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Trusting in Trump, Utah lawmakers back off suing for public-land control

Published February 19, 2017 9:47 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Donald Trump becoming president has apparently quenched much of the fire in the belly for legislative Republicans to sue the federal government for control of public lands.

What started out as a somewhat fiery resolution to pursue such a lawsuit was amended Friday into a more friendly call to work with the new administration and the GOP-controlled Congress for the same goal.

It calls for a lawsuit only if no progress is made over time.

"There's been some modifications with the change in the political landscape," said House Resources Committee Keven Stratton, R-Orem, the sponsor of HCR1. The committee last summer had endorsed an original version of the resolution that was gung-ho on a state lawsuit despite a price tag estimated at $14 million.

The much-toned-down resolution was held in committee Friday at Stratton's request to allow more work on it, but he said he wanted to release the general changes to allow review and comment.

Instead of backing a lawsuit, it now "urges our federal executive agencies to do all that they can to promote the transfer of control over Utah's public lands to state management."

It also urges "our federal delegation and Congress to take necessary legislative steps to ensure the transfer of control of Utah's public lands to state management."

Only if those efforts don't yield progress, does it call for the state to pursue filing a lawsuit directly with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It has always been the case that legislative resolution is preferred above litigation, but we need to be ready, willing and able to pursue that as a last resort if need be," Stratton said.

He also made an interesting change in the title of the resolution. It was originally, "Concurrent resolution on public lands litigation."

Now it is, "Concurrent resolution to secure the perpetual health and vitality of Utah's public lands and its status as a premier public lands state."

In its list of reasons, the resolution now stresses how "Utah's leaders are committed to the protection and improvement of public lands."

And it contends that "federal mismanagement has provided Utah communities with increased air pollution, dying forests, decimated wildlife, depressed economies, underfunded public education and blocked recreational opportunities."

It also adds, "The state of Utah seeks management and control over the public lands not to sell them off to the highest bidder, but to protect them in the way they always should have been protected."






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