On June 29, Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, outlined three bills concerning public land. As he spoke, it became clear that if the bills pass it would allow states to sell public land in what he calls a ‘new Homestead Act.’
The government owns and manages more than 600 million acres, most of which is in the west.
“How did it come to pass that the Land of the Free became a land of stunning inequality? Where nearly half of the land in the West—more than 600 million acres — is owned by the federal government, compared to just 5 percent of the land in the East?”
The bills go against environmentalist and outdoor enthusiast who would like to see public lands remain undeveloped and open for public use.
In his speech, Lee outlined three points to the crowd.
- His first bill would sell federal land designated as National Monuments by the Antiquities Act.
- His second bill proposal would facilitate the building of housing on federal lands in what he calls a “new” Homestead Act.
- His final bill transfer federal lands to state control.
“It was 170 years ago that Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers came to the Salt Lake Valley in search of religious freedom… and, finally, a land of their own in which to practice it.
It is easy to take for granted, or to forget. But so much of American history – and of human happiness – has depended on the ability of ordinary people to have a part of this earth they can call their own, “to dress it and keep it.”
Yet, Utahns, and the citizens of many Western states, find themselves singled out for exclusion from this basic tenet of the American Dream.”
Lee is on President Donald Trump’s short list to serve on the Supreme Court to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in June.