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Front Page » April 10, 2012 » Opinion » Likes the idea of returning federal lands to Utah- Letter...
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Likes the idea of returning federal lands to Utah- Letters to the Editor

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By Lou Sansevero

Dear Editor:

Someone with an acute understanding of governmental systems once observed "That government which is closest to the people is the best government while that which is furthest removed is the worst." Recently the Governor and the state legislature took a bold stance against the federal government by demanding the return of some 30 million acres of public land (which represents 65 percent of the state, note that federal occupation of Eastern states averages about 4 or 5 percent) to the state and people of Utah. Almost immediately the naysayers began pressing their opposition voicing distrust for that government which is closest to the people of Utah. Looking into the mists of time and their crystal balls like Oracles of Delphi they proclaim a future of dire almost apocalyptic consequences, "If the state takes these lands" they assert "they'll sell them off to private parties, developers, and greedy oil companies," speaking with such authority as if it were a fact and implying that those lands would be safer if left to a far removed, unresponsive, federal government.

With a seemingly intimate understanding of the value of everything but an ignorance of the worth of anything they confidently expound on the worthiness of the project, "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?" they ask apparently oblivious to the fact that 13 colonies, which considered themselves sovereign states, once spent $161 million on another "hopeless and ridiculous cause" . . . reclamation of both their stately sovereignty and their sovereignty over the land they occupied from another far removed, ever non-responsive government and in this self-induced state of oblivion they appear to deny that facet of the American character that holds that sometimes a principle is worth any price that needs to be paid to uphold it.

In a chorus of dissent they bemoan that state control over these lands will inevitably result in restrictions that will deny the people of Utah the free, unencumbered use of what is now "public lands", that SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration) does now and would expand charges to Utahns for usage of SITLA trust lands and that a debt strapped state, unable to maintain its current inventory of public lands, would multiply its maintenance problems by taking on more public lands and the management of public lands would deteriorate as a result. What is absent from this chorus of dissent are verses that disclose that restrictions are already placed on these lands in an arbitrary and capricious manner by a federal government which often caters to a small but vocal environmentalist, partisan constituency or that this same federal government already applies usage charges to Utahns for use of certain "public lands" designated as National Parks, National Forests, or National Monuments. The only discernible difference in these fees or charges is how these funds are used; under federal control these funds go to Washington and into the general fund and, in part, help offset the cost of maintaining the "nanny state" while under state control funds collected by SITLA go to a "lock box" in Salt Lake City in support of Utah school children.

In their fervor to protect "public lands" these naysayers ignore the fact that as the "nanny state" has expanded a cash strapped, deeply indebted federal government has become less and less able to maintain the "public lands" it has stewardship over resulting in deterioration of services and facilities on those "public lands".

I can understand some of the concerns of those who worry over the loss of "public lands" or who are concerned over the loss of the full use and enjoyment of those "public lands" by the people of Utah but let me ask "Who do you believe you have more influence and control over and who you have more trust in? A legislator who represents another state, who is not directly affected by the decisions he/she makes, who spends most of his/her time in Washington, and who, when he/she is not in Washington, returns to a community far distant from Utah composed of people who, most likely, have never and will never set foot in Utah or a legislator that resides in the district you live in, who is directly affected by the decisions he/she makes, who spends only 45 days removed from that community in which he/she lives and who has to face his/her constituency on a daily basis the other 320 days of the year and answer to that constituency directly for his/her decisions." For me the answer is simple, my state legislator, the person with whom I share a common culture and who, through that commonality, will make those decisions relating to land use which most closely represents my values and ideas of stewardship.

How the lands of the state of Utah are managed should be the decision of the legislature of the state of Utah under the direction of the people of the state of Utah for the benefit of the people of the state of Utah not by non-stakeholders at the federal level or from other states. Utah has, for all practical purposes, virtually no influence over land use in the states of California or New York or Washington or any other state, why then should Californians or New Yorkers or Washingtonians or residents of other states dictate to the people of Utah the use of the lands within Utah's borders or which lands should be protected wilderness or which roads Utahns can atv on or which roads, for that matter, are or are not roads at all; these are all decisions that Utahns alone should make.

If you believe, as I do, that, as the constitution intended, the states that formed a confederation of united sovereign states some 237 years ago intended that those sovereign states were to have a superior position to an anointed limited central, federal government and that the people and legislature of Utah should be the ultimate arbiters over the public lands of Utah then I ask you to send an email to Governor Herbert through his official website at and show your support of him and the legislature and thank him and the state legislature for taking this heroic stand on our behalf.

Lou Sansevero


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