Deal Reached to Halt Endangered Listing for Utah Flowers | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Brian Maffly

May 6, 2014

“The long-awaited decision on whether to protect two rare desert flowers could hinge on a proposed deal federal authorities have reached with state and Uintah County officials.

Occurring only in the Uinta Basin, the Graham’s and White River beardtongue species of penstemon grow on oil shale outcroppings, so some fear a listing under the Endangered Species Act could stymie Utah’s nascent oil shale industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Monday released a draft conservation agreement, which identifies federal and state lands where surface-disturbing activities would be severely limited. The idea is to preserve core areas and demonstrate that beardtongue does not warrant listing, according to John Harja of the state Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.

The areas “will be refuges for the plants,” he said. “We did this for the purpose of addressing the threats.””

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune

BYU Law Review on H.B. 148 – The Transfer of Public Lands

By Donald J. Kochan

PUBLIC LANDS AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S COMPACT-BASED “DUTY TO
DISPOSE”: A CASE STUDY OF UTAH’S H.B. 148−THE TRANSFER OF PUBLIC LANDS ACT

2013 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 1133

Abstract

Recent legislation passed in March 2012 in the State of Utah–the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” (“TPLA”) also commonly referred to as House Bill 148 (“H.B. 148”)–has demanded that the federal government, by December 31, 2014, “extinguish title” to certain public lands that the federal government currently holds (totaling an estimated more than 20 million acres). It also calls for the transfer of such acreage to the State and establishes procedures for the development of a management regime for this increased state portfolio of land holdings resulting from the transfer.

The State of Utah claims that the federal government made promises to it (at statehood when the federal government obtained the lands) that the federal ownership would be of limited duration and that the bulk of those lands would be timely disposed of by the federal government into private ownership or otherwise returned to the State. Longstanding precedents support the theory that Utah’s Enabling Act is a bilateral compact between the State and the federal government that should be treated like it is, and interpreted as, a binding contractual agreement.

Utah’s TPLA presents fascinating issues for the areas of public lands, natural resources, federalism, contracts, and constitutional law. It represents a new chapter in the long book of wrangling between states in the West and the federal government over natural resources and public lands ownership, control, and management. The impact is potentially considerable–thirty-one percent of our nation’s lands are owned by the federal government, and 63.9% of the lands in Utah are owned by the federal government.

This Article provides an overview of the legal arguments on both sides of the TPLA debate. In the end, there is a credible case that rules of construction favor an interpretation of the Utah Enabling Act that includes some form of a duty to dispose on the part of the federal government. At a minimum, the legal arguments in favor of the TPLA are serious and, if taken seriously, the TPLA presents an opportunity for further clarification of public lands law and the relationship between the states and the federal government regarding those lands. Moreover, other states are exploring similar avenues to assert their claims vis-à-vis the federal government and are in various stages of developing land transfer strategies that will model or learn from the TPLA. That fact further underscores the need for a renewed serious and informed legal discussion on the issues related to disposal obligations of the federal government. This Article takes a first step into that discussion.

Download full article | Copyright (c) 2013 Brigham Young University Law Review, Donald J. Kochan

Legislative Summit on Transfer of Public Lands

By Kristen Moulton

April 20, 2014

“It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.

More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.”

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune

Secretary Jewell Releases Landscape-Scale Mitigation Strategy

Mitigation-Report-to-the-Secretary_FINAL_04_08_14-2_Page_01

DOI Press Release – April 10, 2014

Strategy seeks to provide clarity and consistency to more effectively avoid, minimize and compensate for impacts on public lands.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – To advance landscape-scale, science-based management of America’s public lands and wildlife, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today released a strategy to implement mitigation policies and practices at the Department that can more effectively encourage infrastructure development while protecting natural and cultural resources.

“This strategy outlines the key principles and actions we need to take to successfully shift from a reactive, project-by-project approach to more predictable and effective management of the lands and resources that we manage on behalf of the American public,” Secretary Jewell said. “The goal is to provide greater certainty for project developers when it comes to permitting and better outcomes for conservation through more effective and efficient project planning. Through advances in science and technology, advance planning, and collaboration with stakeholders, we know that development and conservation can both benefit – and that’s the win-win this mitigation strategy sets out to achieve.”

Read more | U.S. Department of the Interior Press Release