Skip to comments.MONTANA FIRST STATE TO BAN FEDERAL AGENCY LAND PURCHASES
Posted on 05/07/2003 8:22:53 AM PDT by GotDangGenius
HELENA- Montana became the first state in the nation to prohibit the sale of state owned land to the federal government.
This is an accomplishment I am very very proud of, said Representative Rick Maedje (R) Fortine about his amendment to House Bill 223.
House Bill 223 authorizes the state land board to sell school trust lands that are not producing income from grazing, timber, mining, or oil and gas. The measure was dubbed the state land banking bill and it also allows the land board to purchase more productive lands in its place.
I dont disagree with the underlying purpose of the bill at all. Its entirely appropriate for the State Land Board to look for better timber, mining, and grazing lands for the schools, said Maedje, but there was a serious unintended consequence- the present state lands could wind up in the hands of the federal government, and that is entirely inappropriate in Montana.
There are approximately six million acres of school trust lands in Montana. These lands were originally granted to the state by the federal government when Montana agreed to statehood. Congress mandated the lands be used solely for generating income for schools.
In the hearing on HB 223 before the House Natural Resources Committee, Bud Clinch, Director of the DNRC, said, It is my fiduciary responsibility to generate income for our schools from these lands. Director Clinch added, This bill allows the Department the flexibility to increase income for the schools.
Representative Maedje, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee said during executive session deliberations on the bill, I am not prepared in any way, shape, or form to see a single acre of state land wind up in the federal governments hands. Not only does the federal government fail to pay taxes on land it holds, but even the PILT payments (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) it promises us never come through. Worse yet, Montana has had nothing but serious problems in the last 30 years with virtually every acre the federal government claims to have jurisdiction over in this state. Selling the feds our state land is like rubbing salt in a wound.
Representative Maedje, an outspoken opponent of federal land ownership in Montana, believes the federal government has overstepped its Constitutional authority in the last 30 years, and offered his amendment as a means to reign in federal agencies in Montana.
House Bill 223 came through the Natural Resources Committee, and I saw the real opportunity to add a friendly amendment to the bill to begin to stop federal land acquisitions in our state, said Maedje.
Maedje referred to Article I, Section 8 of the federal Constitution, which restricts Congress: to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings.
Maedjes amendment to HB 223 amends Montana Code Annotated 77-2-306 to read: State land may not be sold to the federal government or to any agency of the federal government, except for the purpose of building federal facilities and structures.
The bill made it to the Governors desk with Maedjes amendment intact, but not without a fight.
Representative Chris Harris (D) Bozeman, blasted Maedjes amendment on the floor of the House arguing that Iraq could buy this land. North Korea could buy this land, but our own red white and blue federal government cant buy this land. This is wrong.
Frankly, Maedje said afterwards about Rep. Harriss comments in the floor debate, ...and I say this within the tangible and real context of unabashedly asinine decisions made by federal agencies which unnecessarily hurt rural natural resource dependent communities-- Representative Harris might have been unintentionally right. I indeed wonder if the constitutional rights of Montanans could be any more abused by a North Korean dictator than they are by our own federal agencies. That may sound stunning to those who havent suffered because of federal land policies, but it is closer to the truth than one might want to contemplate.
Maedje offered the following remarks after Governor Martz signed HB 223 into law:
The Constitution never intended the federal government to increase its land holdings or jurisdictional influence without the consent of the people of a state. Regrettably, over the last 30 years the federal government has overstepped its authority, and its abuse of that authority directly conflicts with the economic vitality, character, and traditions of the people of Montana. Montanans have been patient. We have tried to work with federal agencies, but we have intelligently arrived at the conclusion that federal agencies have little or no incentive to abide by the federal Constitution.So, we're now going to help them get back on track.
This amendment to HB 223 is the first step in a calculated effort not only to put the brakes on federal land acquisitions, but in future legislative sessions, we will take intelligent, lawful steps such as this to roll back federal land holdings and jurisdictional authority, Maedje said.
Montana is the first state in the nation to prohibit the federal government from purchasing state lands. This is an historic step for any state to take, and federal agencies should be well aware that Montana will continue to assert our rights as a state, and we take this issue very very seriously. Maedje added.
I arrived at that conclusion a long time ago.
OUCHHH! Bravo, good people of Montana!
Another agenda of the whacked out, constimatooshin studyin' right wing camo wearers, shot all to hell by senseless hyperbole.
At least Americans now know who our real enemies are.
One thing at a time. This was difficult enough to put into law.
You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. There is legislation coming, such as that in Texas and New Mexico which strips NGO's engaging in such things of their tax exempt status, prohibits the transfer of private land to the feds using NGO's, and requires that any NGO having transferred land to the Feds is required to be responsible for the COMPLETE payment of property taxes--- RETROACTIVELY.
Montana is just getting started.
Story developing... stay tuned
Still, this is truly historic. Looking forward to more statements from states like this.