Western States Federal Lands Summit

Federal Lands Summit 1Western States Legislative Leaders Involved in Federal Lands Summit According to some Western States political leaders, it’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders. On that basis, lawmakers and county commissioners from nine western states held a summit in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 18th to address that issue.

As more fully reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, more than 50 political leaders convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.

“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”

Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was joined by a dozen event organizers, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit.

Utah Senator Mike Lee addressed the group, which included representatives from New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington, all concerned about ongoing federal management.

The summit had been scheduled even prior to the recent flare-up between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said. “What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,”  Lockhart said. Montana Senator Jennifer Fielder said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.

A study is underway at the Univ. of Utah to analyze how states can better manage the land now in federal control, as called for in HB-142, passed by the Utah State Legislature in 2013.

According to Sen. Fielder, none of the other Western states has gone as far as Utah. But five states have created task forces to address the issue. According to Sen. Fielder, some of Utah’s political leaders “have been way ahead on this.”