St George News

Nevada follows Utah in exploring transfer of public lands

ST. GEORGE – Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 227 into Nevada law Tuesday, approving the creation of the Nevada Land Management Task Force. The signing of AB 227 makes Nevada the fifth state to look into the movement initiated by Utah lawmakers that urges the federal government to transfer management of public lands over to state control.

In a press release issued by the American Lands Council, Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison, the primary sponsor of AB 227, said, “Gov. Sandoval and our state legislature have taken the first step in fulfilling our responsibility to our children and for the future of our state in making congress honor the same promise to Nevada that it made and kept with Hawaii and all other states east of Colorado.”

The “promise” that Ellison refers to is what is referred to as a state’s “enabling act,” which is basically a statehood contract. When a state joins the country, part of its lands are held under federal jurisdiction – which land transfer proponents argue was only meant to be a temporary arrangement. While lands management was transferred to many states that lie east of Colorado, in the west this did not come about.

On March 23, 2012, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law House Bill 148, known as The Transfer of Public Lands Act. HB 148 was spearheaded by Rep. Ken Ivory and demands the federal government transfer control of the public lands to the state by the end of 2014.

Like the Utah bill, Nevada’s AB 227 does not include national parks and other lands that have a similarly protected status in the proposed transfer. Public lands currently cover an estimated 70 percent of Utah, and over 81 percent of Nevada.

It has also been argued by public land transfer advocates that putting the lands back under state control will help create jobs, grow local and state economies, and help better fund education. This would be accomplished by the states opening up previously locked-out areas where oil, natural gas, and other natural resources can be accessed and harvested for use. Taxes collected from the public use of those lands would also provide additional funding  to state educational spending.

Currently, the federal government provides “Payment in Lieu of Taxes,” or “PILT” monies, to the states as a substitute for these funds. These funds are given to the state which then distributes them across the state to the counties and school districts.

Previously, Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner told St. George News that money derived from the use of public lands would be many times more than what the county and school district presently receives via PILT funds.

“There’s so much revenue potential out there,” Gardner said.

Related:

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved

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  19 Comments
  1. Alan Gardner June 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm · Reply

    This is an idea who’s time has come. If Utah is to ever have revenue to fund education in an adequate amount it will have to be by having control of the land and resources that was promised at statehood. to reallly see the details of what is possible go to http://www.americanlandscouncil.org

    • Snowfield June 8, 2013 at 9:16 am · Reply

      Utah is corrupt from top to bottom. We could sell off the whole state and nothing would change with our poorly funded schools.

  2. Chris June 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm · Reply

    Just when and how was this land “promised” to the state of Utah? I challenge you to provide us with the document in which this promise was given.

    • Becky June 8, 2013 at 9:28 am · Reply

      Dear Chris,
      EVERY STATE’S ENABLING ACT promising that ALL public lands will be disposed of by the federal government so that the states can tax their own land. And if they couldn’t dispose of it, they were to GIVE it to the states. Here is the document link you requested. http://archives.utah.gov/research/exhibits/Statehood/1894text.htm
      Also, if you need help understanding the document, or any of the legislation that has followed in the past 100+ years since it’s ratification, please see http://www.americanlandscouncil.org.
      Hope that helps.

  3. Bender June 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm · Reply

    Mr. Gardner, the state can’t even properly fund the state parks it has now. We as a state are no where near financially capable of managing the BLM/Forest Service lands in Utah. Short of selling off huge chunks of the federal lands you propose to take over to private parties (and locking the public out of them in the process) there is no way state ownership of federal lands makes financial sense. The reason these lands are not in private hands now is that there was no water to go with the lands. They are being used now for their best and highest use — recreation, grazing, and gas/oil/mineral development. Bringing them under state control won’t magically make every existing oil and mineral claim financially viable.
    .
    Your claim that the state was promised what are now federal lands at statehood is a Tea Party/Sagebrush Rebellion myth. Simply repeating it does not make it true.
    .
    I’d like to see the county commissioners more focused on issues that will bring long term prosperity to the area: education/job training and recruitment of companies in high tech growth industries. We can’t keep building and selling homes to each other forever. When Apple/Google/Ebay decide to open a facility here it will be because we have an educated and hardworking job force. It will be because of quality of life factors and higher education opportunities. It won’t be because a man can graze a cow, ride an ATV or run a bulldozer wherever the hell he wants.
    .
    This neo-sagebrush rebellion is wasted time and money and diverts us from meaningful work to improve southern Utah for our kids and grandkids.

    • Chris June 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm · Reply

      Well said, Bender. Many of Alan’s ilk fail to realize that federal ownership of these lands injects money into the state economy because of the costs of managing them. If the land belonged to the state, that money would have to be extracted from us residents via higher taxes. Another widespread myth is that extractive uses such as mining or logging would increase greatly under state ownership while the truth is that very little of this activity is restricted under current federal land use policies.

    • Becky June 8, 2013 at 9:33 am · Reply

      I’m afraid you do not have the facts. Each state has the actual numbers of how much revenue is pulled from federal land vs. state lands. The revenue from what is pulled out is FAR more than the cost of doing so, and that is WITHOUT the improved management by the states. Here are some links that will help you understand this better: http://americanlandscouncil.org/downloads/hb148_summary.pdf
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fts_KSb7Uc
      As I sent to Chris, EVERY STATE’S ENABLING ACT promising that ALL public lands will be disposed of by the federal government so that the states can tax their own land. And if they couldn’t dispose of it, they were to GIVE it to the states. Here is the document link you requested. http://archives.utah.gov/research/exhibits/Statehood/1894text.htm
      Also, if you need help understanding the document, or any of the legislation that has followed in the past 100+ years since it’s ratification, please see http://www.americanlandscouncil.org.
      Hope that helps.

      • Bender June 12, 2013 at 11:57 am · Reply

        Nope Becky. Does not help

  4. Dave Miller June 7, 2013 at 10:37 pm · Reply

    Contrary to those who have discounted Mr. Gardner, he in fact is absolutely accurate in his statement and indeed both derisive comments neglect the significance of the overarching magnitude in both economic terms but also in the sense of better management of the public lands. The state is far superior in its administration of public assets and much more adept to prevent the imbalances caused by the absence or neglect of federally managed public lands.Let the royalties derived from Utah public lands remain under its management and you will see how much better Utah will respond to the people.
    Now, when states including Utah entered the Union they entered voluntarily and entered into a compact with the United States to receive equal treatment and enjoy the separate but mutual advantages set forth by the greatest country on earth. To allege that the state would be subservient to the Federal body is like saying when you join an association, for example the Sierra Club, the Sierra Club would have authority to control you, force you to pay dues you don’t agree to and dictate what is best for you. If you like being a subject vs. a citizen then continue to think like one. As for citizens, or in other words free people the time is due for Utah to manage it’s own destiny and act independent of expensive enticements.

    • Bender June 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm · Reply

      Dave, your highfalutin verbiage and weak logic have been noted. Carry on the best you can.

      • Dave Miller June 8, 2013 at 10:08 pm · Reply

        Mr. Bender,
        Logic sir is a function of two specific inputs:1. reasoning with information 2. reasoning from perspective. If indeed your superior logic can handle the scrutiny please enlighten me on the following points of your position:
        1. Why would federal management of Utah resources be better for Utah than Utah’s management? If you can provide legitimate evidence please do so and identify specific examples of how federal fiscal policy is sound regarding revenues accumulated on Utah public lands. As follow up to this question are you a Utahn? and if so do you believe in democracy? I ask this question because I would like to know, considering your unfaltering capacity to identify weak logic, whether the course the state takes should allow you or any other Utahn room for their input in decisions. As compared to accepting dictates on policy under the DC regime.
        2. You allege that pursuing the transfer of public lands is both a waste of time and money. Once again do enlighten those of us with a weaker logic how Utah should pursue the shortage of revenues to fund education in primary, secondary and post secondary education when the resources are exploited, not by development but by a federal partner who has mismanaged so poorly the treasury that it must keep high amounts of our precious resource dollars, derived from resources within the state, to pay interest on bloated debt that jeopardizes or national security while, in the name of conservationism, wastes more than any business could ever imagine. Please advise.

        • Bender June 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm · Reply

          Dave Miller,
          .
          Yes, Utah resident here. My ancestors crossed the plains and homesteaded here. My kids attend public schools here. I recreate on public lands here. My business brings in outside money, pays taxes and employee salaries here.
          .
          The myth of the Neo-Sagebrush rebellion is that if the ‘gubmit’ got out of the way we locals could be rolling in wealth easily gathered off of the public lands. This lie is a convenient tool used by political hacks like Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner and Utah 2nd District Congressman Chris Stewart to rile up the right wing base of their constituencies.
          .
          The simple fact is that there are no El Dorado mines, logging projects or mega developments waiting in the wings to magically appear if only the state controlled the lands. These lands were gone over with a fine tooth comb for 100 years after Brigham and our grandpas arrived. Any lands that had water were developed and ended up in private ownership. Most economically viable mineral extraction quickly happened. Right now our public lands serve their highest and best use – Hunting, Fishing, ATV use, backcountry recreation, grazing, watershed protection, responsible mining, logging and oil and gas development.
          .
          A new spin on the Sagebrush Rebellion pops up every decade or two. The loony right rants and raves but in the end the public asserts its will to keep these lands in the ownership and control of all of us, not just the wealthy and the locally politically connected.
          .
          It’s hard to remember it when you live in the middle of Eden, but our public lands in Southern Utah are viewed as a world renowned gem. We live in a magical place that is the envy of many. Our economic future does not lie in selling off for a pittance our public lands heritage for the temporary benefit of a few connected fat cats.

    • Snowfield June 8, 2013 at 9:13 am · Reply

      Utah is utterly corrupt, I’m not sure what “superior management” it’s capable of beyond personal enrichment of a select elite few. The feds are too far away to plunder and profiteer as efficiently as the Utah government would be able to.

      • Dave Miller June 8, 2013 at 10:14 pm · Reply

        Please elaborate why you would accept the premise that the feds are too far away to plunder and profiteer efficiently.

  5. Becky June 8, 2013 at 9:39 am · Reply

    I have sent the following reply to a few of the people on this article, but feel it is important to share with everyone. Some of you will not look up these facts because you are set in your beliefs, no matter how limited your information is. But for those of you who care to find out the truth:
    I’m afraid many of you do not have the facts. Each state has the actual numbers of how much revenue is pulled from federal land vs. state lands. The revenue from what is pulled out is FAR more than the cost of doing so, and that is WITHOUT the improved management by the states. Here are some links that will help you understand this better: http://americanlandscouncil.org/downloads/hb148_summary.pdf
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fts_KSb7Uc
    EVERY STATE’S ENABLING ACT promises that ALL public lands will be disposed of by the federal government so that the states can tax their own land. (States cannot survive without being able to tax their land.) And if they couldn’t dispose of it, they were to GIVE it to the states. Here is the enabling act for just Utah. Make sure you UNDERSTAND the legal jargon before you go and belief someone who wants to pull ONE LINE from it (out of context). Constitutional scholars have explained these thoroughly and their explanation follows. http://archives.utah.gov/research/exhibits/Statehood/1894text.htm http://americanlandscouncil.org/downloads/Kochan%20Utah%20Public%20Lands%20WP.pdf
    Also, if you need help understanding the document, or any of the legislation that has followed in the past 100+ years since it’s ratification, please see http://www.americanlandscouncil.org.
    Hope that helps.

    • Chris June 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm · Reply

      Becky, you are grossly misinformed. Having studied the state’s enabling act previously and having done so again on the link provided by you, there is no such promise anywhere in the text. In fact, the opposite is true. Utah surrenders all ownership of public lands to the federal government with the exception of any such land that is subsequently provided at the discretion of the federal government. Just where in the enabling act do you think a promise of this land was made? Provide us with the exact text, not just a link that gives no support to your assertion.

      • Chris June 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm · Reply

        For your convenience, here is the relevant text in the enabling act:

        “That the people inhabiting said proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof; and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribes; and that until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the disposition of the United States”

        Now, just where do you or anyone else here think that the lands in question were “promised” to the state of Utah?

        • Dave Miller June 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm · Reply

          Chris,
          Thanks for the reference to the Utah enabling act.

          Now, rather than manipulate partial truths by sharing only part of what is relevant in the act lets examine 2 evidences and proofs that verify the intent of statehood and the enabling act and why Utah should pursue every angle to secure a transfer of public lands from federal ownership to state ownership. And no the state is not going to go pillage and exploit resources by privatizing pristine national treasures.

          First of all, reference the founding documents that formed the union of states that take precedent over subsequent state admissions. There exist only specific purposes for which the federal government are permitted to own lands within a state. see Article 1 section 8 and Article 4 section 3.

          Secondly, with respect to disclaiming all right and title, this is comparable to a seller issuing clear title to a buyer. It must be unencumbered and conforming. This was the process that a territory went through to bring all title to land clear upon admittance to statehood. See North Dakota. Same enabling act 3% federal ownership.

          Also please explain the source of the money ” that federal ownership of these lands injects money into the state economy because of the costs of managing them.” Do not the royalties extracted from Utah public lands exceed the amount paid back into the state through its management? Would not the state derive more revenue by managing is own lands even after subtracting for the cost of managing them?

    • Bender June 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm · Reply

      Again Becky, no this does not help. Linking to partisan websites and repeating an untruth is not only unhelpful, but dishonest. Your reading of the enabling act is the exact opposite of what it actually says.
      .
      Hope that helps.

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