• January 31st, 2015

    A new White Paper from the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources & the Environment at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law has determined that when it comes to Utah’s Land Grab, “the public would suffer from this misguided effort.

    PublicLandsforSale

    “If Utah succeeds in taking over federal public lands,” the report concludes. “The public would have less, not more, input into land management, and all who utilize what are now public lands — industry and recreation interests alike — would see the cost of access increase substantially: ”

    The White Paper, titled “The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands,” discusses Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, or TPLA, which demands that the federal government transfer title to more than 31 million acres of federal public lands within Utah to the State. The TPLA has inspired eight other states to take up legislation seeking to control federal lands.

    The Stegner Center’s White Paper concludes that the TPLA hinders, rather than helps, efforts to advance public land management reform.

    Statements by TPLA backers signal a profound shift towards commodity production if Utah secures these lands, and even if more moderate voices prevail, a recent legislatively-commissioned report reveals that economic realities would force Utah to dramatically increase oil and gas development in order to cover new management expenses. Utah would likely also be forced to increase the rates it charges to all who access what were formerly public lands — including grazing permittees, mineral developers, hunters, anglers, and other recreational users. The public would also have less influence in land management decisions because federal planning and public input laws would not apply, and Utah has no comparable land planning or public participation requirements.

    Click here to read “The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands”, which is a follow-up to “A Legal Analysis of the Transfer of Public Lands Movement,”  in which Professors Keiter and Ruple concluded that Utah has no legal basis to demand title to federal public lands.

  • January 22nd, 2015

    This morning in Salt Lake City, former Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Arizona Bruce Babbitt called out Utah Governor Gary Herbert for leading the charge to seize control of federal public lands.

    Speaking to a packed audience of outdoor recreation industry representatives from across the county at the Outdoor Retailers Show, Babbitt noted that “Governor Herbert has proclaimed his personal enthusiasm for casting off federal environmental regulation” and warned that “the disappearance of outdoor spaces is an existential threat to your industry.”

    It’s also an existential threat to our way of life here in Utah. Like Babbitt, we “can’t imagine the West… as a landscape of locked gates, fences festooned with “NO TRESPASSING” signs, streams blocked off to fishermen, and campgrounds and hunting lands put on the auction block.”

    If you live in Utah, can you make sure Bruce Babbitt’s message is heard throughout Utah by sending an email to your state legislators today?

    If you live outside of Utah, please ask your representatives to stand up to protect Utah’s redrock country by cosponsoring America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today.

    Your voice is important. For too long, radicals like State Representative Ken Ivory have been given free reign to push their privatizing public lands agenda.

    And while we’ve seen these types of attacks before, as Bruce Babbitt noted, “this time around the threat must be taken more seriously” because it “is a national effort, sponsored and produced behind-the-scenes by sophisticated lobbyists funded with torrents of cash from the oil and gas industry.

    “These new players are easing resentful racist characters like Cliven Bundy off the stage. They are bringing on political pros backed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, funded from industry sources and seeking to dismantle environmental regulation.”

    Please, make sure your voice is heard over the industry lobbyists in Salt Lake City.

  • December 10th, 2014

    The beautiful Indian Creek area to the east of Canyonlands National Park is once again threatened by a proposed all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail. Please tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to deny San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct this unnecessary trail.

    On two previous occasions we’ve notified you of San Juan County’s request for a right-of-way to construct a new ATV trail in the Indian Creek area. Based on overwhelming public opposition to the new trail, BLM has twice “revised” its Environmental Assessment (EA) by adding new alternative route alignments. Unfortunately, instead of taking the prudent path and choosing the “No Action” alternative, BLM continues trying to develop alternative alignments that will nevertheless result in the construction of a new ATV trail.

    Bridger Jack Messa.  Photo credit: Ecoflight

    Bridger Jack Mesa. Photo credit: EcoFlight

    In the latest EA, all of the alternative alignments for the ATV route will cross through lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics; will facilitate increased ATV use in areas bordering the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, such as Bridger Jack Mesa, Lavender Canyon, and Davis Canyon; and will result in increased user conflicts in an area that is primarily enjoyed by quiet recreationists such as rock climbers, hikers, and backpackers. The ATV trail could also adversely affect Indian Creek – a desert stream that supports a variety of wildlife species as it meanders through the redrock and high desert grasslands on its way to the Colorado River.

    The Indian Creek area, located on the east side of Canyonlands National Park and south of Moab, Utah, is famous for its dramatic and sheer Wingate Sandstone cliffs, and is an internationally-known and treasured rock climbing destination. Beyond the sheer walls, as Indian Creek continues its journey downstream towards Indian Creek Falls and its eventual confluence with the Colorado River, ATV users enjoy many miles of trails that provide for recreational adventures and exploration of the vast Canyonlands basin.

    Even though the BLM has designated more than 3,000 miles of motorized routes in San Juan County, including dozens of routes in and near the Indian Creek area, the county is requesting a right-of-way for yet another trail “which connects to ATV use occurring on designated routes in the Lockhart Basin area and . . . provide[s] a recreational opportunity for ATV enthusiasts by precluding use of OHVs [off-highway vehicles] which are wider than 65 inches.”

    The Indian Creek corridor is a world-class scenic and recreation destination and should be managed as such. There is absolutely no reason the BLM should relinquish its control over these spectacular public lands by granting a right-of-way to San Juan County for the construction of a new, superfluous ATV route. This is especially true given the hundreds of miles of motorized routes that already exist in the Canyonlands basin.

    There’s a reason the proposed ATV trail has raised concern from conservationists, quiet recreation user groups, and the National Park Service; the proposal simply does not make sense from any perspective other than through the lens of increasing ATV use in the Indian Creek area.  Increasing motorized use in a world-class scenic and recreation area, which also serves as the gateway to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, is a shortsighted management approach by BLM. As such, the agency should uphold its responsibility to all public land users by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    Please tell BLM, by December 18, 2014, to not grant a right-of-way for this unnecessary ATV route in the Indian Creek area by choosing the “No Action” alternative.

    With your help, we can stem the tide of ATV abuse in redrock country and preserve the scenic and wilderness qualities of the Indian Creek area.

  • 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.

  • December 3rd, 2014

    Dismisses Utah claims to 6 routes and concludes width of 3 other routes must be revisited

    Salt Lake City, Utah (December 3, 2014) – Yesterday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key decision in the State of Utah’s ongoing roads (RS 2477) litigation.

    North Swag RS 2477 Claim (vertical)

    RS 2477 “highway” in Kane County.

    The appeals court cut in half a 2013 decision by a district court judge to grant Utah and Kane County 12 so-called RS 2477 rights-of-way. The appeals court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over 6 of the 12 routes because they were open for motorized travel pursuant to federal land use plans. The court also reversed the district court’s “scope” (width) determinations regarding 3 other routes located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and remanded for further proceedings.

    “This decision is a significant set-back for the State of Utah’s effort to wrest control of more than 14,000 claimed ‘highways’ across federally managed lands in the state,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “After more than 10 years of litigation and millions of taxpayer dollars, Utah has little to show for its efforts. Of the 17 claimed RS 2477 rights-of-way litigated in two separate cases all the way to the Tenth Circuit, the State has established title to only 6 routes, leaving 13,983 routes to go.”

    The appeals court also rejected an argument advanced by conservation groups that the State’s RS 2477 claim in the Paria-Hackberry wilderness study area was filed too late and after the relevant 12-year statute of limitations had run.

    After being denied intervention in these proceedings, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society participated as amicus curiae before both the district court and court of appeals. The Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and National Parks Conservation Association also participated as amicus curiae in separate filings before the appeals court.

    A copy of the decision is available here.

    Background
    Originally filed in 2008, Kane County and the State of Utah expended millions of dollars to pursue 16 claimed rights-of-way in this lawsuit. Several of the claims are located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and one is within a BLM wilderness study area.

    This case is one of 25 filed by the State of Utah and its counties that claim title to approximately 14,000 dirt trails and roads across the state. Many of these claims are little more than stream bottoms and old mining tracks in the desert that serve no practical purpose whatsoever. The State is relying on a provision in the Mining Act of 1866 to try and establish its claimed rights-of-way.