Tim Pearce on April 3, 2018

The Department of Justice sued California Monday over a law that allows the state to block any federal land transfer with in the state.

Under state law Senate Bill 50, the California State Lands Commission has the authority to refuse any federal buying or selling of land within California’s borders. The state can also take over the exchange and purchase the land itself in the event of a sale, or it can find another buyer for the land.

“We are forced to spend our resources to bring these lawsuits against states like California that believe they are above the law and are passing facially unconstitutional laws specifically intended to interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its legitimate law enforcement duties,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

The bill was designed in direct opposition to the Trump administration’s policy approach to federal land and motivated by a fear of losing federally designated national parks and wilderness. Using the months-old law, California has already held up and killed a number of federal land transfers, Politico reported.

“The Public Lands Protection Act represents the will of the vast majority of Californians who believe public lands should remain in public hands,” California state Sen. Ben Allen, a Democrat who authored the legislation, said in a statement. “We are simply asking that before any sell-off occurs, the state be given an opportunity to preserve them. This law provides a viable, legitimate mechanism to block an extreme agenda seeking to privatize public outdoor recreational treasures.”

In analyses done by the judiciary committees of California’s Assembly and Senate, the constitutionality of the law was pointed to as the most likely problem going forward. The California legislature concluded, however, that “this bill does not violate the property clause of the U.S. Constitution because it does not actually prohibit the federal government from conveying its property.”

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