Utah Land Grab Archives


  • December 9th, 2014

    From E&E News (subscription required):

    LAS VEGAS — Debate over whether and how Utah should take over federal public lands is a “waste of time” and hinders constructive dialogue between Utah and land management agencies, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

    Jewell spoke to Greenwire on the sidelines of the Western Governors’ Association winter meeting here last Saturday…

    Her comments came less than a week after a study by Utah universities found that the state “likely” could afford to take over and steward roughly 31 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands within its borders, and could make a profit under certain energy revenue assumptions (Greenwire, Dec. 2).

    It’s important to note that the state can only “afford” to manage the lands in 2 out of 10 scenarios, in which oil prices remain consistently high.

    Utah’s takeover bid is a legal long shot and likely unconstitutional, legal scholars argue.

    But the economic study galvanized both supporters and opponents of the takeover plan.

    Jewell said the debate is irrelevant and counterproductive.

    “A relevant discussion is, ‘How can we work collectively with the states on the thoughtful management of public lands?’” she said. “I think it is a waste of time and resources to say we want to have a state takeover of public lands.”

    Jewell said states enjoy great benefits from federal lands in their states, such as mineral royalties, recreation, hunting and fishing, and quality of life. Land management is also paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

    We agree.

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  • December 8th, 2014

    You know you’ve got a problem when even George W. Bush’s former Interior Secretary doesn’t think the Utah land grab will succeed. From E & E (subscription required):

    Former Interior Secretary Gale Norton questioned the viability today of conservatives’ efforts to transfer federal lands to state control…

    Asked by Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, president of the American Lands Council, about the prospects for states taking ownership of federal tracts, Norton said, “I have to admit, I’m somewhat hampered by experience.” She had just concluded a headline speech at a Washington, D.C., summit organized by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council…

    “Even during the Reagan administration, that went down in flames,” she said….

    “It’s not just the people of Utah that need to be assured that it can work, but the people of New York and California and so forth,” she said. “So it’s a real uphill battle.”

    Just uphill? Quixotic is more like it.

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  • December 1st, 2014

    In 2012 the Utah legislature passed a bill demanding that the federal government turn over almost all public land in the state by the end of this year.

    With that deadline less than a month away, SUWA has launched a new statewide television, radio and web campaign to educate Utahns about the cost of Utah’s land grab – and how all Americans would lose our redrock heritage while private interests gain.

    Click here to help stop Utah’s land grab once and for all.

    Under Utah’s land grab scheme, the future of places like Greater Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell and Cedar Mesa would be controlled by Utah politicians who favor development over conservation.

    While the state’s effort will likely be found unconstitutional in the courts, we need to expose this for what it is: completely wrongheaded public policy — and we need to stop it now because it creates a political environment that makes it harder to protect Utah’s wild lands for all Americans.

    Please contribute today to help stop Utah’s land grab.

    Just today a team of economists from three Utah universities, hired by the legislature, released a report that shows that if Utah were to take public lands from the federal government it would have to privatize them or pursue heavy development in order to pay for their management.

    This is a terrible idea that needs to be stopped now. Imagine the Book Cliffs strip-mined for tar sands; Arches National Park ringed with oil and gas wells; and a giant coal mine in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This is what some Utah politicians want to see happen.

    Click here to stop Utah politicians from seizing America’s redrock wilderness.
    Your contribution today will help us stop Utah’s land grab, and protect Utah’s redrock wilderness, now and forever.

    (Click here to learn more about the economic report released today.)

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  • December 1st, 2014

    If Illegal Land Seizure Were to Occur, State Would Profit Only Through Heavy Industrialization of Utah’s Wildlands

    For Immediate Release. Contact: David Garbett, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-428-3992

    Salt Lake City – Today, a team of economists from three Utah universities released a report which shows that if Utah were to take public lands from the federal government it would have to privatize them or pursue heavy development in order to make a profit.

    In 2012, the Utah Legislature passed a bill demanding that the federal government turn over almost all public land in the state by the end of 2014. The following year, it authorized a study to determine whether doing so made economic sense. This study was released to the public today.

    However, the economics of the Legislature’s claims to federal public lands is irrelevant. Scholars at the state’s own law school concluded that Utah has no legal right to the federal public lands. The Legislature’s legal counsel also warned that the courts would likely find these efforts unconstitutional. (The warning is found in the legislative review note attached to the bottom of the draft legislation.) In fact, the Utah Constitution forever disclaims any interest in public lands within the state’s boundaries. (Utah Constitution, Art. 3, Section 1, Second Clause.)

    “This study shows that if the state of Utah seizes public lands owned by all Americans the only way it will be able to afford them is to sell them off or destroy them through heavy development,” remarked David Garbett, a staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “When will the Legislature realize that the public does not want to see the Wasatch Mountains barricade with “No Trespassing” signs, the Book Cliffs lost to tar sand strip mines, or Arches National Park ringed with oil and gas development?”

    PublicLandsforSale

    Although this study is born of the pipedreams of schemers and historical revisionists, it provides important warnings regarding the economic realities of such a land takeover. Among other things, it shows that if the state were to seize federal lands, under most scenarios, it would be a net money loser. Far from bankrolling Utah’s public schools, as proponents of the legislation claim, this takeover would serve to enrich private interests but rob all Americans of their priceless natural heritage.

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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….

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    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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