Tussle over federal lands proving complex for Utah

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

• Adopting state wilderness and public lands management acts.

"The tasks that need to be completed are really very complicated," Rampton said. "There's a great deal of work to be done."

Scott Groene, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the state is wasting legislative time and money on a "fool's errand."

"This is not a balanced approach to public lands issues. It's an idea so radical that voters in Arizona just last week shot down a similar proposal by a 2-to-1 margin," Groene said.

Legislators and Gov. Gary Herbert should have investigated six months ago how much money Utah would lose in the transfer before demanding the federal government hand over millions of acres, he said.

"In (Wednesday's) report, the state of Utah was forced to admit that their proposal to take control of federal public lands is not a moneymaker for the state and will not help fund Utah schools," Groene said.

Federal agencies spend about $200 million a year managing lands in the state. Mining and grazing generated $445 million in economic activity, while mineral royalties brought in another $141 million, according to the report. Also, counties received $34.7 million through a payment-in-lieu of taxes program.

Clarke said public lands could yield more revenue under state control by creating greater access to natural resources. At the same time, she said, the state would better protect and maintain recreational opportunities.

"This is our home. It has so much meaning to us. I can't imagine anyone in state government taking actions to destroy what we love," she said.

Contributing: Associated Press

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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