Deadline for public lands transfer passes, state considers litigation

SALT LAKE CITY – Nearly two years ago, Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation demanding the federal government hand over management of 31 million acres of public land by New Year’s Eve 2014. That was Wednesday, and the public lands remain under federal control.

Now that the deadline has passed, the state may pursue litigation over the matter, among other possibilities.

The Transfer of Public Lands Act, also known as House Bill 148, was sponsored by Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, of West Jordan, and ultimately signed into law by the governor on March 23, 2012. The demand to transfer the public lands was outlined and the deadline was set.

Public lands targeted by the legislation are primarily those overseen by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. National parks and monuments, wilderness areas and tribal lands are exempt. The only exception is the Grand Staircase-Esclante National Monument.

It is estimated that 65 percent of Utah’s overall land is managed by federal agencies.

Ivory told The Washington Times in a Dec. 3 story that if the public lands weren’t turned over by the deadline, the state would pursue a strategy of education, negotiation, legislation and litigation. The Legislature has already set aside $2 million to pursue a potential lawsuit.

According to the Associated Press, a possible lawsuit is being drafted yet may sit for a while as state officials wait to see what progress Utah’s congressional delegation can make concerning the matter.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Interior told the Associated Press Friday that the debate over a public lands transfer is “a waste of time and resources” on Utah’s part.

Opponents of the public lands transfer act, such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, have long argued that Utah has no rightful claim to the land and that attempting a so-called “land grab” is unconstitutional. They also say the state doesn’t have enough resources to properly manage the land like federal agencies do.

Supporters have shot back, claiming the lands were originally promised to be returned to state control as outlined in the state’s Enabling Act. They also aren’t buying the assertion that Utah doesn’t have the resources to adequately manage its public lands. HB 148’s supporters point to a recent 784-page economic study that states Utah could profit from managing those lands via revenue garnered from mineral extraction leases.

Combined with other revenue sources generated from the public lands, the study said, Utah could earn an estimated $331.7 million annually, which would offset the projected $280 million cost of managing those lands. However, the study noted that in order to this to happen, oil prices need to remain high, and, presently, they are at a five-year low worldwide.

In Washington County, both county and municipal leaders have shown support for the transferal of public lands to the state. The Washington County Commission and a number of city councils passed resolutions supporting HB 148 in early 2013.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

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31 Comments

  • Joe Barlow January 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    … yeah, kick those dirty liberal Federal Agencies off our land. I bet that mindless Obama ain’t going to say anything about this. Good for utah for pursuing litigation.
    Ed. ellipsis

  • utahbiller January 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    The taxpayers of Utah who oppose this foolishness should be raising funds to sue the governor for wasting our tax money.

    • sagemoon January 5, 2015 at 10:26 am

      I would be on board with that.

  • Bender January 4, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Two years ago Bender demanded free double cheeseburgers on Wednesdays and attentive double takes from all nubile females. The deadline for both these demands has passed with no action from either the liberal burger mafioso nor the fairer sex. Litigation is a certainty.

  • Dana January 4, 2015 at 5:13 am

    Atta Boy, Herbie. Show the world what a doofus you are. You’re demanding what from the Feds.? Idiot. Stuff it in your magic undies.

  • Koolaid January 4, 2015 at 7:37 am

    It would not be a good idea for the Federal Government to transfer public lands over to the Mormon church.

  • arts and letters January 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

    This is just nuts. Those are public lands and they do not belong to Utah aka the Mormons. Utah really should get a grip on its status as a state of the union – the United States of America. These battles against the federal government are a remnant of behavior from handcart days and neither appropriate or relevant in the 21st century. If Utah does not want to be part of the United States it should secede from the Union and set up its own country. Residents should stop receiving any help from the U.S. government like Social Security, Medicare, federal help with criminals – you name it. It’s getting quite tiresome to hear the continuing battle against Utah’s own federal government. I don’t care what Joseph Smith or Mitt Romney or the Book of Mormon says, Utah is not an entity in and of itself when it comes to participating as part of the federal government. Utah is either part of the United States or it is not.

    This state can either play the game or get off the field, but it can’t unilaterally change the rules.

    • Koolaid January 4, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Amen to that!

    • Wilbur January 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      This was spoken by a true “Liberal Arts” major.

      • DanceDanceDance January 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm

        Wilbur- “Liberal Arts” doesn’t mean what you think it does. I know there was a huge stunk when SUU wanted to be listed as a Liberal Arts college by people who thought that meant the same thing as politically liberal, but they actually mean two different things.

        • BunnyRabbit2015 January 4, 2015 at 4:40 pm

          you liberals can keep your liberal arts.

        • koolaid January 4, 2015 at 7:49 pm

          What can you expect from an area where people date their relatives?

    • St. George Senior January 4, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Well said!

  • Delong January 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

    This will never happen and is a complete waste of time at the tax payer’s expense.

  • An actual Independent January 4, 2015 at 10:32 am

    We’re doomed if the Federal Government turns all of our fates over to the Utah Religiouslature.

  • Youtawbob January 4, 2015 at 11:42 am

    LOL oh yeah I’m sure after reading your comment the state of Youtaw is going to straighten up and play the game by the rules LOL. I’m sure you got them running scared now…..

  • Red Rocker January 4, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Utah apparently would strip mine, drill, and overgraze its own backyard for short term gain.
    We The People will resist this, of course.

    • BunnyRabbit2015 January 4, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Why do you liberals hate $$$ so much? everyone wants to be rich, no?

    • sagemoon January 5, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Darn tootin’!

  • munchie January 4, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Two years ago, I also set a deadline for my neighbor to give me his land so I hope I can get some of that litigation money to pursue my dream.

  • mesaman January 4, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Much of the outcome of this will be the release of the wilderness weirdos and the gentiles in our midst. I guess we should include not very smart since they knew they wouldn’t be able to come in this state and change it to their liking. Assimilate, accommodate, or abdicate.

    • BunnyRabbit2015 January 4, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      I’m sorry, but are you retarded? Try a proof read before you embarrass us all.

    • arts and letters January 5, 2015 at 8:27 am

      I think you’ve got it backward, Mesaman. Most of the people I’ve met who came here from someplace else came because of the beauty and relative solitude of the area – the very things the state promotes in its tourist pitches to draw the folks with money to spend. People who come here for those things are NOT the ones who want to change things. It’s the money grubbers already here who want the changes, led of course by the ones in Salt Lake and the Utah legislature who dream of big dollars from all the havoc they can wreak on the beautiful land. I guess the new tourist pitches would be something like, “Come to Utah – it used to be beautiful!”

    • Chris January 5, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      “not very smart” From your obvious inability to write coherently, that label apparently applies to you.

  • Maggie January 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Looks like we need yet another educational campaign to explain to most of you why it is important for a state to manage it’s own land,except of course for National Parks and indian lands.

    Don’t any of you even wonder why most states do own their own land?

    I do think this is just a place for you all to come to hate LDS, or anyone who has been elected or works to make life in our Utah communities better for all, and spew your lack of knowledge.
    Do something productive with your own lives rather than wasting your time demeaning those that do.

    • sagemoon January 5, 2015 at 10:38 am

      “the debate over a public lands transfer is “a waste of time and resources” on Utah’s part.” Yep, as a tax payer I am mad as Hades that my tax dollars will be spent on this stupid law suit. *sigh* I guess it’s time to send another letter to Uncle Herbie which his staff probably throws out as soon as they see its in disagreement with his agenda.

    • Bender January 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      “Looks like we need yet another educational campaign to explain to most of you why it is important for a state to manage it’s own land”
      .
      MAGGIE are you another welfare freeloader who wants the citizenry of the US to give you free stuff? What has happened to that stiff pioneer backbone we all used to possess? When our ancestors joined the union as a full fledged state we promised, among other things, to give up polygamy and any claims to federally owned lands within our borders. Don’t be an self entitled welfare hustler who demands what does not belong to you!

    • Chris January 5, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      You are the one who needs an “educational campaign.” It is not true that most states own their own land. In most states, there is, very simply, no public land to speak of. Is that what you want? Do you really want all our wide open spaces locked up in private ownership? There is absolutely no state in which the public lands were deeded from the feds to the state government. Lands were sold, homesteaded or otherwise transferred from the federal government to private individuals. What Utah is demanding is completely without precedent. Before you accuse others of lack of knowledge, you should actually do some research.

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