Utah Governor Gary Herbert has launched an unprecedented attack on our public lands in Utah – an attack that will cost Utah taxpayers millions of dollars and will plunder our precious wilderness heritage.
Herbert’s assault has two fronts:
1) In March, Governor Herbert signed the Transfer of Public Lands Act — a law that demands the federal government hand over more than 30 million acres of public land now managed by the federal government to the State of Utah. Once turned over to the state, many of these lands would be sold outright to the highest bidder while millions of acres would be thrown wide open to resource extractive industries.
2) In June, Governor Herbert filled 22 “roads to nowhere” lawsuits that seek to wrest control over tens of thousands of miles of dirt routes crisscrossing Utah’s public lands. Many of these “routes” are cattle trails and stream beds; a similar lawsuit over just one route in San Juan County has already cost the state more than $1 million in legal fees — to no avail. Governor Herbert now wants to litigate thousands of additional routes.
Call Governor Herbert today at 800-705-2464 or click here to email him right now. Tell him his federal land takeover is bad for Utah.
Bad for Utah
Governor Herbert’s land grab is an environmental nightmare and a financial black hole for Utahns. Here’s why:
Herbert’s plans would undermine Utah’s heritage. Our federal public lands are what make Utah special. Herbert’s land grab targets the lush national forests along the Wasatch Front, the redrock deserts and canyons surrounding our national parks, all of our national wildlife refuges, as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. These are the places where we go with our families to hike, hunt, fish, ski, bike or simply relax.
Governor Herbert’s land grab would limit public access to public lands.If Herbert’s land grab prevails, many of these lands could be sold or developed. Utahns can expect to encounter “No Trespassing” signs and scars of mineral development in our most beloved landscapes.
Herbert’s attack on our public lands could cost Utah taxpayers untold millions of dollars. The state’s own lawyers have said that Herbert’s land grab will only trigger a costly and ultimately futile legal battle because the state law on which it is based has a “high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” The litigation costs to taxpayers will likely run into the millions of dollars.
Furthermore, the federal government currently spends between $200 and $300 million per year managing public lands in Utah, including fighting wildland fires. In comparison, the state can barely manage to fully fund its $12 million state parks budget. If Utah did gain control over federal public lands, Utah taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing them.
In fact, Conservative Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently vetoed a land grab bill in her state because it would have overstressed the state’s budget and land management abilities. As the Salt Lake Tribune commented, “[t]hat’s a much more logical view than the pipe dream held by Utah lawmakers, that the seizure of public lands would be a fiscal bonanza for the state.”
Herbert’s assault on our public lands is bad for business. Twenty million visitors come to Utah each year, spending $7 billion dollars and supporting 120,000 Utah jobs, largely to enjoy our public lands. Just as important, our public lands are the single greatest reason why many people and businesses chose to locate and invest in Utah. An increasing number of studies show that rural counties in the West with protected public landscapes see better economic and job growth than counties lacking protected landscapes. To the contrary, Herbert’s agenda is to sell off and exploit – not protect and promote – our precious public landscapes.
Moreover, Herbert’s plans will create enormous regulatory uncertainty for grazing, drilling, and mining interests who now hold or are seeking permits and leases on our federally-managed public lands. This uncertainty will deter, not encourage, appropriate agriculture and energy development.
Herbert’s land grab will not solve our public education funding problems. Proponents of Herbert’s land grab argue that federal public land in Utah prevents the state from funding our schools by overly limiting our tax base. In fact, there is no correlation between a state’s per pupil funding and the amount of non-federal land within its borders. More than 25 states have less non-federal land per person than Utah, but manage to provide more per pupil funding for education.
Governor Herbert needs to hear from you. Call Governor Herbert today at 800-705-2464 or click here to email him right now. Tell him his federal land takeover is bad for Utah.