One question that came up during my interview was whether people in California should be able to prevent people in Wyoming from deriving full economic benefit from the resources found on federal lands. Well, federal lands are held “in trust” for all Americans. Just as residents of Wyoming should have a say over Yosemite National Park, so too should folks in California have a say over Yellowstone National Park. But that’s not the end of the story.
Roadless utopians are still limited from stopping economic growth and job creation by the Constitution. The Constitution limits what the federal government is able to do with the land. We have a property clause in the constitution that gives the federal government the ability to manage these parcels of land along with interpreting case law. But we also have constitutional protections, for example, private property protections. The federal government may not, for example, destroy adjacent private property just to make a national park arbitrarily more aesthetically pleasing to the utopians. The Fifth Amendment, to name but one protection, says no way.
Unfortunately, in recent cases, judges have shown a bias to the federal government’s role as a no-growth trustee over public lands and less attention to those constitutional rights, like private property. With this bias, it is no wonder citizens trying to make a better life for themselves are often on the losing end of these challenges. That’s part of what inspired me to write “One Thousand Roads to Liberty,” which sets out a new way to overcome this bias. The study offers a fresh new look at how local communities and states can preserve control over important portions of federal land with a winning courthouse strategy. It’s time to end the no-growth bias and bring back some common sense to our federal land use policy.