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Public-land tab

Published August 20, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Public Lands Transfer Act provides possible common ground for conservative and liberal populists. But they'd need to be persuaded that the goal of the law, rather than an extravagant political stunt only possible in a one-party state, was instead about dismantling the extraordinary network of subsidies, tax breaks, low-interest loans and bailouts granted to very big oil and gas, mining, timber and ranching interests.

After all, tribal, state and federal government largess, ostensibly intended to boost short-term commercial activity on public lands, too often has created onerous bureaucracy and exacted a heavy long-term toll on our local economies, environment, health and wildlife diversity. Booming mining towns have gone bust, leaving unsealed radioactive shafts and uninhabitable toxic sites for us to clean up. Over-grazing of cattle and sheep has turned our pristine prairies and verdant meadows into virtual feedlots and threatened our water supply.

Will "Free My ATV" activists cheer the idea of picking up a tab, which, according to Brian Maffly's report published on Aug. 15, could run into the millions for fighting wildfires, managing grazing, studying imperiled species, safeguarding cultural resources and myriad other obligations that would presumably fall to every Utah taxpayer?

Bill Keshlear

Salt Lake City