Friday, May 16, 2014

Panel debates who is best suited to manage Utah’s public lands

Ken Ivory
Is the federal government the West’s absentee landlord, accountable to no one and implementing inane policies that are wrecking both the land and rural communities? Or is it doing its best to manage big swaths of Utah’s mountains and deserts under conflicting mandates in hopes of balancing a smorgasbord of competing interests and preserving the land for future generations? To Ken Ivory, a Republican lawmaker from West Jordan, the answer is as clear as the part in his hair. Under federal management, fire danger is "off the charts" on these lands and they are being cordoned off from the people who live near them, Ivory said Wednesday at a town hall debate addressing the question of whether Utah is best suited to manage public lands within its borders. But thanks to a spate of 19th century "giveaway" laws, the government has long since handed millions of Western acres to private enterprise, countered Dan McCool, a University of Utah political scientist. Short-sighted policies of the past ensured forests were aggressively cut and rangelands overgrazed. Newer laws reflect a national interest in conservation and multiple use on these lands, he said. Land management has become a lightning rod issue in Utah and around the West, where local officials, ranchers, miners and ATV enthusiasts increasingly challenge federal authority, sometimes breaking the law while they’re at it.To Ivory, the best solution to these growing conflicts is for the federal government to cede control of public lands to Utah and the other Western states, whose governments can be more responsive to the needs of the people and to conditions on the ground. "Not only can Utah afford to manage our lands to support our schools, protect the environment, and grow our economy, we can’t afford not to," Ivory told a packed auditorium at Salt Lake City Public Library auditorium, where partisans in both sides of the debate were well represented...more

Go to the American Lands Council website for more information on this important issue.

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