Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hatch, Bishop pledge help for state control of federal lands

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch appeared with state officials at the Utah Capitol to pledge support Tuesday in the state’s effort to wrest control of most federal lands from Washington. The two Republicans applauded the Utah Legislature’s passage of a bill demanding transfer of all federal lands not in national parks or designated wilderness to state control. They said because Washington controls nearly two-thirds of the state and unnecessarily impedes development that could fund schools, only state control can put Utah on equal footing with largely private-ownership Eastern states. "This debate is over 100 years old," Hatch said. "I believe we’re in a climate where, if we do it right, the lands in our state can finally come under control of our state." State legislation now awaiting Gov. Gary Herbert’s signature demands Congress relinquish control — as proponents contend the state’s enabling act required long ago — by 2014 or face a legal claim for the lands. Critics say the legislators are misreading both the law and Congress’ constitutional power to control land, and legislative attorneys said the measure has a high probability of failing a constitutional test in court. Bishop, though, said the state’s delegation will work to help the state achieve its goal — perhaps with more luck after the fall election. Some Utah lands deserve preservation, he said, but the state is just as equipped as Washington bureaucrats to accomplish that. State control would mean more development and more revenues to fund schools that currently rank last in the nation for per-pupil expenditures. "We are hurting our kids in the West by our refusal to simply use the resources we have," Bishop said...more

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