- Page 5
- Partial proceedings of Conference of Governors, Commissioners and advisors of the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, on the Colorado River
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- 4 SEVEN STATES CONFERENCE strong states are essential to the integrity, to the fundamental principles of our government. There are a lot of well-meaning citizens who are worried about the future because they see a Bolshevist behind every tree, but they entirely overlook the more insidious and more dangerous foe who is little by little overthrowing the American plan of local self government. There is a vast number of activities that are exclusively the functions of the states. How are the states going to perform these functions for their people if their vitality is sapped by the federal government bleeding them of their sources of revenue? In so far as we have already been despoiled of our resources, our own apathy is much at fault. We must not sleep upon our rights, for the rights of states depend largely upon their own attitude and efforts. We may lose our sovereign rights and powers, if we do not assert them, and assert them in time, on the same theory as estoppel operates upon individuals. The most glaring example is the case of the public lands. As Congressman Winter of Wyoming conclusively proved in two notable speeches in the house of representatives, there can be no doubt that in theory, every new state admitted to the union is entitled to all the unappropriated lands within its borders, and yet the federal government now owns those lands. It owns them because it adopted a policy of claiming them, and the states meekly acquiesced. Colorado, when she came into the union, should have been just as much the owner of the unappropriated public lands within her borders as was Massachusetts the owner of her lands when she came into the union. But Colorado, with the rest of the new states, stood silently by and permitted the federal government to assert and exercise control over these lands, and thereby acquire title thereto. As a result of this theory the federal government now owns 74 per cent of the area of the state of Utah. This government land is exempt from taxation and does not help support the state government. A similar condition prevails in all the public land states in varying degrees. The last Wyoming legislature memorialized con gress to cede all the remaining public lands together with all natural resources including water power, power sites, forest and minerals to the states. Arizona is of the same mind. The California State Farm bureau at one time discussed seriously the proposition to make government lands subject to taxation. Following that, I understand, Congressman Raker of California, introduced and pressed a measure giving the states the power to tax national forests and other public lands.
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