- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The push for Utah to take control of millions of acres of federal public lands in the state has become a full-time campaign for one state lawmaker.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, sponsored legislation in 2012 demanding that the federal government transfer control of much of Utah’s public lands to the state by next year.

In the two years since Gov. Gary Herbert signed that legislation, Ivory has traveled the country, rallying lawmakers, community groups and others to call for similar actions. He now spends about three weeks a month giving speeches and presentations in other states.

An attorney, Ivory has mostly closed his estate planning practice and now earns his primary income as president of a nonprofit group that advocates for greater state control of public lands. He points to successes such as five states having passed legislation similar to Utah’s proposal, and the Republican National Committee’s adoption of a supportive resolution.

Some political observers say Ivory’s activities amount to lobbying in other states, but Ivory told The Salt Lake Tribune (http://bit.ly/1jZwhT9) that he’s not a lobbyist because he advocates for a general principle rather than specific legislation.

Supporters of the push for state control of lands say the issue needs the kind of dedication that Ivory brings, and his efforts have raised awareness and enthusiasm for the fight.

Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison said Ivory’s efforts were key to educating legislators in his state and bringing them on board the cause.

To spread the message, Ivory co-created the tax-exempt nonprofit American Lands Council in 2012. The group’s 2012 federal tax return, the most recent filing available, indicates it raised more than $123,000.

“People are recognizing the need to go on offense and solve a problem,” Ivory said. “So we’re very gratified that counties and individuals and businesses around the West and the nation have wanted to support and be part of what we’re doing.”

In 2012, Ivory took home a $40,000 salary from the group, which he said is a small amount in light of the 60 to 70 hours a week he devotes to the work.

According to forms filed with the Utah Legislature, Ivory’s wife is also earning a salary from the organization by serving as its communications director. Her salary was not disclosed.

David Irvine, an attorney with the nonprofit group Utahns for Ethical Government, said Ivory’s role with the lands organization is not considered a conflict of interest under Utah laws but serving as a “lobbyist-legislator” is an inherent conflict of interest.

Utah law does not require Ivory to register as a lobbyist but in neighboring Nevada, the secretary of state’s website requires a person to register as a lobbyist if they’re paid to represent or lobby for a group’s interest or benefit.

Ivory maintains there is a difference between advocating for a principle and advocating for specific legislation pending before a body.

“We’re just trying to teach correct principles and they’re going to do what they do in their state,” he said.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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