Stewart, Bishop launch group aiming to get state control of public lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two members of Utah’s congressional delegation announced the launch of special group designed to aid in transferring public lands from federal to state control Tuesday.

Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop announced the launch of the “Federal Land Action Group” that, according to a statement from Stewart’s office, will work to build upon the work Utah and other states have started in recent years.

The federal government has been a lousy landlord for western states and we simply think the states can do it better,” said Stewart, who will serve as the chair of the new group. “If we want healthier forests, better access to public lands, more consistent funding for public education and more reliable energy development, it makes sense to have local control.”

Bishop, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the group will explore legal and historical background in order to determine the best congressional action needed to get the federal government to move public lands management to the states.

“We have assembled a strong team of lawmakers, and I look forward to formulating a plan that reminds the federal government it should leave the job of land management to those who know best,” Bishop said.

The Federal Land Action Group will hold a series of forums with experts on public lands policy, with the goal of introducing transfer legislation.

In addition to Stewart and Bishop, the group also includes Reps. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, Diane Black, R-Tennessee, Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, Cresent Hardy, R-Nevada, Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming.

Around 65 percent of Utah’s lands – 31 million acres worth – is managed by the federal government. In 2012, Gov. Gary Herbert signed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act” that called on the federal government to transfer all public lands management within the state – minus national parks and monuments with the exception of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

A deadline of Dec. 31, 2014 was set for lands management to be given to Utah that came and went. The state has currently set aside $2 million for a possible legal battle over the matter.

Proponents of transferring management of the public lands argue the states can manage the lands better than the federal bureaucracies based out of Washington, D.C., and that the state could greatly benefit from local control. Parties opposed to state-control of public lands see it differently.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and others have long argued the state doesn’t have the proper resources to manage its public lands. They have also said the state has no rightful claim to the land, and that Utah’s attempt at a so-called “land grab” is unconstitutional.

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  • fun bag April 29, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    the same tired old bs from the same old idiots…

    • sagemoon April 30, 2015 at 8:13 am


    • makkie April 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      You would know that’s all we EVER hear from you is BS

  • KarenS April 29, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    The Enabling Act that allowed Utah to become a state is very clear about the public lands in Utah. The federal government owns the land and Utah has never owned the land. In my view, the federal government has done an infinitely better job of management than Utah ever could. Every time we get “local control” , we have people sell off or cut off access to public lands.

    A case is point is the loss of the edge of Snow Canyon State Park. Through various shenanigans of the Washington County Commission, the land was turned over to the developers of The Ledges who blocked access forever to most of the trail that followed the edge up above Snow Canyon. Local control? No thanks!

    • Brian April 30, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Unfortunately the facts don’t support your position. North Dakota has an almost identical Enabling Act as Utah, and had 49.4% of it’s lands federally controlled after its act, and 3% today. Utah had 86% federally controlled lands after its act, and still 67% today. Why the difference? Why did North Dakota get its lands back, as it was supposed to under the Enabling Act, and Utah didn’t? In fact, most western states didn’t. The difference between federal land control between the eastern states and western states is dramatic. North Dakota has more than twice the money per student as Utah, because it controls its own lands, as it should.

      • fun bag April 30, 2015 at 11:09 am

        It’s funny how you put so much trust in the old boy network that is the utah state gov’t. We can all agree that the feds aren’t great at managing the land, but you haven’t seen anything til it’s handed over to the old boy networks of utah. It’s kind of like how you guys thought Bush II was so wonderful until you realized he wasn’t, and by then the damage had been done, so I’m calling you out as an idiot and grouping you with NEW MEXICAN down there as part of the idiot club.

      • KarenS April 30, 2015 at 11:38 am

        Luckily for us, as University of Utah law professor Bob Keiter said, “All of the precedents in the provisions in the state enabling legislation, Supreme Court cases of Kleppe v. New Mexico, the property clause in the United States Constitution, other Supreme Court and lower federal court precedent, all suggest that Congress has broad authority to make these types of decisions regarding the public lands.” Congress, not local control.

        If Utah keeps pushing this crazy “give us back our lands” nonsense, Congress just may end up turning all of the federal lands in Utah into wilderness designation just to end it all. I am not in favor of that but I sure don’t want “local control” either.

      • JJ April 30, 2015 at 10:09 pm

        You’re using North Dakota as a role model? Whaaa????? Have you been there? It’s an industrial oil rig wasteland. It reminds me of the final scenes from the animated Lorax show- dark, dreary, everything destroyed. But hey, their property tax base went up so I guess that makes up for everything, right?

  • native born new mexican April 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    I have almost no respect for Rob Bishop (political experience with him) but on this issue he and Stewart are right. I hope the two of them actually have the backbone to stick with this and get it done. The land does and should belong to the people who live on it and not to a greedy, heartless, almighty few who use the force of government to grab what they want. I don’t believe for one minute that the elite crooks who run the US and the whole world – world bankers etc. care spit about a turtle or a jumping mouse. Any one who can’t see that so called environmental concerns are just a front that is being used for these despicable people to control the whole world is not being very smart. They could care less if you get to sit on a rock and worship a tree. They hate all humanity except themselves.

  • fun bag April 30, 2015 at 8:33 am

    karens is exactly right. “local control” just means they want to sell the land off to private interests and cut off any type of public use or access of the land. And as usual, NATIVE BORN NEW MEXICAN is a complete illogical dullard…

  • Roy J April 30, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Considering that Utah is an American state and not a Mexican one because of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo for 1848 (more or a less a year after the Mormon arrival), and also considering that the Mexican-American war was won by the United States of which Utah was not then a part, it is a little thick to argue about state’s rights over federal ones in this case, especially when the same politicians are stumping along their campaign trails Bible’thumping the Constitution, the Founding Father’s, and muttering things about original intent. Obviously local control versus federal control is only a difference in kind: the requirement for exchanging a vast amount of real money, property, and responsibility ought to be a question of good stewardship, not a quibble over between two groups of excessively wealthy people who we all know are more interested in their personal gains than they are in improving the quality of life for the average citizen of Utah.

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