Secretary Jewell: Utah Takeover a “Waste of Time”

From E&E News (subscription required):

LAS VEGAS — Debate over whether and how Utah should take over federal public lands is a “waste of time” and hinders constructive dialogue between Utah and land management agencies, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Jewell spoke to Greenwire on the sidelines of the Western Governors’ Association winter meeting here last Saturday…

Her comments came less than a week after a study by Utah universities found that the state “likely” could afford to take over and steward roughly 31 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands within its borders, and could make a profit under certain energy revenue assumptions (Greenwire, Dec. 2).

It’s important to note that the state can only “afford” to manage the lands in 2 out of 10 scenarios, in which oil prices remain consistently high.

Utah’s takeover bid is a legal long shot and likely unconstitutional, legal scholars argue.

But the economic study galvanized both supporters and opponents of the takeover plan.

Jewell said the debate is irrelevant and counterproductive.

“A relevant discussion is, ‘How can we work collectively with the states on the thoughtful management of public lands?'” she said. “I think it is a waste of time and resources to say we want to have a state takeover of public lands.”

Jewell said states enjoy great benefits from federal lands in their states, such as mineral royalties, recreation, hunting and fishing, and quality of life. Land management is also paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

We agree.