U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees national parks and other federal lands, says it is unconstitutional for the federal government to own those tracts.
And while the Utah Republican would like to see most federal lands in the West turned over to the states, he said the federal government can keep national parks "because they’re not moneymakers anyway."
Rep. Bishop made the comments recently in Las Vegas, where he was appearing at a Western Republican Leadership Conference meeting, part of which focused on federal control of public lands in the West.
According to a report from Think Progress, a nonpartisan arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the congressman told those attending the conference that nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it provide for such federal land ownership.
During a slide presentation to the conference the Republican said, "Federal government owns one out of every three acres in this country. If it’s west of Denver, it’s one out of every two acres. If this kind of federal control is good, then the Soviet Union should have been the Garden of Eden. But what this presents to us – and I defy you to find anywhere in the Constitution where this is allowable - but what it defines to us is – the second slide if you would – everything in red are the states that had the hardest time funding their educations system."
In its report on the meeting Think Progress pointed out that Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution provides that “Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.”
U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials last week announced their preference to extend a moratorium on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon for 20 years. After a 30-day waiting period, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will be able to sign off on the plan.
There has been legislation introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives to block the administration from enforcing the moratorium. In July the House Appropriations Committee amended Interior's budget bill to tie the administration's hands on the matter.