Tuesday, January 08, 2019

CONFIRMED: President Trump Can Sell Federal Land To Build The Wall


To build a wall along the United States’ international border with Mexico, President Donald Trump could order the sale of approximately 500,000 to 5 million acres of federal land.  The U.S. Government currently claims ownership of about 640 million acres of land — or about 28% of the total land mass of the nation.  This could raise the entire $25 billion needed to finance building the wall (not just the next installment we are currently fighting over).
But one must understand that out of 640 million acres there is a vast diversity of terrain. The task is to select only between around 0.08% to 0.78% of that total land. Most federally-owned land is not suitable.  But some land would be appropriate for sale to the State government, the County, or the general public.  Some Western public land is nothing but empty grassland, just ordinary grazing land. Some public land is indistinguishable from the type of land currently owned and used by private citizens. In some cases, there seems to be no plausible reason for the federal government to be holding the land at all.
Decisions about which public lands within a state to consider as candidates must be nominated by each State government.  It cannot be the President deciding, because left-wing interests groups will demagogue the issue.  The State must identify which lands are not environmentally sensitive, culturally historic, important for scenic or recreational purposes, or reasonably claimed by Native Americans.  Throwing those decisions to the States allows all the stake-holders to debate the choices, minimizing left-wing hysteria.
The wisest plan might be to sell federal land to the State or County government at a discount, like $5,000 to $10,000 per acre on average.  This would allow the State or County to then decide what is best to do with that land, including deciding when if ever to sell the land to private owners.  Transferring the land at a very low price might win support from some States or Counties (ignoring those who don’t want to participate).
Section 203 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, 43 U.S.C. 1713(a), allows a tract of the public lands that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (except land within the National Wilderness Preservation System, National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems, and National System of Trails) to be sold by the Secretary of Interior.
In fact, a recent court case just upheld the unrestricted right of the U.S. Government to sell public land.  On November 2, 2018, a federal judge in California struck down a California law SB 50.  The law was actually quite mild, giving the California State Lands Commission the first shot at buying any land that the U.S. Government wants to sell.  This is actually a reasonable position, that perhaps should be built-in as a policy nationwide.  Why not let the State or County have a right of first refusal, to make as many people as happy as possible about the sale?
But the Trump Administration filed a lawsuit. Judge William Shubb ruled that the power of the federal government to sell the land it owns to anyone it wants is so clear and powerful, that California cannot restrict who the land can be sold to.  In other words, the land can clearly be sold.

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