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Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: A few public policy issues that need more attention

Published: Sunday, Sept. 30 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Does Gary Herbert really want to take over all federal lands in Utah?

Webb: Utah will always be a public lands state with vast acreage for sightseeing, backpacking, hunting and fishing. Herbert has never been interested in taking over pristine areas like national parks or wilderness. He wants to protect Utah's environment while allowing for economic growth and job creation. But Utah is at a significant disadvantage in funding education and all government services because of the enormous federal holdings. Utah has more energy resources than North Dakota, but federal restrictions prevent many of our resources from being developed, hurting our tax base and education funding.

However, real chances for win-win solutions exist. Some pristine, gorgeous areas should be designated official wilderness, protected forever, while other areas should be opened for development. Trading and consolidating state-owned land in potential wilderness areas for energy-rich lands elsewhere makes great sense for both sides.

Pignanelli: As a native Utahn, I roll my eyes when some East Coast Congressman wants to "save us Westerners" with meddlesome legislation. But harping about states rights carries little weight in the national discussion — and even causes problems in economic terms (i.e., angering outdoor retailers). Instead, we need to further develop examples of how locals are better stewards and conservators of these lands. This debate will be won not by constitutional theorizing alone, but through providing practical examples.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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