Knowledge and Courage: What the West Needs to Take Back Our Public Lands

By Ken Ivory

The federal government continues to control more than 50% of all lands in the western United States. Locked up in these federally controlled lands are more than $150 trillion in mineral values and more recoverable oil―in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming alone―than in the rest of the world combined. Failed federal forest policies prevent harvesting timber, which would improve forest conditions and wildfire resilience, provide useful consumer products and renewable energy feedstock, and revitalize rural schools and communities. FBI criminal activity alerts now warn that terrorists are encouraging the use of wildfire in fuel-laden federal forests as weapons for jihad.

There is no good reason for the federal government to retain control over these lands and resources in states like Oregon. We in the West have, in good faith, simply tolerated the federal government’s delay in honoring its more than 200-year-old obligation to transfer title to these lands for so long that now most people assume there must be some valid reason the federal government controls our lands and resources.

But there is none. At a recent Continuing Legal Education seminar to several dozen lawyers, a law professor (who is frequently quoted as saying it is “clearly unconstitutional” for states to take action to secure the transfer of title to their public lands) displayed an annual average precipitation map indicating that the federal government retains control of western lands because they are “arid.”

The second reason he gave was that the founders of the western states simply gave up their lands as a sort of ransom for the privilege of statehood, citing half a sentence in the statehood enabling acts: “… forever disclaim all right and title….” The funny thing is, this same half sentence is word-for-word the same in the statehood enabling acts of almost all states east of Colorado, where the federal government did dispose of their public lands.

In fact, for decades, as much as 90% of the lands in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida were kept under federal control. Then, one man had the knowledge and courage to rally citizens to compel Congress to transfer title to their public lands. His name was Thomas Hart Benton, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Missouri featured in President John F. Kennedy’s best-selling book Profiles in Courage.

The statehood enabling acts promising to transfer title to the public lands are the same for all states west and east of Colorado. It’s been done before―repeatedly and recently. And, returning these lands to state control is the only solution big enough to fund education; better care for our lands and forests; protect access; create jobs; and grow local, state, and national economies and tax base.

If we fail to stand up and take action to secure state and local control of our lands and abundant resources, it will not be because it is illegal, unconstitutional, or impossible. It will only be because we―and the local, state, and national leaders we “hire”―lack the knowledge and the courage to do what has been successfully done before.

Do your local, state, and national leaders know why there is a difference between the way the federal government has handled eastern and western lands? Have you inquired what specifically they are doing to compel Congress to honor the same statehood promise for our children and our future that Congress already kept with Hawaii and all states east of Colorado? Have you asked them what groups or influential individuals they will bring to the effort? Have you asked them what specifically you can do to help?

Now is the time to let our representatives know how transferring federally controlled lands back to the state can vastly benefit Oregon’s economy while preserving and using wisely our wealth of natural resources.

Ken Ivory is president of the American Lands Council and a member of the Utah House of Representatives. He was a guest speaker on this issue for Cascade Policy Institute in November 2013.

Press Release: Angry Protesters Reject Proposals for Employees’ Freedom to Choose

For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Patrick Schmitt,


Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose

Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event

VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.

After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.

This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.

“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.

“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”

“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.

Photos from the event, including images of protesters and arrests, can be found here:


Press Release: Cascade Policy Institute Report predicts 110,000 jobs for Oregon with enactment of a Right-to-Work Law


February 2, 2012


Steve Buckstein
Senior Policy Analyst & Co-Founder
Cascade Policy Institute
Office Phone: 503-242-0900

Cascade Policy Institute Report predicts over 100,000
jobs for Oregon with enactment of a Right-to-Work law

Cascade Policy Institute just released a major economic study, The Right to Work Is Right for Oregon, which concludes that Oregon would see major economic benefits if it became a right-to-work state, where job seekers and employees are not forced to join a union and pay union dues to gain or keep their jobs.

Written by Randall Pozdena and Eric Fruits, the same Oregon economists who analyzed the negative impact of tax measures 66 and 67, the Right-to-Work study concludes that enacting right-to-work legislation this year would lead to:

  • 50,000 more people working here in five years; 110,000 more working here in ten years.
  • $2.7 billion more in wage and salary income in five years; $7.0 billion more in ten years.
  • 14 percent more taxpaying families per year moving into Oregon from non-right-to-work states.

Cascade Senior Policy Analyst and founder Steve Buckstein praised the study for not only finding a correlation between right-to-work policy and economic growth, but for actually pointing to a causal link. In other words, Buckstein stated:

We conclude that the right to work actually contributes to more employment, higher incomes, more net in-migration of taxpaying households and faster economic growth. It is, therefore, a policy we believe Oregon should adopt.

The study breaks new ground by covering 70 years of data, every state, and relying on what the authors believe to be the largest datasets ever used to study the impacts of right-to-work laws.

The study confirms that the twenty-two states that do not require workers to join a union and pay union dues enjoy, as a group, more rapid employment and income growth, better job preservation, and faster recoveries from recession. Oregon is not one of those states, yet. Buckstein argues:

Rather than repeat Oregon’s failed attempt to pull us out of recession by raising taxes on high-income individuals and corporations, a better approach is to remove a key barrier to private sector initiative and job creation by enacting an Oregon right-to-work law.

Buckstein added,

Oregonians need to recognize that capital and people are mobile. Tax measures 66 and 67 push high-income people and corporations away from the state, likely losing us up to 70,000 jobs and 80,000 high-income tax filers in the ten years after their passage. Enacting a right-to-work law will put mobility to work in our favor, likely adding 110,000 jobs in ten years and 14 percent more taxpaying families every year coming from non-right-to-work states.

Buckstein continued,

Unlike fiscal policies that must weigh spending against taxes or pit one government program against another, enacting right-to-work legislation will not take a single dime out of state coffers. Indeed, right-to-work legislation is one of the few pro-growth policies that are actually costless to enact.

Buckstein concludes,

Even if our research had not so clearly shown that Oregon’s economic prospects would improve as a right-to-work state, we still would support the policy based on the non-economic benefits that the name itself implies. Everyone should have the right to work if the employer hires them and they accept the position. No third party should be able to deny individuals the right to work simply because they decline to join a union. Right-to-work is, therefore, a moral as well as an economic imperative.

Click here to download the full report.


The Right to Work Is Right for Oregon
A Comprehensive Analysis of the Economic Benefits
from Enacting a Right-to-Work Law
By Randall Pozdena, Ph.D. and Eric Fruits, Ph.D.
Cascade Policy Institute • February 2012


Cascade Marks Its 20th Anniversary

In 2011 Cascade celebrates its 20th anniversary. Formed shortly after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, the Institute’s growth since 1991 is a tribute to the principles which form its foundation and to the ideas that arise from them.


Much has changed since then and continues to change in Oregon, America and the world. More people are free from arbitrary government constraints than ever before. Open markets and property rights are now recognized as essential elements of a free and prosperous society. Cascade is part of a growing network of think tanks worldwide finding a growing acceptance of these classical liberal ideas.


We founded Cascade to promote public policy that advances individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon. We were convinced then, and are still convinced today, that these ideas and principles will produce positive consequences for all Oregonians.


The idea for Cascade actually emerged from an initiative campaign that I and a small group organized and placed on Oregon’s 1990 general election ballot. Measure 11 would have provided refundable tax credits to every K-12 student in the state, which they could use to attend any public, private, religious or home school of their choice. No state had ever voted on such a sweeping reform before, and we felt it was time for Oregon to lead the way.


As it became clear that we would not win that election campaign, we began thinking about how we could move our school choice agenda forward in the future. We decided that Oregon needed a free-market think tank to advocate for school choice as well as other limited-government ideas. That’s why, barely two months after Measure 11 lost at the polls, we incorporated Cascade Policy Institute in January 1991.


Cascade began with a one-person staff (me) and a vision of a freer society in Oregon. We began researching, writing and hosting speakers on a number of important public policy topics. We strategically hired additional staff and built a board of directors capable of carrying our vision forward.


Today, Cascade has a team of twelve full-time staff and eight board members. We now concentrate on a number of policy areas including tax and budget, education reform, health care reform, land use, transit, energy and climate change, and rural policy. We also facilitate the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which has helped hundreds of low-income students attend the tuition-based schools of their choice.


Cascade has become the “go to” organization for legislators and news media around the state looking for a limited government, free-market perspective on legislation and the issues of the day. And, we host Oregon Capitol News which provides timely news and investigative stories about Oregon policy and politics.


Our budget has grown from $57,000 in the first year to one million dollars today. In our first twenty years, supporters of liberty and markets have voluntarily donated  ten million tax-deductible dollars to support the Institute’s work. That’s a generous sum for an organization in a small state, whose primary “products” are ideas. We believe our donors’ funds have been well spent, and we greatly appreciate the faith they have placed in us to promote our ideals for the betterment of all Oregonians.


As we enter our second twenty years working for Oregonians, we will take a few hours in May to stop and celebrate what we’ve accomplished. We hope you can join us for a Willamette River Cruise on the Portland Spirit the evening of May 26, 2011. Details will be available soon. In the meantime, thanks for all your support, financial and otherwise. We couldn’t do it without our supporters and fans.



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