Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Too often, government forgets that every tax dollar spent must be earned by a taxpayer. We place a sacred trust in government to providently use tax dollars to responsibly support a basic level of government services, such as a police force, road construction and public schools. An excessive tax burden means less freedom, economic opportunities, and generally more difficult lives for Utahns and people in other states. The same is true regarding public lands.

Listening to the talk of extreme environmentalists, it’s as though there are legitimate efforts in America eager to fill in the Grand Canyon, turn the Grand Tetons into an amusement park and pave over Yellowstone to put up a shopping mall.

That kind of talk may be good for online fundraising, but it’s both false and irresponsible. My experience is that most of us, especially those of us in the West, cherish the natural beauty and cultural heritage of our national parks, monuments and historic sites.

What we don’t like is the outcome of our current “federal led and centered, one size fits all, manage from thousands of miles away, with unconstitutionally aligned limited state input” public lands management policy. A significant portion of these federally managed public lands are in a state that jeopardized communities, forests, wildlife, economies, recreational opportunities, water quality and air quality; but most critically is the impact on the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. The solution is a shift in public lands management policy that is “state led and centered, uniquely hand tailored, local feet on the ground, with Constitutionally aligned federal input.”

In Utah, we have put in place the most comprehensive legislative infrastructure in our nation to care for the health, safety and welfare of our public lands. Included in this structure is the Utah Public Lands Management Act, the Utah State Monument Act, the Utah Wilderness Act and Resource Management Plans for each county as well as comprehensive State Resource Management Plan.

In the most recent session of the Utah Legislature, we passed legislation that would establish procedures for the state to work with the federal government on the critical issue of public lands management rather than simply having the policy led and centered from Washington. Under our federalist system, it’s the right way to go.

We in Utah have a firm commitment protecting the integrity of our public lands but recognize the need for cooperation with the federal government. We, as a sovereign state, should be allowed to develop and approve through the legislature land management and use plans for federally managed public lands within our borders to ensure that state and local interests are represented and protected.
We already have a Federalism Commission as the appropriate legislative entity to oversee the formation of the land-use plans. Under this bill, which could be a model for every state where this is an issue, we identify certain areas of federally managed public lands of heightened concern to the state. It would then issue requests for proposals for consultants to form land-use plans for federally managed public lands and submit them to the legislature for approval.

This is a simple, even commonsense way to ensure states have a voice in the management of lands within their boundaries. The U.S. Constitution puts certain limits on federal power and specifically reserves unenumerated powers to the states and the people of the states. Allowing states to play a role in public land management works for everyone and is consistent with the Founders’ vision in ways current policy is not.

    • Keven Stratton, a member of the Utah House of Representatives, is chairman of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, and a member of the Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee.

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