My View: The Need for a Balanced Public Lands Policy | Deseret News

Camper

By Kathleen Clarke

November 14, 2012

In its 2012 general session, the Utah Legislature passed HB148: The Transfer of Public Lands Act. This bill charged the Constitutional Defense Council with the duty to study the many complex issues pertaining to the public lands and to report its findings to the Legislature. As director of the Governor’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, I have overseen this ongoing study.

My experience as the previous executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the national director of the United States Bureau of Land Management has given me a unique insight into public lands policy: Utah’s public lands would be better managed, more productive and more accessible under state stewardship.

Current federal land policy and management is inefficient, ineffective and threatens the long-term use and enjoyment of the public lands. Washington gridlock has resulted in a system where rigid and often conflicting management policies shackle federal land managers and prevent them from actively managing the lands.

Outmoded federal policies have resulted in forests that are vulnerable to catastrophic wildfire, insect infestation and disease. Our rangelands are deteriorating and restoration efforts are underfunded. While land is rich in timber and mineral resources, production efforts are either precluded entirely or greatly limited by regulations, endless administrative red tape and lawsuits brought by interest groups that oppose any use of the land.

As long as the public lands remain under federal control, they will continue to deteriorate, and Utah and its citizens will be deprived of the many economic benefits to which we are entitled and so desperately need. I am confident that, in state hands, the public lands will be restored, protected and more productive.

Utahns have always been good stewards of the land. We have a long track record of both environmental protection and fiscal responsibility. Utah has the expertise in existing agencies —including those within the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Agriculture and Food — to address the many complex and interrelated issues of public land management. Utahns know that people from around the world flock to our state for its unmatched beauty and incredible scenery, and to experience meaningful outdoor experiences.

No one in state government would permit the degradation of Utah’s wondrous beauty. Under HB148, all national parks, all but one national monument, and all wilderness areas will remain under federal ownership and control. Other lands with similar qualities will also be protected. Lands with less aesthetic or recreational qualities that contain resources will become more accessible for development and revenue production. With ever improving technology, this can be done with minimal environmental impact.

Multiple use will be the objective, and multiple users will all be given voice, including tourists; conservationists; hunters; fisherman and other outdoor recreationists; energy industries; farm and ranch interests; local governments; water districts; and other engaged stakeholders.

HB148 is neither a “land grab” nor a “political stunt,” as some have maliciously alleged. It is an earnest effort to draw attention to a federal lands policy that does not protect the land, does not pay for itself and does not meet the economic or energy challenges of today. There is no intent to sell transferred lands. Rather, these lands will be retained in state ownership and control so that they forever benefit not only the people who live, work and recreate on them, but all Utahns who look to government services to educate their children and enhance their lives.

Utah has amazing public lands, and always will. Like my fellow Utahns, I care deeply about Utah’s majestic mountains, still forests and quiet desert landscapes. This land is my home. The lands we all love and treasure won’t be any less public when they are managed by the state.

With proper examination and analysis, and a good faith dialogue, a more balanced lands policy can be achieved which will restore the public lands for the use and benefit of all.

My view: The need for a balanced public lands policy | Deseret News

Access, Control Argued in Canyonlands, Salt Creek Road Appellate Hearing

The Associated Press

September 19, 2012

DENVER — The federal government said Wednesday it has control over highway access in national monuments even if no official notice was given, in a case that could affect highway rights of way on federal public land across the country.

Aaron Avila, attorney for the U.S. Justice Department, told an appeals court panel Wednesday that the federal government had the right to close a disputed highway right of way in an ecologically sensitive streambed in Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. He said no one objected when barriers were put up in the 1970s in parts of a canyon limiting access, even though there were other access roads.

Read full story | Deseret News

Appeals Court to Hear Dispute Over Remote Utah Road | KSL.com

By Dave Cawley

September 19, 2012

“A long-simmering dispute over the status of an old Jeep track in Canyonlands National Park goes before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver today. The outcome could have far-reaching consequences for Utah’s effort to take control of public lands.

The fight deals with Salt Creek Canyon, the primary access to Canyonlands’ picturesque Angel Arch. The U.S. National Park Service gated the canyon in 1998, based on complaints from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. SUWA sued the government in 1995, saying Jeep access to the winding, sandy wash was adversely impacting the desert ecosystem.”

Read full story | KSL.com

Utah Lawmakers Continue Push for Ownership as Public Lands War Gains Traction | Deseret News

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue

September 19, 2012

“Utah’s public lands fight against the federal government is beginning to gather steam on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were briefed Wednesday about efforts to establish a commission to help navigate policymakers through the fray.

“It’s kind of like eating an elephant,” said Kathleen Clarke, director of the Public Lands Coordinating Office. “Where do you start?”

Clarke said her office is working in consultation with a number of experts on the establishment of the commission, which would provide guidance and answers as the state moves forward its demands to have the government cede authority to Utah over the control of federal lands.”

Read full story | Deseret News