Colorado law would try to force the sale of federal lands

Colorado Republicans want BLM and Forest Service to sell off land suitable for agriculture and share the proceeds with the state

This meadow at Shrine Pass has a history of sheep grazing, so presumably, a proposed bill the Colorado Legislature would require the U.S. Forest Service to sell it and give 5 percent of the proceeds to the state. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Republican Colorado legislators are putting a new twist on the concept of takings by introducing a bill that would try force the federal government to sell off public lands that are suitable for agriculture.

House Bill 12-1322 would require agencies like the Forest Service to sell those lands by Dec. 31, 2012. Any land not sold by that date would no longer be exempt from property taxes, and would also require the federal government to pay the state 5 percent of the net sales proceeds from the sales.

The money would be earmarked for water projects and education. The bill exempts  national parks, private property, land held in trust by the state and land belonging to tribes.

In the latest rehash of the so-called sagebrush rebellion, several other states are also considering similar measures, which are generally considered unconstitutional by legal experts.

In most cases, the attempts to force the sale of federal lands are nothing more than posturing for a conservative constituency. Colorado’s version is sponsored by Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The Colorado Wildlife Federation has already voiced strong opposition to to the measure, calling it unconstitutional.

“This bill is an attempt to take away public lands that are essential to our state’s economy and quality of life,” the Colorado Wildlife Federation said on its website.

“Public lands provide immense value to Colorado’s economy and quality of life. The Conservation in the West poll 2 months ago found 93 percent of Colorado voters believe that “our national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

A hearing on the bill has been scheduled for Monday, April 16 at 1:30 in the House Education Committee.


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