With the Cliven Bundy story still fresh on the minds of many Americans, it’s a shock to see a state government turn the tides on the federal government by passing legislation that demands it hand over control of 30 million acres of land.
It’s become commonplace to see news stories of the opposite phenomenon, as the federal government, working through the Bureau of Land Management, has time and again trampled on the private property rights of its citizens and claimed lands for itself. This is not the case in Utah.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill earlier this year that strips massive acreage of land from the overreaching hands of the federal government to help build the state’s economy and resources. Of course, not everyone seems to be happy about the land going back into the hands of its rightful owners.
A non-profit organization known as the Utah Dine Bikeyah have been asking Congress to take a specific 1.9 million acre piece of land and make it a conservation area, since it has cultural significance to the Navajo Nation. Apparently, the government has been shuffling its feet and moving a little too slowly for the group, who is now trying to bypass Congress and appeal to President Obama directly.
According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Willie Grayeyes, a member of the non-profit, is frustrated by the lack of action being taken by Utah and Congress:
“The Utah delegates are only fumbling the ball. They aren’t really tackling it,” Grayeyes said.
The Navajo Nation are not the only ones who are discussing options for how the land should be used. Meetings have been held by public officials discussing plans and initiatives for different projects the land could be used for.
Many local residents are calling the acquiring of the land a great opportunity as it can be used to develop resources like oil and gas. Local citizens seem to largely support taking the land back and removing the influence of the BLM altogether.
In a public meeting held in Grand County, Curtis Wells, a local resident spoke up about the possibility of using federal lands for resource development such as oil, gas, potash and uranium. “That land is opportunity,” Wells said. Another resident, Darrell Dalton urged the council to scale back the Grand County Council committee’s plans for additional wilderness areas. He urged Gov. Herbert and the state’s lawmakers to take back “our” lands and get rid of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service altogether.
In states where land has been used for the development of natural resources, revenue and job creation has went up, producing a healthier local economy. History has shown time and again that the best management of resources is done at the local and state level, not with the federal government.
It’s a nice change of pace to see a state asserting its property rights in order to consider how land might be used to make its citizens more prosperous.