HB 148

Public Opinion Strategies

  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.

University of Utah Center for Natural and Technological Hazrds

A conservation group says states like Utah that are demanding control over federal public lands are ignoring the costs of managing that land – including the cost of fighting wildfires. 

Utah passed a state law in 2012 demanding the federal government turn over title to its public lands within the state by the end of this year, and authorizing a lawsuit if the feds don’t cooperate.

Utah House of Representatives

The Utah legislature opens its general session on Monday with a lot of new faces.  21 out of 75 members of the Utah House of Representatives are serving their first terms, along with 4 out of the 29 members of the state Senate.  Republicans still far outnumber Democrats.  In fact, there are only 14 Democrats left in the House.  But among those new Republican members, there could be a few more moderate voices.  KUER's Dan Bammes spoke to a couple of new members of the House from Utah County.

When Utah’s economy was roaring along in the middle of the decade, then-Governor Jon Huntsman and legislative leaders were looking for ways to reduce the burden of taxes on Utah’s economy.  It seemed as though there was plenty of new money to raise pay for teachers, build new roads and expand the reach of social services.

The top rate for state income taxes had been 7.5%. That was reduced to a flat rate of 5%.  The state sales tax on food was also reduced, and the state was still showing big surpluses in revenue – until the recession hit and the bottom fell out.

petition delivery
Dan Bammes

A petition with more than five thousand signatures demanding an end to Utah's attempt to take control of federal lands was delivered Wednesday to Governor Gary Herbert's office.  The effort was led by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and supported by activists like Dwight Butler of Wasatch Touring.  He says the federal government is taking good care of its land right now.

"The state of Utah, there's a good chance, would develop it, or sell parcels off, or divide it up," he told KUER.  "I think it's the best protection we have right now and we should keep it that way."