Utah’s Takeover of Federal Lands — Lawsuit Not in Near Future | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Dan Harrie

June 4, 2014

“The Dec. 31 deadline Utah set for the federal government to turn over millions of acres of public lands to the state will come and go with no transfer of ownership, no solid plan of action — and no lawsuit.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Tony Rampton on Tuesday told the state’s Commission on Federalism that it would be unwise to press forward with litigation, or even to push a specific proposal because there are too many unanswered questions and lots of fact-finding and coalition-building to be done.

Even Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, the main force behind Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act (HB148), acknowledged that the Dec. 31 deadline was more a goal than a line in the sand.”

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune

Kathleen Clarke Interviewed on Trib Talk: Transferring Federal Lands to Utah

If the State of Utah took ownership of federal lands, what would that look like? The state public lands director Kathleen Clarke and Tribune environment reporter Brian Maffly join Jennifer Napier-Pearce to discuss the scope and possible implications of the cost-benefit analysis report.

Original source: Trib Talk Blog | The Salt Lake Tribune

Study Underway About Transfer of Federal Lands to Utah | Deseret News

By Morgan Jacobsen

May 21, 2014

“SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah legislative interim committee met Wednesday to examine the progress of an economic analysis concerning the prospect of transferring federal lands into state ownership.

HB142, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert on April 1, calls for a study to inventory public lands within Utah and to analyze the opportunities and challenges that a public lands transfer would bring for agencies within the state should such a transfer occur.

Kathleen Clarke, director of the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, discussed the ongoing analysis with members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee.”

Read full story | Deseret News

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