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Editorial: Political groups pursue a public land scam

Politicians want fight, not answers.

First Published Jun 04 2014 03:35 pm • Last Updated Jun 04 2014 03:35 pm

"Here we see a honey bear not engaged in a life or death struggle about anything. These honey bears are placid and peaceful creatures and consequently bad television." — Monty Python’s Flying Circus

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There is an old saying in political circles about how it can be better to have an issue than a solution. That’s because issues draw people’s attention, win votes and raise money, while solutions are often dull compromises that don’t inflame anybody’s political passions.

It is a factor that has apparently bedeviled matters from balancing the budget and making Social Security solvent to immigration reform and energy independence.

Among the more obvious Utah examples of the desire to fight a war rather than solve a problem is the continuing drama over our state’s supposed attempt to get the federal government to turn over millions of acres of public lands to state control.

Tuesday, members of the Utah Commission on Federalism were told by a state assistant attorney general that the Dec. 31 deadline the Legislature set for the federal government to meet the state’s demands will come and go with absolutely no change in the status quo.

The revelation, of course, surprised no one. Even the more rapid supporters of the land grab idea met the news with a collective "Meh."

State Rep. Ken Ivory, main mover behind the 2012 Utah Transfer of Public Lands act (HB148) — and founder of the American Lands Council — patiently accepted the idea that the issues involved in wrestling all that land away from the feds are quite complicated and that victory, or even the filing of a formal lawsuit, could be months or years away.

Actually, the issue is quite simple. All that land belongs, lock, stock and title, to the people of the United States of America. Even if the phrase in the Utah Enabling Act really means that the public land in the state must be sold, the fact that it hasn’t been sold to private interests does not mean that Congress is now obligated to give — give — that land to the tender mercies of a state government that is clearly much more likely to have it grazed, drilled, mined and excavated than its current managers are now authorizing.

But as long as Ivory and friends can bamboozle Utah voters and county officials with that promise, they can continue to ride that hobbyhorse for votes, campaign contributions and American Lands Council dues.

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It’s a gift that keeps on giving, with no end in sight.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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