Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Utah Republican gubernatorial candidates spar over public lands lawsuit

Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday it would be reckless to file a longshot lawsuit now to try and force the federal government to give up control of more than 30 million acres of public land — defending his actions against criticism from GOP challenger Jonathan Johnson. The two Republicans sparred over how best to combat what they both deem overreaching federal oversight on lands that account for two-thirds of Utah during a key debate that was staged less than two weeks before party delegates will choose the Republican candidate at the state convention. Johnson, chairman of the board at Overstock.com, criticized Herbert for not pulling the trigger on a lawsuit and vowed to bring the legal challenge quickly if he becomes governor. He said increasingly restrictive federal management of the lands cripples rural Utah economies. Herbert signed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government hand over the lands to Utah by the end of 2014. When that deadline passed with no action, as expected, Utah legislators began weighing a possible lawsuit. Lawmakers set aside $4.5 million this year for the suit after a team of constitutional lawyers recommended the state take on the lawsuit, even while warning it could cost up to $14 million and that it would be far from a sure victory. “While we have brought some action to try and get control of the land, it hasn’t been enough,” Johnson said. Herbert countered he has been advised by counsel not to sue until a Republican is president. He said he also is tracking a legislative proposal unveiled this year by two members of Utah’s congressional delegation that calls for protecting 4 million acres of public land in Utah in exchange for freeing up more than 1 million acres for recreation and oil and gas development. “It would be counterproductive and probably reckless if we filed a lawsuit to try and take these lands over now,” said Herbert, governor since 2009. “We will have a national monument by next Friday if we filed that litigation today.”...more

I wrote about the Montana Republican candidates Sunday.

 Now we have a sitting Republican Governor running for reelection in Utah going mealy mouthed on us.

Hebert cites two reasons for his reluctance to file suit:  The Bishop legislation and the designation of a national monument by Obama in retaliation for a suit.

There is really no conflict with the Bishop bill.  Herbert should simply announce his first preference is to see these lands transferred to the state.  In the interim, however, he supports the management policies as laid out in the Bishop bill.   Nothing counterproductive or reckless about it.

I'm not sure I buy the monument threat thing.  So far his monument designations have not been retaliatory in nature. They have been used as leverage to affect pending legislation, but mostly they've been a payback to the environmental lobby.  But let's say I did buy it.  In that case Herbert should announce Utah will not be filing any suits until the day after Obama leaves office, but that if the facts remain as they are today, that suit will be filed.

Two simple statements from the Governor would suffice.  However, this is all predicated on the belief Herbert really does support the transfer.  I am beginning to wonder if that is the case.

In the meantime Overstock.com is sure getting my business.

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