Marton Ranch acquisition public comments

CASPER, Wyo. - Senator Bob Ide of District 29 Natrona County has participated in the ongoing public comment period regarding the potential acquisition of the Marton Ranch in Natrona and Carbon Counties by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. 

Regardless of the merits of this potential acquisition, it is imperative that the U.S. Constitution be respected and followed. Per Ide’s letter:

The U.S. Constitution Mandates that the Wyoming Legislature Approve Transfer of the Marton Ranch to the Federal Government. Article I of the United States Constitution limits the legislative power that Congress may exercise over property it acquires within a state. The Enclave Clause provides that Congress shall have the power to "exercise exclusive jurisdiction" over the District of Columbia and "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.”

The Enclave Clause requires the federal government obtain the consent of the Wyoming Legislature in order for the federal government to govern exclusively over any property the federal government acquires within the State. Absent consent of the state legislature, Wyoming law would govern to the extent that it would not be in conflict with or otherwise be preempted by federal law.

The Supreme Court has spoken to the consequences of the federal government completing an acquisition of land within a state without the consent of the state legislature, declaring that, "the United States does not obtain the benefits of [the Enclave Clause] its [the federal government's] possession being simply that of an ordinary proprietor." Without obtaining the consent of the state legislature prior to acquiring land.

Within the state, "the State could have exercised the same authority and jurisdiction which she [the state] could have exercised over similar property by private parties."The Court goes on to say, “Where lands are acquired without such consent [of the state legislature], the possession of the United States, unless political jurisdiction be ceded to them in some other way, is simply that of an ordinary proprietor. The property in that case, unless used as a means to carry out the purposes of the government, is subject to the legislative authority and control of the states equally with the property of private individuals.”

Although the federal government may have exclusive ownership of a tract of land, exclusive jurisdiction over newly purchased land can only be given to the federal government by the state legislature.

Principles of Federalism Support the State's Ability to Provide Consent to Federal Land Transfers. The role of the Wyoming Legislature in relation to federal land transfers is based upon the fundamental principles of federalism. James Madison illustrated these principles by describing government formed by the American Constitution as a "compound republic" in which "the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distant governments... Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself." These principles are echoed by the Supreme Court in a variety of opinions dealing with issues of power sharing between the federal and state governments. A federal actor must be specific in showing a constitutional grant of power authorizing its actions. Clearly, authority for exercising exclusive jurisdiction over land within the borders of a U.S. state requires the consent of that state, as mandated by the Enclave Clause.

The Wyoming Legislature's involvement in state land transfers serves a necessary function as a check on the federal government. Based on the above analysis, it should be uncontroverted that any transfer of land within the borders of the State of Wyoming to the federal government is subject to the Enclave Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Should the BLM rescind its agreement to purchase the Marton Ranch land and re-start the acquisition process by seeking the consent of the Wyoming Legislature, the strictures of the U.S. Constitution will have been adhered to. It appears as though the BLM will accept public comment and move forward with the land transfer. Therefore, the federal government should be legally prevented from exercising exclusive jurisdiction over the land once officially acquired, leaving the State of Wyoming to regulate the land as though it were owned by any other ordinary proprietor.

Ides encourages the people of Wyoming to participate and submit comments to the BLM at hyperlink: The public comment period expires on May 12.