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.
- Deadline for public lands transfer passes, state considers litigation
- Economic study: Utah could benefit from managing public lands
- Who should manage public lands? Lockhart, Ivory face off with McCool, Keiter at SUU debate‘Where’s the line?’ Ivory’s crusade to return public lands to the states
- Public lands transfer resolution moving through Washington County
- Gov. Herbert signs public lands transfer act
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