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  • February 5th, 2014

    Land Grab Billboard

    Last Friday, Senator Orrin Hatch had some glum words for Utah legislators who support Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s quixotic wasteful attempts to get the federal government to hand over public lands to the state of Utah. Speaking before the Utah legislature:

    Hatch told the Utah Legislature on Friday that its drive to gain control over public federal lands in the state isn’t likely to succeed anytime soon…

    “We don’t have the votes right now, nor do we have support of the [Obama] administration” for the land-title transfer,” Hatch said in an annual appearance before the House. He added to the Senate, “I’m not sure how easy it would be with any administration.”

    Yep. This crazy idea has been kicking around in the heads of certain Western ideologues since the Reagan and both Bush administrations — to no effect. But that hasn’t stopped Governor Gary Herbert from signing into law bills that continue to waste Utah taxpayer money on his pipe dream:

    Two years ago, the Legislature enacted HB148 demanding control of most federal lands within the state — which it says was promised at statehood — but exempted all national parks and monuments except for Grand Staircase National Monument. Legislators expect the issue to land eventually in the courts.

    HB 148 gave the United States government til the end of this year to hand over federal lands to the state of Utah. Yeah, so go ahead and mark that on your calendar.

    The fact that such a transfer isn’t likely to happen — there’s the small matter of it being unconstitutional, as even the Governor’s own lawyers advised — hasn’t stopped the Utah legislature from doubling down on the dumb idea in this year’s legislative session:

    Utah House Republicans spent their first caucus meeting of the 2014 Legislature rallying around the latest effort to take over the state’s federally controlled public lands.

    “People say we can’t do it. Baloney. We can do it,” Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said…

    After hearing from Noel and other members, the caucus voted unanimously to proceed with putting together a package of bills intended to make the case for the transfer of public lands….

    RS2477 Ad

    Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, told the caucus that’s probably going to mean a legal battle.

    “No matter what happens, it’s very likely we’re going to be in court,” Stratton said, possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Oh yes, court. Governor Herbert and the Utah legislature love wasting taxpayer money to make an ideological point in the courtroom. Cf, e.g.: Governor Herbert continuing to pour millions of dollars into attorneys, analysts, GIS staff, etc. to push his 25+ R.S. 2477 lawsuits that seek to give the state the right to be able to punch thousands of miles of roads into the heart of Utah’s red rock wilderness.

    It may not be a prudent use of taxpayer money — but it will prove a point, right?

     

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  • January 23rd, 2014
    SRSR

    Last year the BLM proposed to sell 57 oil and gas leases primarily located in Utah’s stunning San Rafael Swell.  The leases would have green-lighted development on more than 80,000 acres of proposed wilderness, the vast majority of which the BLM itself acknowledges are wilderness-caliber landscapes.  The leases would have also authorized surface activities in a culturally rich area and over the objections of The Hopi Tribe.

    Hundreds of people wrote and emailed the BLM asking them to “think first and lease later.”  More than 150 of you rallied at the BLM’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City and delivered this message personally.  Thanks to your hard work that bad idea was tabled in the days leading up to the proposed sale and the leases were withdrawn from the sale.

    But last week, an oil and gas trade group filed an appeal with the Interior Department seeking to overturn the BLM’s decision not to offer these leases.  They were joined by a small oil and gas company that had hoped to buy some of these leases — so small, in fact, that they don’t operate a single well in Utah.

    The gist of their appeal is that because the BLM initially made the (wrong) decision to offer these leases, it was required to do so no matter what kind of information the agency learned about the threats that development would pose to fragile cultural sites, threatened species, etc.

    In other words, industry wants the good old days back of “lease first and think later.”  Not a chance.  SUWA and other conservation groups intend to intervene on behalf of the BLM and defend this important decision.

     

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