Wasting Time and Money

When ideology collides with reality, reality wins.

Last Monday, a federal judge blocked implementation of a new Utah law that would have prohibited BLM and Forest Service employees from enforcing state laws anywhere in Utah.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports:

In a filing Monday, the Justice Department said that Congress has the authority to make laws governing federal lands and that the Utah Legislature does not have the power to overturn or supersede those laws and rules.

The federal regulations governing the officers and land have been written to incorporate state laws and local ordinances.

After a conference call with attorneys for the state and federal governments, Judge David Nuffer signed a temporary restraining order blocking the law from taking effect until a June hearing on a longer-term injunction.

Ultimately, the Justice Department is asking the judge to strike down the law as unconstitutional.

This is the first instance where Utah’s loony tunes campaign to take over federal land ran up a against a federal court.   And Utah lost.

Also losing, however, is the Utah taxpayer, who is footing the bill for the state’s attorneys to return to court in June to argue against a permanent injunction — not to mention the 30 lawsuits against the feds that Utah taxpayers are paying for so the state can gain control over so-called RS2477 routes, many of which are little more than old cattle trails and dry stream beds.

As the Salt Lake Tribune declared in an editorial on Saturday:

If the law is eventually nullified, it won’t matter to the quixotic [State Representative Mike] Noel. He seems to enjoy spending Utah taxpayers’ money in court. In fact, he relishes any kind of standoff with federal government agencies and employees almost as much as he likes to thumb his nose at groups trying to protect the natural resources that bring many millions of tourist dollars to the Beehive State every year.

Noel… believes in the outdated philosophy that wide-open spaces are there to be used up and discarded for short-term gain and temporary jobs. He fails to see the writing on the wall: The future mainstays of the Western economy will not be ranching, mining and extractive industries….

Arguing in the Legislature for laws that do nothing but antagonize federal officers and cost tax money to defend in court is not responsible governance. It’s a provincial, last-gasp attempt to control lands that belong to all Americans, not only the Utahns who live near them.

Poking the U.S. Constitution in the eye by ignoring the Supremacy Clause, which elevates federal law above state and local laws, may be fun for Noel, but Utahns should see it for what it is: a waste of time and money that should be spent on solving Utah’s real problems.

The Tribune gets it right. The radical nature of the state’s campaign to “take back” federal lands in Utah will eventually collapse — but not before a ton of taxpayer money is wasted.