I recently attended the Legislature's Natural Resources Interim Committee meeting where legislators discussed state plans to take over federal lands in Utah. Several legislators talked of how superior the state is at managing the tiny 3.4 million acres of state school trust lands than the federal government is at managing its 30 million acres of Forest Service and BLM lands.
Under what criteria? Does the state give the natural, scenic and recreational values on school trust lands any form of protection? Are these lands better managed in terms of practicing conservation? I think not, because the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration has a mandate to maximize profits with maximum economic exploitation.
That may make sense for school trust lands (if we can trade them into areas appropriate for development). But it's a well-known fact that public lands in Utah contain some of the most scenic, unique and wild areas in the world, and they should not serve only economic interests.
The federal government may not be perfect stewards of our public lands, but the state of Utah can't (or won't) be "better" managers.
James W. Thompson
Salt Lake City