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Public Lands
By Lee Huey
Posted on 3/12/2017 10:23 AM
The following is an editorial from the Richfield (Utah) Reaper, Thursday, March 2, 2017. The content is about Utah's state government and congressional representatives stances on public lands. It is titled "Outdoor retailers have no right to bully Utah".

"After negotiations broke down earlier this month, the Outdoor Retailers show is leaving Utah.

Representatives for the retailer's organization were quoted in state media as being disappointed with Utah's state government and congressional representatives stances on Public Lands.

Essentially what was said by the Outdoor Retailer group was "I don't like you. I'm taking my ball and going home".

The move is myopic, shortsighted, and frankly childish.

Outdoor Retailer representatives essentially presented Utah leaders with an ultimatum on public lands - do what we want, or else. What they wanted , was for Utah to abandon efforts to explore transfer of federally controlled lands to the state, stop efforts to fight the Antiquities Act, and abandon efforts to have the January designation of the Bears Ears National Monument rescinded.

All of these demands were made with a black and white view of how public lands work. Apparently, the retailers organization feels that only the federal government is capable of administering public lands, in spite of the fact that Utah has more than 40 state parks. Utah sate parks include areas that protect Native American cultural sites, recreation and even primitive lands.

Utah understands the importance of public lands, and the importance of preserving and protecting them.

The Outdoor Retailer concerns about the Antiquities Act and the Bears Ears designation are essentially the same issue. Utah's representatives would not try to fight the Antiquities Act, if not for the fact that it's been abused at great cost to the state.

When national monuments are declared, it effectively removes any chance of any land within the designation being used for any type of industry other than tourism. Monument designation is used to push out or eliminate mining, energy development and even grazing. It can also be used in eliminating motorized access.

This severely hampers economic development.

Advocates of the 1.88 million acres set aside for the Grand Stair-case - Escalante National Monument and the 1.35 million acres set aside for the Bears Ears National Monument will say that tourism will help fuel the local economies. It's not the declaration of these monuments that people have a problem with - it's the immense scope of them.. When it was passed in 1909, the act was designated to protect specific areas for cultural or scientific regions, not huge swaths of land.

While tourism is an important part of the economy and should be supported, it is no substitute for industry. Compare the wage of a coal miner to that of a short order cook, or a truck driver to that of a hotel clerk.

Of course, tourism isn't of high concern when federal officials shut down established roads, trails and uses of public lands. Talk to the ranchers who have had grazing allotments reduced, and they will tell you they've never had restored what has been taken away.

Also, more than 70 percent of Utah's land mass is controlled by the federal government. This creates huge challenges from a property tax perspective as Utah tries to fund schools and county governments with its tax base reduced to less than 30 percent of the total land mass.

Yes, Utah's efforts to have federal lands transferred to state stewardship are unrealistic, but state officials are pursuing it out of the need for breathing room, or at least a bigger say in the state's destiny.

However, the Outdoor Retailers group apparently has no appreciation for the challenges created by public land. Only Nevada has more federally controlled land than Utah.

The Outdoor Retailer representatives might have found more success in their efforts to sway public policy had they stayed put and made their arguments through communication with the local populace.

Instead, the Outdoor Retailer organization tried to extort state officials into ignoring their constituents and abandoning economic development not directly tied to the outdoor recreation industry. It's a self-serving move that shows a lack of interest in fostering a partnership with the state."

Now my comments, I fully support the National Park system as it is one of a kind in the world. I have enjoyed visiting many of them. But, like the writer of the editorial above, I do object to the federal government gratuitously setting aside land to, in most cases, satisfying the radical environmental movement. What if Iowa was 70-80 percent federal lands? Most of us reading this Blog would find it impossible to live in Iowa because of economic limitations. Preserve our present National parks, you bet!  Adding more lands to the system, definitely not! Let's spend federal monies where needed else where.