“Greg Hughes has been a tireless advocate for compelling the federal government to honor our statehood promise to transfer title to our public lands – the same statehood promise it kept with all states east of Colorado. With our forests in crisis and national parks deemed non-essential under federal management, and with failed federal policies locking up trillions in natural resources in our state, Greg understands that this is the only solution big enough to fund education, better care for our environment, and grow the economy locally and nationally.”
-Rep. Ken Ivory, Utah House District 47
Nearly 70 percent of the land in Utah, and 50 percent in the western United States, is controlled by the federal government. The compact between the state of Utah and the federal government at the time of the formation of the state, provided for the feds to take stewardship over the land until it could be sold. This compact allowed them to keep 95% of the revenue from the sale but required they give 5% back to the state for use in education. This has never been done.
The responsibility of the federal government was to “dispose of” the land; it was never meant for them to hold it in reserve for no productive purpose, and cut off the ability of states to utilize it for their own growth and funding.
Because the citizens of Utah have no access to nearly 70% of their land for their own management or development, the burden is on all of the states, through federal expenditures, to upkeep and maintain the land. The federal government hasn’t even been very successful at that, though the cost to taxpayers of maintaining western lands is significant at about $13 billion per year.
Taxpayers will also be further on the hook for the $15 billion in deferred maintenance in the nation’s western national parks, all while the locked-up mineral value of these very lands is assessed at $150 trillion. Add to this the fact that when states manage lands, they’re able to turn that responsibility into revenue of $6.29 per acre, while federally managed lands cost taxpayers $1.86 per acre.
It’s time for the federal government to honor the promises made to the current western states, just as it eventually did for the previously “western” states of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. After Thomas Hart Benton, a Democrat U.S. senator from Missouri, pushed the federal government for many years to honor its commitments, they finally did and those states were freed from the constraints of federal land control policy.
Now is our time.
Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands:
Our Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands has assembled a Dream Team of constitutional scholars and lawyers who have, in my opinion, developed the most compelling argument yet to fight the Federal Government to get our lands back. Their efforts, combined with those of our federal delegation led by Congressman Rob Bishop, give me confidence that this fight could soon result in reality. If you think this argument is frivolous then you don’t understand the issue. If you think this issue doesn’t matter to you, then you need to think again. If you care about education, if you care about clean air, if you care about the economy, if you care about energy independence and if you care about fairness and freedom then you should care about this issue.
For far too long Washington DC has controlled the West – well I’m here to tell you that I’ve had it. I’ve had enough of their mismanagement, I’ve had enough of them blocking our ability to responsibly manage OUR lands and I’ve had enough at their attempt at population control. Over 65% of our state is controlled by the Federal government. 90% of Utah’s population lives on 1% of our ground. We are one of the fastest growing states in the nation yet we aren’t able to properly plan our infrastructure needs to support this growth, are limited in our efforts to expand commerce and restricted in our ability to fund our schools.
Why is it that 38 states have been recognized as sovereign, yet 12 states in the West remain under federal control? It represents the worst gerrymandering in the history of this country as those in DC seek to limit our representation and influence. And what do we get as a consolation prize? It is called PILT which is the acronym for Payment in Lieu of Taxes – in my mind, a more appropriate term would be Pennies in Lieu of Trillions. And speaking of trillions, I’m done listening to a dysfunctional Federal Government that is $19 trillion in debt and telling us they can manage ANYTHING better than we can. I have a message for them – in Utah we get things done and we will always manage EVERYTHING better than they do.