Utah to seize own land from government, challenge federal dominance of Western states

In three weeks, Utah intends to seize control of 31.2 million acres of its own land now under the control of the federal government. At least, that’s the plan.

In an unprecedented challenge to federal dominance of Western state lands, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012 signed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act,” which demands that Washington relinquish its hold on the land, which represents more than half of the state’s 54.3 million acres, by Dec. 31.

So far, however, the federal government hasn’t given any indication that it plans to cooperate. Still, state Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the legislation, isn’t deterred.

“That’s what you do any time you’re negotiating with a partner. You set a date,” said Mr. Ivory. “Unfortunately, our federal partner has decided they don’t want to negotiate in good faith. So we’ll move forward with the four-step plan that the governor laid out.”

In other words, there won’t be any escorting of federal officials by state troopers to the eastern border. Instead, he said, state officials will proceed with a program of education, negotiation, legislation and litigation.

“We’re going to move forward and use all the resources at our disposal,” said Mr. Ivory, who also heads the American Lands Council, which advocates the relinquishing of federal lands to the control of the states.With the 2012 law, Utah placed itself on the cutting edge of the heated debate over public lands in the West. The federal government controls more than 50 percent of the land west of Kansas — in Utah’s case, it’s 64.5 percent, a situation that has increasingly resulted in tensions across the Rocky Mountain West.

As far as Mr. Ivory is concerned, however, shifting management to the states would be far preferable than keeping the lands under the increasingly tight control of the federal government.

“Under increasing federal control, access is being restricted. The health of the land is diminishing horribly. And the productivity is depressed,” Mr. Ivory said. “This is the only way to get better access, better health and better productivity.”

Full article: Utah to seize own land from government, challenge federal dominance of Western states (Washington Times)

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