Can a State Use Eminent Domain to Take Federal Land?

Steve Bainbridge and co-blogger Eugene Volokh ask whether states are permitted to use eminent domain to take federal land. The question is occasioned by Utah’s recently enacted plan to condemn federal land within its territory.

For reasons I discussed in this earlier post inspired by Utah’s plans, the answer is almost certainly no. Indeed, as the Washington Post story linked above points out, the Utah legislature’s “own attorneys acknowledge [that their condemnation effort] has little chance of success.” I can understand Utahns’ frustration with the fact that “[m]ore than 60 percent of Utah is owned by the U.S. government, and policy makers [t]here have long complained that federal ownership hinders their ability to generate tax revenue and adequately fund public schools.” But condemning federally owned land is unlikely to solve the problem.

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