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‘We can’t wait’: Utah lawmakers ratchet up fight for federal lands

Legislature » Bills seek to seize control of millions of acres, but court fight seems certain.



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Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, who is running for U.S. Senate, said his goal is to give the Attorney General’s Office as many weapons as possible to try to reverse the abuses Utah has suffered at federal hands.

"If there’s any state in the nation that has had more undue influence exerted on it," Herrod said, "it’s the state of Utah."

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Briscoe argued that it is wrong to make public education a pawn in the lands fight, and said Utah could pay for its schools if it had the political will.

Proponents made the case that federal ownership is stymieing economic development and, in turn, depriving Utah schoolchildren. Utah is last in the nation in per-pupil spending and, Ivory said, it would take $2.2 billion to get the state to the national average.

If Utah succeeds in its challenge, Sumsion said, "We can eliminate — eliminate — our state income tax. … That’s what is at stake here."

The bill has the backing of a broad range of education groups, including the State School Board, the Utah School Superintendents Association and the Parent-Teacher Association.

It is also supported by the Utah Association of Counties, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, off-road vehicle groups, Utah Farm Bureau and Utah Eagle Forum.

Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, warned that the state had better be prepared for federal retaliation if the state pursues its demand, potentially shutting down oil and gas leases, revoking grazing, timber and water rights and cutting off access across federal lands.

"How many members in this room have actually taken an action to protect their rights?" Noel challenged his colleagues. "Don’t put a lot of fancy words on a piece of paper and say we’re going to do it unless you’re willing to stand up and do it."

gehrke@sltrib.com


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Twitter: @RobertGehrke



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