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

My View: Utah Needs a Balanced Public Lands Policy | Deseret News

By Alan Matheson

Alan Matheson is Gov. Gary Herbert’s senior environmental advisor.

September 13, 2012

Last month, my son and I fished several streams in the Uinta Mountains. We hiked through spectacular canyons, encountered abundant wildlife, caught our share of trout and continued to build a special relationship — all on public lands.

Reflecting on this experience, I looked beyond what will be a cherished personal memory and considered the social implications of our trip (revealing the twisted mind of a policy guy). We contributed to the economy of a struggling rural community. We stayed in a hotel, ate several meals at the two restaurants in town and purchased supplies at a general store — each enterprise locally owned. We also burned through a lot of gas, affecting our nation’s trade imbalance, security and environment.

More recently, I met with the leadership of the Outdoor Industry Association to follow up on Gov. Gary Herbert’s commitment to develop an outdoor recreation vision for Utah. The meeting was positive, cordial and productive. The OIA leaders talked about the importance of beautiful and accessible natural areas where people can use outdoor products. They also volunteered that their industry relies on oil and gas development to manufacture and distribute their products.

These experiences reminded me that we live in a complex world. Almost all aspects of life involve economic and environmental trade-offs. The overly simplistic “development vs. preservation” rhetoric fails to recognize that we need both. As Herbert repeatedly says, our policies should strike a balance, allowing us to develop necessary resources in a responsible way while maintaining the beauty and availability of Utah’s unparalleled natural treasures.

In pursuing this balance, we should acknowledge key realities and principles:

A sound economy gives us the resources to educate our children, provide essential social services, develop needed infrastructure and enhance our air, water and land. On a personal level, it also prevents the emotional and physical harm associated with unemployment.

Utah enjoys a quality and diversity of beautiful places and recreational opportunities found nowhere else in the world. These lands supply much of our clean water and air; attract new businesses and workers; host active recreation with family and friends; and feed emotional and spiritual renewal.

Oil and gas development and outdoor recreation and tourism are fundamental pillars of Utah’s economy, especially in rural communities. History cautions that a focus on only one area would leave us economically vulnerable. There is security in diversification.

Most people agree that there are places in Utah appropriate for development and other places best left alone. Where lands have both recreational and development values, we can find the right approach through informed and civil dialogue. We’ve done it before.

Our decisions and actions today will affect our lands and economy for generations. We must proceed with prudence, keeping a long-term perspective.

Public access to lands for hiking, fishing, hunting, climbing, skiing and other outdoor activities is a cherished part of our heritage and should be safeguarded.

The federal land management system, like the land itself, is in disrepair. Driven by endless, expensive lawsuits and process more than by science, federal management has rendered our public lands vulnerable to catastrophic fire, invasive species, beetle kills and other threats. Strained federal budgets leave little hope that future funding will be available to address these challenges.

Utah should have a greater role in public land management. Utahns care about our lands. We are the best managed state. We have a balanced budget. We are nationally recognized for our watershed restoration work. We are people of good will who know how to get things done. We can manage public lands for improved economic yield, environmental health and recreational experience.

Responsible resource development and careful stewardship of our natural treasures are essential to advancing Utah’s economy and quality of life. Let’s skip the war of words and engage constructively in the critical work of achieving both.

My view: Utah needs a balanced public lands policy | Deseret News.