- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - University of Utah law professors argue in a new report that there’s no legal standing for Utah to push for control over federal lands.

The professors contend the federal government has absolute control over the public lands under their purview, and has the authority to continue doing so.

If Utah succeeds in seizing federal lands in Utah that make up about two-thirds of the state’s territory, other Western states could launch similar efforts, the report says.

The paper was written by professor Robert Keiter and research associate John C. Ruple, both of the university’s Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment.

“We recognize there are legitimate questions about how federal lands are managed and there is room for disagreement, but demanding the federal government give those lands to the state is legally untenable,” Ruple told The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/1q92NSm).

West Jordan Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, who has led Utah’s efforts to gain control over the lands, said the report doesn’t address why eastern states were able to regain control of their lands but western states like Utah should not.

“They show no basis as to where the federal government has authority to discriminate against Western states that have the exact same language as states east of Colorado,” Ivory told the Deseret News (https://bit.ly/1rGDre1).

Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law pushed by Ivory and others in 2012 demanding the U.S. hand over control of vast swaths of land by next year. Herbert and GOP legislators argue local officials would be better managers than the U.S. Forest Service or federal Bureau of Land Management.

Their frustration stems from a host of issues including management of wild horses and grazing issues.

David Garbett of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says the paper confirms that Utah’s push is a massive waste of taxpayer money.

“The state should give up its misguided efforts to deprive Americans of our shared national heritage of public lands,” Garbett told the Deseret News.

This week, Utah legislators began making plans for how they would take over and manage the federal lands.

But environmentalists and others say the federal government won’t hand over the land despite the state’s law. Gov. Gary Herbert has said the state is considering a possible lawsuit to seek that control.

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Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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