San Gabriel Mountains, California. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
San Gabriel Mountains, California. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Last month President Barack Obama designated 646,000 acres within the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles, a national monument despite the lack of support for the move in the House of Representatives. Nor were the local communities surrounding the monument that would be impacted by the move consulted, outside environmental special interest groups. The decision impacts 70% of Los Angeles County and sizable parts of the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests and one-third of the drinking water of Los Angeles. Obviously the change would affect the outlining cities.

According to an October 10, White House press Secretary news release, this is his 13th such designation in his nearing 6 years as president. In September he created “the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean—the largest marine reserve in the world,” that, as a result, is now “completely off limits to commercial resource extraction.” With this acquisition of 260 million acres of land and water, he is credited with having acquired more property, since presidents began doing so, than any other President in our history.

A big issue is the constitutionality of grabbing large sections of land by the signature of one man only. What does the Constitution say? The Founders understood that the size of land holding was proportionally related to the perceived size of the federal government and they intentionally wanted that perception small. The Federal government was permitted to have but 10 square miles for a federal capital. The only other land that they could acquire had to be for military purposes as specified in the common defense clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 which reads: “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.”

Any new acquisition, outside the capital, had (1) to be purchased, (2) have the consent of the State Legislature where the land exists, (3) and be for military purposes. As all land acquisition powers are in Article I of the Constitution, with the legislative branch, the president was left out of the process. None of these constitutional requirements were met with respect to any of the national monuments acquired by President Barack Obama. None were purchased, none received the consent of the State Legislature, and none are used exclusively for military purposes. Nor have there been any additional amendments to the Constitution authorizing additional federal ownership of land as required for any additional federal power. Constitutionally there exists no federal land, or Bureau of Land Management, or even public land.

Written by: HAROLD PEASE, PH.D – continue to LIBERTY UNDER FIRE

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