Who decides what?
By Dexter Gill
Smoke everywhere, wildfires burning up the public forests in the Western states. Wealth of the forests and local economies are going up in smoke. Hey, who is in charge anyway? The firefighters are doing a great job, but the reality is they have to do their job and attempt to do the forest management job that used to be done by loggers and ranchers in the past. Fact is nobody today wants to be held responsible, but everybody wants to be in charge. Who is supposed to be in charge?
The public lands of the state are caught up in this controversial dilemma. Everybody wants the lands the way they want them, don’t want them to change, do want to use them for free, do want to make the decisions for what is done, but do NOT want responsibility for their cost, care and management. Everybody has a different want and view, so how and who decides what to do? As a homeowner, you decide what color to paint the house and what trees to plant in the yard, right? Your name is on the title, you are responsible, so you make the decisions. Whose name is on the title of the Public Lands of the State? It’s not yours or mine or some environmental activist group. When the BLM sells some of the public lands it administers, where does the title/deed come from? Ready for this? It comes from the state! Are you confused yet?
Let’s take a quick trip into our history. When the country was formed under the Constitution, it was formed by already existing sovereign states. (Maryland and Virginia donated part of their land for the federal entity the states were forming). The Constitution specified all this in Art. I, Sect. 8. The states then wanted to provide an opportunity for the country to expand with more states, so added Art. IV , Sect. 3 to allow the new federal body to secure new territory to form new sovereign states. The Colorado territory was secured in three parts from 1803 — the Louisiana Purchase – to 1845 – from the Mexican War. On March 3, 1875, the Congress passed the “Enabling Act of Colorado,” authorizing “The People of Colorado to Form a Constitution and State Government, and for the Admission of the said State Into the Union on an EQUAL FOOTING With The Original States.” Paragraph 2 stated “State of Colorado shall consist of ALL territory included within the following boundaries...”, which included the eastern, central and western portions, to govern ALL the land and people of the new state, a State Constitution was to be established, and it “shall be republican in form”…” and not be repugnant to the constitution of the United States and the principles of the declaration of independence.” Being “republican” in form ensures it is not a democracy, but a republic with representatives to act on behalf of the people. A second provision stated “the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands...” This was the individual people, not the State. The new State of Colorado was formally established Aug. 1, 1876, finally able to govern its lands and people itself, NOT Washington Territorial Bureaucrats — or so they thought.
The new State of Colorado established the various counties as the “local” governing arms of the state, keeping the republic form of governance with the Boards of County Commissioners as local representatives of the people to the state. The county commissions are the legal arm of the state to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the ENTIRE county, except for the withdrawn Indian Reservation lands. The county establishes the land-use plan for the county under state statute. All land use actions must be in compliance with the County Land Use Plan.
Today we have the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, both “johnny come lately” agencies with no state authorization, preparing land management plans and travel management plans on lands of the state, that are not in compliance with the county/state land-use plans. To top it off, they are circumventing the county‘s legal authority by holding meetings to ask for the general public what they want. Remember, the people had given up all right at statehood. In doing this the feds suggest they are giving the people rights to decide for the county and state on state land use. Are the Forest Service and BLM responsible for the health, safety and welfare of the people and lands of the county? Are the Forest Service and BLM officers the elected representatives of our republic form of government in the county and state? NO. The agencies are only overseers of the unclaimed lands at the time of Statehood, and have continued on as squatters seeking adverse possession of the States lands and resources. Note that neither agency existed at Statehood of Colorado.
Regardless of who holds the title, the control and use of the lands rests solely in the authority of the County Commissions and State as per the Constitutions of the U.S. and state. Federal agencies holding public comment meetings for supposed planning and use of the states’ lands is in violation and serves to attempt to change our form of government from a Republican form to a Democracy where mob rule is the standard and rendering the state as a “subject” under the federal agencies domination and causes dissention between the people.
Who is constitutionally supposed to be in the leadership and control and decisions of the lands of the state?? Clearly the county commissions as the arm of the state!
Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.