The powers of Congress are enumerated in several places in the Constitution. The most important listing of congressional powers appears in Article I, Section 8 (see left) which identifies in seventeen paragraphs many important powers of Congress. In this section, we consider how several of the enumerated powers of Congress under the original Constitution have been interpreted.
THE PROPERTY CLAUSE POWER
Wild burros on BLM land
In 1976, a dispute over 19 wild burros rounded up on federal land and sold by New Mexico's Livestock Board reached the Supreme Court (New Mexico vs Kleppe). The Department of Interior argued the New Mexico's action violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, while New Mexico countered that the Act exceeded the power granted to Congress by the Property Clause of Article IV, Section 3. New Mexico contended that Congress could regulate only those state actions on federal land that threaten to damage public lands. The Court, however, rejected this narrow interpretation. Congress has the power to enact "needful" regulations "respecting" the public lands and--according to the Court---what is a "needful" regulation is a decision "entrusted primarily to the judgment of Congress." The Court concluded the federal government "has a power over its own property analogous to the police power" of the states. The Court did "not think it appropriate [in Kleppe]...to determine the extent to which the Property Clause empowers Congress to protect animals on private lands."
THE COPYRIGHT &
THE PROPERTY CLAUSE-- QUESTIONS
2. Does the Property Clause empower Congress to regulate private activities on private land that adversely effect public lands, such as air pollution from a nearby plant, bright lights from neon advertising, or noise from a racetrack?
3. Does Article IV, Section 3 give Congress the power to regulate any behavior of residents of U. S. Territories that it chooses to, provided no other provision of the Constitution is offended? For example, could the Violence Against Women Act provision invalidated in Morrison be enforceable in U. S. Territories (such as Guam or Puerto Rico), even though it can't be in the fifty states?