguishing and transferring title of defined federal lands to the state by December 31,2015.
As the week progressed, a strong political headwind built as the environmental front staged their public resistance. Their salient criticism was the intent to privatize nature’s wonders.
Actually, the conceptual underpinnings of the bill avoided that very conflict. The crafters of the bill anticipated the King George progenitors, the all earth crowd, would scream to the horizons of the sins of anticipated private ownership.
The bill is actually aimed at the original view of the federal government. The state will take title to the transfer. It is the state’s responsibility to deal with the once federal lands, and New Mexico demonstrates it does a very good job of managing state trust lands.
On about five percent of the comparative managed land mass, the State Land Office (SLO) annually returns in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars more to the state than the entire United States Forest Service does to the nation. If the result of SLO on transferred lands is anywhere near their returns of managed state trust lands, the results would completely erase the 36% of state dependence on federal infusions in its $5.6 billion budget.
The outcome of the debate is that serious.
The Message to the Nation
As the nation spirals toward economic Armageddon, the willingness of tax payers to subsidize great swaths of places like western New Mexico must halt. It is simply not fair to hard working Americans to see their hard earned tax obligations transported out of their locale and transferred to communities that are willing to achieve self reliance.
Western New Mexico is a wondrous place, but the wonder isn’t just the natural beauty. Partitioned out unto itself, it is populated by Americans who fought for their existence in each step of their journey within the American model.  Estimates suggest that the United States total reliance on uranium, copper, coal, and rare earth minerals could be fulfilled from deposits within that geographic area, and, yet, federal regulations and limitations preclude any expansion of activities. Communities are suffocating.
A social travesty has been inflicted long enough across this state. That is why New Mexico Legislators Yvette Herrell and Richard Martinez have introduced HB 292.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “This is not just a New Mexico issue. Every tax payer in this country has a stake it the outcome. Allow New Mexico to provide for itself!”

No comments: