This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
When Black Diamond CEO Emeritus Peter Metcalf called on the Outdoor Retailer trade show to leave the state by 2018 over concerns with our state's land management policies, he used unsubstantiated arguments to make his case. Such rhetoric can prevent us from reaching viable land management solutions. This article addresses three of Metcalf's assertions.
Quote: "Over the past several months Utah's political leadership has unleashed an all-out assault against Utah's protected public lands and Utah's newest monument."
Objections to the Bears Ears National Monument raised by local, state and federal officials range from the process by which it was designated to the economic harm the decision might have on the people of San Juan County. Among their concerns is the federal government's inability to adequately protect the area under a monument designation. During last summer, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said she was "shocked" at the lack of protection for the area's cultural resources.
This is quite alarming.
According to federal laws, it is her job to protect the pottery, cliff dwellings and petroglyphs in the area. In addition, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, who are charged with managing Utah's newest monument, have a combined deferred maintenance backlog of almost $6 billion.
Simply put, these federal land management agencies are strapped for cash and do not have the funding to keep up with the increased traffic a monument designation will likely bring the Bears Ears, putting the area's cultural and archaeological resources in harm's way.
Quote: "Tragically, Utah's governor, congressional delegation and state Legislature leadership fail to understand this critical relationship between our healthy public lands and the vitality of Utah's growing economy."
The Utah governor and Legislature have enacted laws every year since 2012 that examine and encourage proper stewardship of public lands for economic, recreational and environmental purposes (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012). Our state officials understand that we can share public lands between multiple, often complementary, uses. As part of this mission, the governor established the first Office of Outdoor Recreation in the country in 2013 encouraging recreational use of our public lands.
Quote: "Utah's top elected officials' stated strategy is to take down our newest national monument, Bears Ears, gut the Antiquities Act, starve funding from federal land management agencies and transfer our country's public lands to state ownership, where the state will sell and prioritize extractive use over all others."
Local, state and federal elected leaders are all on record supporting a Bears Ears National Monument or national conservation area if it were created through legislation passed by Congress that also would seek to balance economic, recreational and environmental interests. Many of these same officials have sought reform of the Antiquities Act to balance current unilateral executive authority over national monuments with stronger local and congressional input.
Utah law requires that the priorities of public land management be "multiple-use and sustained yield," including outdoor recreation, wilderness conservation, grazing, fish and wildlife development, mineral production, rights-of-way and timber production. HB 276 also declares that it is the policy of the state to retain transferred federal lands. Only under rare and isolated circumstances can former federal lands be sold off. The hurdle for doing so is very high requiring a study, approval of a land management director, and consent of the Legislature and governor for any disposal over 200 acres.
Metcalf's reference to the sell-off of a 391-acre parcel of school trust land near Bears Ears as evidence that the state would dispose of transferred lands is also misleading. School trust lands were given to the state solely to provide funding for public education not what we think of as "public lands." Utahns can recreate on them, but that is not the mandate of Utah's school land trust.
Again and again, Utah has shown the ability to come together to solve challenging issues. Our land management policies should be designed to benefit all Utahns, not just a select few. Utahns thrive and our economy is stronger when outdoor recreation, mineral extraction, conservation, small business and ranching come together to share our public lands.
Matthew Anderson is a policy analyst for the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.