SALT LAKE CITY — Too much of the land in Utah, 67 percent, is controlled by the federal government, says Morgan Philpot.
"Who owns Utah?" he asked during a news conference at the state Capitol Monday. "Is it a sovereign state, or is it a geographic area administrator for the federal government?"
The 2nd District congressional candidate says he can be the lands champion for the district.
Philpot, a former Utah legislator, is running against incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. The two will face off in the Nov. 2 election.
Matheson is running for a sixth term.
Philpot said he is well-received in Utah's rural counties within the district.
"When we talk about my views on local control and input, it's exactly what they want to see," Philpot said. "They don't want to be forced to the table with someone who shouldn't have as much say as they should."
Philpot said he advocates more local control over federal land designations that could lock up Utah's resources. He would like to restore recently canceled energy leases and open up the state's school trust lands for development.
Philpot has found a friend in Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who represents northern Utah.
Bishop said Monday that Philpot would make a good fit in Congress, especially if he joined a committee that dealt with land policy.
Bishop gave Matheson credit for fighting in 2009 against the America's Red Rock Wilderness bill, which would have put one-sixth of Utah into formal wilderness area.
"I need more help," Bishop said. "I think Morgan Philpot would be a great asset there."
Philpot criticized Matheson, saying the congressman lacked the will to stand up for rural Utahns and for the state to gain revenue from the responsible development of land.
However, Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend said Matheson has been proactive and successful at being an advocate for a balanced use of public lands. He does it in a way that balances recreation and economic values, she said.
Matheson has worked with county commissioners in Washington, Piute, Kane and Carbon counties and has an upcoming trip to southern Utah.
He has sponsored various bills that have come before the House Natural Resources Committee, she said, including a bill that has helped the School Institutional Trust Lands Administration have a brighter future and one to help develop hydroelectric power on Diamond Fork. He also co-sponsored the Washington County Lands Bill with Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.