Utah Land Grab Archives - Page 3 of 12


  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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?

     

  • December 16th, 2013

    Last year at this time we were reeling under the weight of the State of Utah’s 25+ newly filed R.S. 2477 lawsuits which claimed title to more than 14,000 roads covering more than 36,000 miles. Few wild places were spared from this onslaught. Not national parks. Not the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. And certainly not Utah’s red rock wilderness.

    A San Juan County RS 2477 Claim in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

    A San Juan County RS 2477 Claim in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

    What a difference a year makes.

    While all of these places are still threatened by the State’s tsunami of litigation, SUWA and its partners– working closely with more than two dozen attorneys from six national and local law firms and our own in-house legal team– have clawed our way to have a seat at the table. Much work remains to be done but it’s worth pausing to consider what we’ve accomplished:

    • SUWA has successfully intervened in the 18 cases that threaten Utah’s red rock wilderness. This is no small feat when you consider the sheer number of legal briefs, exhibits, etc. that had to be filed for each of these cases. It’s also notable given a string of close losses that we suffered from 2008-2011 which made it harder for us to intervene and participate as parties in these critical cases. Remarkably, the Obama Justice Department has opposed our status as an “intervenor of right” at every turn, arguing that only the United States should be able to fully defend against the State’s lawsuits.
    • Just last week a federal judge granted us the right to participate in the State’s so-called “preservation depositions” where the State is trying to memorialize the testimony of aged and/or inform witnesses.  These depositions are one of the State’s primary tools to proving its cases.  Prior to this ruling, we had to rely on the US Justice Department to ask our questions for us, which they didn’t always want to do.  This decision is a significant step towards defending Utah’s red rock wilderness.
    • The Tenth Circuit court of appeals recently (and provisionally, pending review by a three-judge panel) granted our motion to intervene in the United States’ appeal of a March 2013 decision by a federal judge which granted 12 rights-of-way to Kane County and the State.  These included the so-called “North Swag” route, a claimed highway (impassable in some places) within the Grand Staircase national monument and a wilderness study area.  The United States, State of Utah, and Kane County all strongly oppose our motion to intervene.

    What hasn’t changed over the past year is the State’s zeal to do what it takes to be able to punch roads into the heart of Utah’s red rock wilderness. That’s why it continues to pour millions of dollars into attorneys, analysts, GIS staff, etc. to push these cases. In short, these lawsuits remain one the biggest threats we face today.
    Thanks to your support, we’re starting to turn the corner and will be bringing the fight to the State in 2014.

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