Utah has pioneered the effort by Western states to take control of federal land within its borders. But a recent poll finds that most voters in those states think it’s a bad idea.
The poll of voters in eight Western states shows a majority -- 52% -- oppose attempts by their states to take control of public lands managed by the federal government.
The only state where a majority of voters favor the idea is Utah. A law passed by legislators in 2012 threatens legal action if the federal government doesn’t turn over title to those lands.
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, says voters are concerned about increased costs and loss of access to public land.
“We’re seeing this effort already begin to lose momentum as people dig into the details," Heinrich told reporters in a conference call on Thursday, "because, early on, it’s easy to equate the sort of frustration over divided government with federal ownership and management of lands.”
Utah law imposes a deadline of December 31st for the federal government to turn over control of public land and threatens legal action if it doesn’t. But Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has said he’s not ready to file a lawsuit right away.
While speaking to reporters after his monthly news conference last week, Governor Gary Herbert said just the threat of legal action could push federal authorities to be more flexible.
“It’s probably, in my view of the world, a fallback position, if we can’t get some collaboration and cooperation to resolve this issue.”
The poll was sponsored by the Center for American Progress. It was a joint effort by two polling firms, one Republican and one Democrat.
Follow this link for detailed poll results.