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

Transfer of Public Lands Act – Four Myths


Myth 1 – Utah is pressing forward with a 3 million dollar lawsuit that will take federal lands

  • The executory provisions of HB 148 are conjectural and not justiciable in court. HB 148 instructs the United States to extinguish and transfer public lands’ title to Utah by December 31, 2014. The bill does not identify the actions the State will take if the federal government refuses to transfer lands.
  • Utah seeks cooperative and constructive dialogue with the federal government on how to manage the lands.

Myth 2 – HB 148 is an irresponsible effort that will result in the destruction and despoiling of Zions and other pristine natural parks in Utah

  • HB 148 exempts all National Parks, National Monuments, and National Historic Sites managed by the National Park Service, and also congressionally designated wilderness.

Myth 3 – HB 148 is an excuse to sell lands to oil, gas, mining, and development interests

  • HB 148 includes an explicit disincentive to sell lands. If the lands were transferred to the State and the State attempted to sell parcels of land, 95% of all proceeds would be paid to the United States for debt reduction and only 5% of the proceeds would be retained by the State to fund education.

Myth 4 – This is an unprecedented attack by Utah on the federal land ownership

  • This attempt is neither entirely new nor partisan. In 1915, Republican Governor William Spry and the Utah Senate protested the federal government’s refusal to dispose of lands. In 1932, Utah Democrat Governor George Dern testified before Congress about a fair disposal of lands in Utah. In 1945, Democrat Governor Herbert Maw and the State Legislature sent a petition to Congress protesting federal land policies. In 1979, the State filed a suit against the federal government over federal land abuses. In 1980, Democrat Governor Scott Matheson signed a “Lands Reclamation Act.” Utah has sought to exert greater control over lands within its borders for over a century. The difference between this legislation and previous efforts is that it is a distinct and specific demand on the United States to honor its promise.

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


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

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