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Utah leaders aim to keep dispute with the feds civil

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The better answer: build relationships, not conflict.

Abbey suggests at the very least communicating in a way that helps everyone understand the situation instead of escalating it.

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He agrees the BLM was too heavy handed with its approach to Bundy and should have worked with local law enforcement.

"You can always, ultimately have a controversy that’s going to have to be addressed, and you don’t want to wait until you have that controversy before you introduce yourself to the players," Abbey says.

Bishop is expected to discuss his vision at the Western Republicans Leadership Conference early Friday, appearing at a press event right after a group of state lawmakers from Utah, Nevada and Montana outline their desire to wrest control of BLM and Forest Service land from the federal government.

No room for compromise? • State Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is driving that effort, and his approach differs significantly from Bishop’s. He questions a strategy where ranchers, energy producers and local leaders seek more autonomy by giving environmentalists and the government more acres to protect as wilderness. Ivory wants to force change through Congress and, if that doesn’t work, take the fight to court.

"What do you do when you feel like your livelihood, your way of life has been pushed into a corner? What do you do? How do you react?" he said. "When backed into a corner, when their very way of life is threatened economically, it can be unpredictable at best."

What’s clear for now is that the BLM is backing off, albeit temporarily. The Interior Department says the agency is focused on solutions to the Bundy case that are judicial and administrative, a big departure from the on-the-ground approach that prompted the armed response.

The Nevada Cattlemen’s Association for one is hoping for a new direction.

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The group, which represents some 700 ranchers, says it regrets the way the Bundy situation has played out.

"While we cannot advocate operating outside the law to solve problems, we also sympathize with Mr. Bundy’s dilemma," the association said in a statement. "With good faith negotiations from both sides, we believe a result can be achieved which recognizes the balance that must be struck between private property rights and resource sustainability."

That squares with the approach Utah’s governor is pushing — more collaboration and less confrontation.

"We will always be a public-lands state. The only question on the table before us is who is going to manage it — is it the federal government or the state?" Herbert said. "I think it will be a combination of both."


Matt Canham contributed to this story.

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

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