Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Utah's public land issues will demand Jewell's attention

Should business executive Sally Jewell secure the nomination to become the next interior secretary, she'll become the landlord of the West at a time seldom more critical to Utah's destiny. Jewell faces controversial public lands issues that are at the groundswell of states' rights, with Utah leading the charge to re-assert its dominion over federal lands within its borders and threatening to sue if the feds don't acquiesce. Among those divisive, complex and costly public lands issues are oil and gas drilling, threats over the creation of new national monuments and Utah's struggle to fend off new species designations under the Endangered Species Act. 1. Federal land control Last year's passage of HB148, sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, has thrust Utah into the national spotlight epitomizing the West's newest incantation of the Sagebrush Rebellion. With more than two-thirds of the land mass in Utah under control of some federal agency, the state's conservative political leadership maintains economic development is held hostage, and it's the schoolchildren who suffer because of diminished state and local property taxes. The law demands the land promised to Utah at its statehood and allows Utah the flexibility to manage for "multiple use," with some narrow exceptions such as National Parks and wilderness areas. Critics such as the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance have launched a high-profile media campaign to derail the effort, which has been lambasted by top Democratic leaders in Utah who say it is pure fiscal foolishness to wage such a battle...more

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