Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Court Alternatives Considered In Lands-Transfer Fight

State lawmakers added money to Utah’s budget last week for suing the federal government over public lands. The question is whether they’ll use it. Utah leaders are determined to get the federal government to transfer to the state control of 31 million acres of public land. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert says it’s “wise and prudent” for lawmakers to budget $4.5 for the lawsuit. But he also points to other options, like Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative bill. “Sometimes the litigation threat is leveraged to make us sit down around the table and negotiate and maybe legislate,” he says. Lawmakers are also talking about alternative strategies to a suit that could eventually cost $14 million dollars. Sen. David Hinkins is an Emery County Republican whose district includes the heart of Utah coal country and two national parks. He’s also hopeful about the public lands initiative, since U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died and left the high court one vote shy of a conservative majority. “One of the things we’re talking about now is to not go to the courts, especially with the loss of the court justice the way it’s set up right now,” he says. “We’re kind of in limbo right now. So, we’re looking at all avenues.”...more

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