Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Nevada 91.9% government owned
This is the letter I wrote to the Elko paper, and which was published in the 5 March edition, regarding the news that my state is now 91.9 % federal. I made a couple of minor changes, to make it a bit more general. God Bless you, and everyone in your wonderful basin,
Bob St. Louis, Elko NV 3/7/05
The GSA’s Federal Real Property Profile as of September 30, 2003 has recently been referenced in articles by Jeffry Mullins in the Elko Daily Free Press. After reading the articles and GSA report, wherein we learned that Nevada is 91.9% federal, by acreage, I began to wonder: at what point does a state no longer qualify as a state, within the context of the United States? Consider some of GSA’s statistics:
· 64,589,139.3 acres of Nevada’s 70,264,320 total acres are federal. Those federal acres comprise an area that is larger than the total acres in each of 42 states
· On a percentage basis, the state second to Nevada in federal holdings is Alaska, at 66.7 %, or 27 % less than Nevada
· The tenth ranked state, New Mexico, has 34.1 % federal holdings
· The northeastern corridor states (MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA) all are less than 4 % federally mismanaged/owned
During the debate regarding whether or not Missouri should/could be required to be admitted as a state with the condition it be slavery-free, Senator William Pinkney of Maryland said, “No man can contradict me when I say that, if you have this power, you may squeeze down a new-born sovereign State to the size of a pigmy, and then taking it between finger and thumb, stick it into some nitch [sic] of the Union, and still continue, by way of mockery, to call it a State in the sense of the Constitution.” The senator was indeed prescient.
Senator Pinkney went on to say, “What is that Union? A confederation of States equal in sovereignty, capable of every thing which the Constitution does not forbid, or authorize Congress to forbid.” Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821, with the proviso that it would be a free state. The Dred Scott decision (March 1857) made the Missouri Compromise of 1821 un-Constitutional.
Chief Justice Taney stated in the Dred Scott decision that territory annexed by the United States, “is acquired to become a State, and not to be held as a colony and governed by Congress with absolute authority.” Nevada is on the verge of accomplishing something no other state has: transformation to a colony.
The enabling acts of Nevada and Colorado were approved March 21, 1864. Both acts included the statement in Section 4, Third clause, “That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …and that no taxes shall be imposed by said state on lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States” [emphasis added]. For comparison, Colorado is 34.9 % federally owned.
Many are aghast at the new revelation regarding Nevada’s non-federal lands (8.1 % as opposed to what was thought to be at least 12 %). Rest assured the percentage is bound to have increased in the year and a half since the 2003 GSA report, as the buying spree continues.
We have met the enemy, and he is us: our territorial citizenry agreed to our enabling act; several State attorneys general have refused to stand for the state’s rights; landowners sell to groups, like The Nature Conservancy, who often make subsequent deals to transfer title to the State or federal government; State voters approved Question 1, including provisions for the State to buy private lands; and finally, Nevada’s own former senator Bryan and then representative Ensign co-sponsored the bill that ultimately gave rise to SNPLMA. By allowing the proceeds of the Clark County land sales to be used to purchase “environmentally sensitive” lands throughout the state, our representatives unwittingly(?) created the “need,” and the funding, for the rapid erasure of Nevada as a sovereign state.
Federally mismanaged lands tend to be a disaster of inadequate management, outside influence, and insufficient funding. Some of the proceeds from SNPLMA should have been earmarked to care for what the feds already had under their care, rather than allow them to spend willy nilly, buying up the little bit of the state left in private hands. They buy it, by the way, not just to control it, but because the private owners have been very good stewards of their land. It is, as my enviro friends like to say, “the good stuff.” Irony of ironies, even China is finding it best to allow more local control of land.
By controlling over 90 % of our “sovereign” state, Congress has, in effect, infringed upon the property rights of all Nevadans by depriving them of the opportunity to own real property. With federal ownership also comes the opportunity for some 285 million Americans to say how things are done in our sovereign state. The enormous disparity between Nevada and the other 49 states suggests that Nevada has been unfairly discriminated against. This disproportionate federal position ensures that real estate will be held at values that, sooner or later, will result in additional willing sellers, due to an inability to pay real estate taxes from fixed incomes, or because they can no longer afford to graze their livestock or fight the increasing nonsensical environmental and regulatory overburden on their mining claims.
Real estate at work pays the bills, through property taxes and the taxes that derive from enterprises based on real property. Real estate in federal hands stifles growth, and limits the opportunities for rural areas to thrive. When will we finally wake up and realize that our own government is using the wealth of the southern Nevada land boom to crush the rest of us? When the land is in federal hands, the water won’t be far behind. Think about that here in the driest state/colony in the Union.
So, I ask again: at what point does a sovereign state cease being a sovereign state, and revert to a de facto territory, chiefly administered by Congress?
Bob St. Louis
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