SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Kane County has handed nearly half a million dollars in recent years to a Texas-based nonprofit for consulting and legal services regarding public land management. The spending comes on top of the millions it has spent litigating legal claims based on “R.S. 2477,” a frontier-era law that allowed counties to own roads built across public land.
Now that organization, American Stewards of Liberty, or ASL, has emerged as a leading voice against President Joe Biden’s conservation agenda in potential violation of its tax-exempt status.
The group, run by wife-husband team Margaret and Dan Byfield, enjoys 501(c)(3) status, which would restrict it from engaging in political action, that is activities aimed at promoting or blocking legislation. Its campaign against Biden’s “30 by 30” initiative appears to flout federal rules for tax-exempt groups, with direct appeals to pressure elected representatives at all levels of government, according to Accountable.US, a nonpartisan watchdog group that filed a complaint Friday with the Internal Revenue Service.
Available data does not suggest any of Kane County’s payments to ASL were improper, but they illustrate the large sums rural Utah counties and the state are willing to spend to push against federal oversight of the public lands within their borders.
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Written by BRIAN MAFFLY, The Salt Lake Tribune.
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