The State of Utah Taking Over Federal Lands- Letters to the Editor
Governor Herbert just signed HB 148. The state legislature has also authorized the attorney general to spend $3 million to start the legal battle; a fight the legislature's own attorney has said will likely fail. Additionally, John Leshy, a noted legal scholar on federal lands law who served as Interior Department solicitor during the Clinton administration, neatly summed up expert opinion on this issue: "Legally, it's a ridiculous claim. It would be thrown out in federal court in five seconds."
A few months ago the State proposed closing many State Parks because it could not afford to manage them. Not long ago, the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) proposed charging fees to hunters and others who wished to access blocks of land under their administration. Wouldn't the $3 million be better spent on the management of lands already owned by the State of Utah rather than fighting for a hopeless and ridiculous cause?
What if the Federal government did give in to the "demands" of the bill by turning over nearly 30 million acres to the State? Obviously, Utah has no plans to raise taxes to provide funds to manage these lands. As a result much of the land would be sold or leased. It would be just a matter of time before you and I would either be locked out of these beautiful places forever or required to pay large access fees to get to our favorite places for hunting, fishing, camping, biking, OHV riding, hiking, horse riding, or even scenic driving. Energy development, subdivisions, isolated cabins, etc. would fragment wildlife habitat and negatively impact animals in Utah, including most hunted species.
Certainly there are concerns with the management of Federal Lands within the State of Utah. There are many ways to address these concerns that are much better than turning these lands over to the state.