Key Points

The Promises are the Same - It's Been Done Before - It's the Only Solution Big Enough

The Promises are the Same:


The promise of the federal government to “extinguish title” (transfer title) to the public lands is the same to all newly created states – both east and West of Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court refers to these statehood contracts (Enabling Acts) as “trusts,” “solemn compacts,” and “bi-lateral agreements” to be performed “in a timely fashion. You can see the western states’ enabling acts compared to those of states east of Colorado on the page “What’s Happening in My State.”

If ALL of the states were equal at their creation …
Why The Difference?

- It’s clear that the difference didn’t stem from when the states were created (e.g. OK-1907 and CA-1850, or ND-1889 and ID-1890).

- The difference didn’t stem from the terms of transfer in their Enabling Acts because those are materially the same. Further evidence of this can be found here.

So, Why the Difference?

For nearly 200 years, Congress recognized its duty to dispose of the public lands. It wasn’t until 1976 that Congress passed the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) unilaterally declaring that it was their new “policy to retain these lands in federal ownership.”

However, in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that Congress doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally change “the uniquely sovereign character” of a state’s admission into the Union, particularly “where virtually all of a state’s public lands are a stake.” Hawaii v. OHA. There should not be a difference. 

It’s Been Done before:


One of the common myths that are thrown out in regards to the Transfer of Public Lands is that nothing like this has been done before in the history of our country. This is simply untrue.

As much as 90% of all lands in Illinois and Missouri (and AL, LA, AR, IN, FL, etc.) were federally controlled for decades! With so much land under federal control, these States persistently argued they could not:

  • adequately fund education,
  • grow their economies, or
  • responsibly manage their abundant resources.

They banded together, refused to be silent or take “NO” for an answer, and compelled Congress to transfer title to their lands. In 1959, Congress granted directly to the State of Hawaii (the last and western-most State) “the United States’ title to all the public lands … within the boundaries of the State of Hawaii, title to which is held by the United States immediately prior to its admission into the Union.”

Does that sound familiar?

Today, similar states with large amounts of federally controlled multiple-use lands  are methodically loosing access to those lands, the health of those lands is deteriorating at an astounding pace, and we are struggling to be productive and grow our economies. 

Now we need to band together once again as united states, refuse to be silent or take “NO” for an answer, and compel Congress to transfer title to the multi-use lands in the west to state and local control.

The Only Solution Big Enough:


The Transfer of Public Lands is the Only Solution Big Enough to ensure access, health, and productivity on our public lands. In addition to this, the Transfer of Public Lands is also the Only Solution Big Enough to:

  • Adequately Fund Education
  • Better Care for the Environment
  • Grow the Economy: both Locally and Nationally
  • Gain Some Sense of Energy Independence

For most western states, federal funds comprise the single largest source of state revenues – 30-50% of most States’ revenues are federally sourced according to “A Study of Key
Dependency Measures for the 50 States”( CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP). However, the U.S. Government Accountability Office regularly remarks that federal finances are “unsustainable.” Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen warned that the national debt “is the greatest threat to national security.”

As stated by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in a recent discussion on the future of the PILT and SRS programs in the Senate Natural Resources Committee “The federal government is
broke here. We can’t continue to pay counties to not utilize the lands within their
boundaries. … You need to be able to access the resources that are on your lands. We either need to utilize our federal lands to generate the revenue and the jobs for our rural communities or we should divest the federal government of those lands and let the states or the counties, or boroughs manage them.”

More information on each of these points can be found in our Library.

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