How the Feds Deny Utahns Equal Rights Under the Law

At NRO, two legal scholars detail how Washington is curtailing the ability of local governments in Utah (and other Western states) to generate tax revenue for basic services, leading to a situation in which “counties dominated by federally claimed land are exporting children and importing poverty.”

Write George R. Wentz Jr. and John W. Howard:

But in Utah, for example, where over 66 percent of the land is claimed by the federal government, unelected federal bureaucrats exercise police power over far more of Utah than the governor, state legislators, and county commissioners do. Citizens of Utah are routinely entangled in vast federal bureaucracies when it comes to issues that “in the ordinary course of affairs” concern their “lives, liberties, and properties.” They must deal with the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, the EPA, and a host of other federal bureaus, agencies, etc.. Routine local land-management issues quite literally become federal cases. One government — the federal government — has complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life in over 66 percent of the state, exposing Utah citizens to solidified “arbitrary power” in a way that no citizen of New York State, for example, ever encounters. There the federal government claims less than one quarter of 1 percent of the land, and New Yorkers can deal with elected local officials to solve the vast majority of their problems.

Just ask the citizens of San Juan County, Utah, who have had their homes raided by heavily armed Bureau of Land Management agents and have seen one of their county commissioners prosecuted and sentenced to ten days in prison and fined $96,000.00 for riding an all-terrain vehicle on a county water-line-maintenance road that had been unilaterally closed down by the feds. A county sheriff in New York who raided homes or arrested a county commissioner would quickly be voted out of office. The citizens of San Juan County have no such recourse. Instead of exercising their political franchise to protect their “lives, liberties and properties,” they must fight the full weight and unlimited resources of the federal government.