Public Lands and a Promise from the Government

Public Lands and a Promise from the Government

There goes 1.9M acres. Gone as quickly as it came, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put forth a proposal to reduce the number of acres for shale and sands by almost two million acres.

What the federal government giveth, the federal government can taketh away.

Rep. Ken Ivory will soon introduce a bill that requires the federal government to hand over the land it currently manages in Utah, about 60% of the state. With the exception of American Indian lands and National Parks, the state would take control of the that land that the federal government promised in contract to hand over 116 years ago. This isn’t a land grab. This is holding the federal government responsible for what it promised when Utah became a state. This is ensuring the jobs and livelihoods of Utahns aren’t subject to the whims of the federal government.

If Utah had control of those lands, it could tax them and the valuable resources they contain. That money could then be spent on our children and ensuring they are well prepared to compete in the global market.

To manage those lands, a new public land commission would determine how best to manage access, open space, hunting, fishing, grazing, mining and timber. To the extent that in a public process Utahns decide there are some lands that can be privately sold, they sell them by the approval of a public process.

The bill allots 5% of the revenue generated from the sale of public lands to the public education fund, and 95% to pay down the national debt.

We’ve heard a lot about funding education this year. Let’s be honest, we hear a lot of funding education every year. The Democrats have perfectly outlined the problem we have here in Utah, and they want to put $500 million into Utah’s schools over the next ten years. They intend to pay for that by capping the amount allowed to be deducted from income taxes for dependents, freezing property tax rates and increasing the percentage of sales tax dollars that go toward education.

We don’t need to burden taxpayers to spend more money on education, we need the federal government to fulfill its promise, and return Utah’s lands.

Utah has done the best that it can to make money from its current state trust lands, but it’s not enough. In states like North Dakota and Oklahoma, they keep 100 percent of the revenue their public lands generate. Right now, Utah gets only 50 percent of the profits, leases, and other revenue from federally controlled land.

Not only will Rep. Ivory’s Public Lands bill secure jobs for Utahns, it will be a new path to smaller class sizes, to better teachers, and to a world-class curriculum without increasing tax burdens on the citizens of Utah.

*This bill will be heard in room 445 of the Capitol, Tuesday, February 21, 2012.