The Legal Ins and Outs of Public Lands/Public Domain (Conclusion)
(Guess who controls them.)
Well here we go again. More U.S. Federal Government legalese to slog your way through concerning public lands. Remember, as far as the Feds are concerned public lands and public domain are one in the same entity as I mentioned in my previous post on this topic.
Acquired vs. Public Land
The Feds (Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, etc.) consider acquired lands and public lands as completely different entities. Essentially, acquired lands are government-owned lands that came into Fed hands through sales or some form of "acquisition" process. What those other acquisition forms or methods are I can't say, but Big Brother does have a penchant for taking what he wants or needs...one way or another. Public lands, on the other hand, are those lands already owned by the Feds and which were (or are) part of the original public domain. As the Feds see things, lands that are granted to or owned by the states for purposes other than general improvement, drainage, or reclamation are NOT part of public lands. Ditto for lands that the states or Feds grabbed for non-payment of Fed or state taxes or what the attorneys like to call "failure to redeem."
More "No-No" Lands
In addition to what was already mentioned in my previous post, public lands/public domain DO NOT INCLUDE the following:
- Lands held back or reserved for Fed or public purposes;
- Lands where other entities have rights or claims to;
- Lands that the U.S. Congress has not acted on;
- Streets, (certain) roads, and highways;
- Tidelands bordering navigable waters;
- Lands under navigable waters;
- Lands covered by tax sales certificates held by the states for tax nonpayment;
- Native American lands; and
- Unsurveyed lands.
(Unsurveyed land in Vermont.)
Authority and Management
As you already know, the Secretary of the Interior, the BLM, and the U.S. Forest Service (all forms of what my buddy "Muskrat" calls "forest Nazis") are responsible for managing public lands. But it's Congress that has the constitutional authority to dispose of and make the rules and regulations governing public lands/public domain (again, one and the same thing). Congress holds public lands in "trust" as their main proprietor and legislator. How's Congress supposed to handle public lands? By making sure that public lands are handled in a manner that protects their scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, and archaeological resources. Oh, and let's not forget air and water quality. While overseeing all this, Congress is also expected to pass legislation that meets the needs of domestic mining, crop growing, and logging. Mining and logging have been hit hard in recent decades as many of you also know.
I guess the upshot of Congress's legislative "direction" of public lands gets filtered down to the parties that serve the Congress. The Department of the Interior, the BLM, and the Forest Service guys and gals. In my mining career I've come across a few bad apples in the BLM and U.S. Forest Service, but by and large they do a decent job. Before you start shaking your head "No," remember that these foot soldiers of the Interior Department get their directions from the Secretary of the Interior and he or she gets their marching orders from Congress, which in turn gets its marching orders from lobbyists, bankers, Wall Street, and God knows who else. Once again, money talks and bullshit walks. And everyone in Washington, D.C. has their hand out for folding green.
(For the love of money...)
Way back in the old days when I was still serving in Vietnam, some of the wags around me used to say this to the bitchers and complainers over there. "Write your Congressman." Don't like the way things are handled by the Feds in terms of public lands? Write your Congressman.
There it is...
(c) Jim Rocha 2017
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