Outdoor enthusiasts, business owners and educators gathered at Utah’s State Capitol today to deliver a petition and postcards signed by more than 5,400 Utahns opposed to Governor Gary Herbert’s federal land grab.
The message in Salt Lake City today was clear: Herbert’s effort to seize control over Utah’s federal lands by transferring them to state ownership and by claiming ownership over 40,000 miles of dirt routes that crisscross federal wild lands is a bad idea – bad for hunters, bad for business owners and tax-payers, and bad for families who want to share Utah’s majestic wildlands with their children.
“Never in our nation’s history has a governor from any state attacked out American public land heritage on such an extraordinary scale,” said Mathew Gross of SUWA.
Jack Nelson, an avid hunter and fishermen and retired BYU journalism professor, stressed that citizens could encounter “No Trespassing” signs and scarred landscapes where they now go to recreate. “I have hunted and fished across Utah’s federally-owned forests and lakes for more than 60 years without having to ask permission or pay anyone for access,” he said. “The Governor’s land grab would change that. These are our lands and should not be sold off.”
Dwight Butler, who has operated a popular outdoor equipment store in Utah for forty years, highlighted the harm Herbert’s land grab could do to the state’s thriving outdoor recreation economy.
“Our customers bike, ski, hike and camp on Utah’s federally-managed public lands,” he said. “They are a powerful calling card. Rather than filing quixotic lawsuits, the Governor should work to preserve and protect our public lands, and to enhance our image as one of the last refuges of wild lands in the lower 48 states.”
Dede Carpenter, an expert in the hospitality industry, similarly emphasized that the Governor’s land grab could destroy the single greatest reason why many people and businesses choose to locate and invest in Utah – the state’s unspoiled federal lands. “Why is the Governor trying to sell off and exploit these lands when good business sense calls for protecting and promoting them?”
Middle school teacher Laurel Legate challenged the Governor’s claim that the land grab could help fund education.
“Nationwide there is no correlation between a state’s per pupil funding and the amount of non-federal land within its borders,” she said. “Our children deserve leaders who will protect our public lands and make education funding a priority – not pretend we have to choose between the two.”
She closed her comments with a personal comment to the Governor, “Like many of the people who signed the petition and postcards we are delivering today, I grew up in a middle class family that spent our vacations camping in our federally managed forests and redrock canyons. Your land grab robs me of the chance to share these precious places with my daughter. It robs all Americans of that opportunity.”