CEDAR CITY – With 26 lawsuits already pending against the federal government, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said now is not the time for Utah to get into another one regarding the issue of state managed public lands – especially when Republicans are down one seat in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Herbert, while in town for a campaign stop and to officially start the Utah Summer Games this week, made time to sit down with Cedar City News at Bulloch Drug and answer a few questions on the minds of Iron County voters.
See video of interview above
A lawsuit that would try to force the federal government to turn over public lands to the states concerns Herbert right now. Any decision in the lower courts would likely move to the higher courts, he said, and the outcome ultimately may be dependent upon the Supreme Court justices.
“We can maybe do something legislatively,” Herbert said,”so we (himself, the state Legislature and congressional delegation) said, ‘let’s see what we can do there and at the same time let’s prepare the opportunity for a litigation.’
“A three-prong attack is negotiation, legislation and litigation. So we’ve been working on that on all sides, a parallel track.
“But now is not the time to file a lawsuit – I don’t believe – because we’re within a few months of knowing whether we can pass something legislatively. So we need to bide our time.”
Herbert said he would like to give the Utah congressional delegation an opportunity to negotiate the Public Lands Initiative, a recent bill introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop. Many elected leaders see the bill as a compromise with environmental groups that for years have advocated locking up millions of acres of pristine wilderness throughout Utah.
As for economic development in rural Utah, Herbert said Iron County does not want Salt Lake dictating to local citizens their economic future. He believes the community should decide what they want.
“No one knows what your strengths are and probably nobody knows what your weaknesses are better than your local community leaders here: your business community, your local mayors, city councils and county commissioners,” Herbert said. “So they ought to determine, ‘here’s what we can do to improve economic opportunity in our county, our city and our community.’”
Iron County, currently under the limitations of a recently implemented Water Resource Management Plan ordered by the state water engineer, is facing serious issues regarding the future of water.
Herbert did not directly address these issues but did talk about conservation and developing future water projects, specifically the Lake Powell Pipeline, a project Iron County voted against participating in years ago.
“I understand that water is the only limiting factor to the growth of Utah and we have a lot of pressure for growth,” Herbert said. “We are now the fourth or fifth fastest growing state in America. We have internal growth – we have a higher birth rate. We have a great quality of life and economic opportunity that is attracting people to come to our state. So we’ve got to get a handle on the future of water.”
Pointing to his water conservation campaign, Slow the Flow, Herbert said the goal is to conserve the current water resources by 25 percent by 2025.
“Today we need to know where we’re at when it comes to our water supply and where we need to be to accommodate the growth pressures,” he said. “That means conservation of what we have. The water we have we can conserve better. We have a campaign of Slow the Flow; so Washington County, Iron County and everybody up on the Wasatch Front, we’ve got to start using less and making it extend in more areas.”
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