Federal Land within a State by Rep. Fred Cox

As you may know, this year I sponsored a bill so that Utah could not to sell Bryce Canyon and the other 4 “National Parks”, called the “Utah Lands Protection Act”. Unfortunately, the bill came out very late in the session, still needed a few modifications, and was held in committee.


The principle behind the bill is that under the US Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17, the Federal Government can not own land in Utah, unless it is for Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings, and it was purchased by the Consent of the Utah Legislature. Clearly the 2/3 of the land in Utah “claimed” by the Federal Government does not fit within this constitutional power.

US Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17:
“To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and 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; And”

My contention is that Congress, the President, the US Supreme Court do NOT have constitutional authority to own any land in Utah, and that the Utah Enabling Act, Sec 3, 4th paragraph and the Utah Constitution Article 2, section 2, be declared void ab initio, which means “to be treated as invalid from the outset,” based on US Constitution Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17.

Even if that Utah Enabling Act section be determined to be US Constitutional, the Federal Government promised in that agreement to sell the 2/3 of Utah, and not to keep it. They officially violated that agreement with FLIPMA in 1976, leaving Utah and not the Federal Government 2/3 of the land.

My oath of office included “do solemnly swear that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State”.

What do you do when the Constitution of Utah conflicts with the Constitution of the United States? I did not swear to defend the federal land policy that has existed prior to Ohio’s Statehood.

I would suggest that if the Federal Government decides to close the five “National Parks” in Utah, that Utah claim them under the US Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 17, and keep them open.

To fund keeping them open, for the short term, I believe there is money in the GOED or if not, the rainy day fund. For the long term, by owning 2/3 of Utah, there would be enough resources to not only fund our schools, roads and jails, but the parks. For any court battle, there is funding set aside under the Constitutional Defense Restricted Account.

Since the bill I sponsored this year didn’t pass, we could try and sell Bryce Canyon, but I believe that would be a mistake. Allowing our Utah’s “National Parks” to be kept closed by the Federal Government would also be a mistake.