Educators tell Utah’s Governor – Safeguard, don’t seize, our public lands

Educators, parents and students spoke out against Governor Herbert’s land grab in Utah today, united by a concern for Utah’s children and public lands.  Rejecting the claim that state control of federal lands could benefit education, speakers urged the Governor to “safeguard – not to seize – Utah’s public lands.”

The event was hosted by “For Kids and Lands,” a group of educators and other citizens who support stewardship of Utah’s federal public lands and realistic solutions for funding education.

A crowd of more than 50 citizens – including parents and grandparents with young children, as well as high school and college students – flanked the speakers.  They held aloft photos of families hiking on Utah’s public lands and signs with messages such as “Spend money on schools not on lawsuits” and “Don’t spoil my future, protect public lands.”

The group is delivering a position statement to the Governor endorsed by over 60 community leaders and currently signed by more than 1200 citizens.  The statement challenges Herbert’s efforts to assert state ownership over Utah’s federally-owned public lands and the roads and routes that crisscross them.

“When litigation and increased management costs are added together, the state is likely to lose rather than generate money,” said Heather Bennett, vice-president of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education and a mother of three children who attended Utah’s public schools. “Besides, I believe we set a poor example for our children and dishonor the values of our ancestors when we arrogantly seek to seize and exploit.”

Heather Bennett, VP Board of Education, Salt Lake City School District

James Thompson, a fifth generation Utahn and public high school teacher for 31 years, said that the Governor’s land grab “will destroy the landscapes that inspire, educate and renew us.”  Utah’s public lands “would be thrown open to extraction activities or sold off to the highest bidder in an effort to maximize short-term revenues,” he noted. “Moreover, they would become marred and scarred for generations to come as the state seeks to develop a virtual spider-web or road rights-of-way.”

James Thompson, South Jordan public school teacher and parent

“The Governor is out-of-step with young people in Utah like me,” noted Ethan Lake, a public high school student who who grew up hiking and camping with his family on Utah’s public lands. “We want to see these places safeguarded, not exploited.”

Ethan Lake, high school student

Heidi Chamorro, a law student who attended public schools in Utah all her life, noted that, “Utah’s unspoiled public lands are the main reason why young people remain in our state and why businesses choose to locate here.  If we allow the state to seize control and destroy the beauty that is in our backyard then we will lose what makes Utah such a unique and special place.”

Heidi Chamorro, student, College of Law, University of Utah

For Kids and Lands urges citizens who share their concerns to add their name to the position statement at www.forkidsandlands.org and contact them at forkidsandlands@gmail.com for info about how to support their campaign.

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