Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill Friday calling for the federal government to turn over control of millions of acres of land back to the state by 2014.
According to Herbert and his backers, the federal lands, which account for about half of the state, are too strictly regulated and are killing mining and timber industries. However opponents, including some conservationists, preservationists and everyone inbetween, say that turning these lands back to the state will eliminate protections for wilderness and cause damage to sensitive wildlife areas.
This from Businessweek…
_”Opponents, including Utah Democrats and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the bill is not only unconstitutional but bad public policy. If implemented, they said, it could eliminate important protections from development and vehicle use for wildlife refuges, forests and other sensitive areas.
‘The state has proven itself time and again to be a bad manager of public lands … This is a political stunt,’ said David Garbett, an attorney with the environmental group. ‘It’s amazing that in one quixotic act they’ve offended the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the state’s enabling act.’ “_
The bill exempts national parks, military installations, Native American reservations and wilderness areas and monuments, but it focuses on lands controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Arizona is working on similar legislation looking to take control of 25 million acres of federal land. As local economies continue to struggle, more western states could join the fray, possibly resurrecting the Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement in the 1970s where the self-proclaimed sagebrush rebels pushed the government to loosen conservation protections on federal land in 13 western states.
However, most legal experts contend that this bill is unconstitutional and will never stand up in court. Let’s hope, for the sake of the millions of acres of BLM land on the line, that for once they’re right.