Public Lands Highlights from Governor’s “State of the State”

January 29, 2014 – Governor Herbert delivered the State of the State address celebrating Utah’s successes, outlining challenges, and explaining his plan for solutions. Public lands’ issues were frequently a part of the equation.

Among them, Utah’s unique challenge to adequately fund education for our growing student population. The Governor mentioned that nearly 70% of Utah’s land is controlled by the federal government, generating no property taxes to help pay for the growth.

Quoting James Madison, he emphasized that Utah needs to assert its rightful role as a sovereign state.

 

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite.”

 

The Governor sees management of public lands as an area where Utah has to find its own solutions to its issues without being hindered by federal overreach. He defined state sovereignty as representation of the will of the people “while respecting the democratic and judicial processes.”

 

More effective management of our public lands is also critical to our state. At no time was this more evident than during the federal government shutdown. Our national parks were closed, tourists were turned away and the livelihoods of Utah business owners were put in peril. Yet we were told by many in Washington there was nothing we could do to solve this problem.

 

We do a lot of things well in Utah, but “doing nothing” is not one of them. I was determined to open the parks, and I told Interior Secretary Sally Jewel we simply had to find a way–and that’s exactly what we did. It took a little common sense and a lot of hard work. It took people of good will, including Representative Brad Dee, and legislators on both sides of the aisle working together to find the solution.

 

The Governor stressed his efforts in putting Utah in the best position to optimize its use of public lands, including signing H.B. 148 and working with Congressman Rob Bishop on his Public Lands Initiative. These initiative presents the state with “a unique opportunity to resolve” the issue of public lands transfer “by identifying public lands for multiple-use such as energy development, farming and ranching, and protecting” the state’s “iconic vistas and venues.”

Read the full text of the speech.

 

Governors, Counties Asking for Full Support of PILT Program

The Western Governors’ Association and the National Association of Counties sent a joint letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees requesting full support of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

PILT has been compensating counties with large tracts of nontaxable federal lands for many years. The two-year budget deal the Congress passed this week authorized PILT extension but left it up to the appropriators to decide whether the program continues.

The letter emphasized the economic hardship to the states and counties in the absence of PILT funds urging the federal government to honor its historic PILT agreement.

“Counties with federal land in their jurisdictions often provide vital services on those lands, such as solid waste management, search and rescue, and emergency medical services. The federal government must honor its historic PILT agreement with states and counties to compensate them for tax-exempt federal lands within their borders. . . . We urge you to consider the economic hardship that states and counties across the nation will face if the PILT program is not given consistent funding.”

~ December 20, 2013 Western Governors’ Association PILT Letter

 

Read full text of the letter or visit https://www.westgov.org.

Utah Communities Harmed by Dependence on Federal Government | The Salt Lake Tribune

October 6, 2013

“Rural Utah’s extreme dependence on the federal government is unhealthy and unnecessary. Federally managed recreation areas, energy sites and land management offices have shuttered their doors as part of the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Earlier this year, the federal government illegally withheld or reduced community development and education payments owed to our counties. Our local towns and communities that depend on tourism, energy development and land-use are paying the price because of Washington’s dysfunction and instability.”

Continue to full story | The Salt Lake Tribune

Bishop Seeks Grand Bargain on Public Lands | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Thomas Burr | The Salt Lake Tribune

April 15, 2013

Tired of the gridlock over how to manage federal lands, Rep. Rob Bishop is attempting to bring together all sides of the issue to find common ground to either preserve or drill.

The Utah Republican is one of Congress’ top cheerleaders for oil and gas development and a dogged critic of environmentalists — but he says it’s time to tone down the rhetoric and seize on a change at the Interior Department to get beyond the bitter feud in the public-lands debate.

Bishop has invited energy companies, green groups, local officials and other interested parties to submit their plans for what they want to get done and hopes to craft legislation to bring up later this year.

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune