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Study underway about transfer of federal lands to Utah

Published: Wednesday, May 21 2014 11:24 a.m. MDT

A Utah legislative interim committee met Wednesday to examine the progress of an economic analysis of the prospect of transferring federal lands into state ownership.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah legislative interim committee met Wednesday to examine the progress of an economic analysis concerning the prospect of transferring federal lands into state ownership.

HB142, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert on April 1, calls for a study to inventory public lands within Utah and to analyze the opportunities and challenges that a public lands transfer would bring for agencies within the state should such a transfer occur.

Kathleen Clarke, director of the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office, discussed the ongoing analysis with members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee.

"Clearly, we have opportunities as we look at the mineral resources in this state, and they've been identified by many where there are underlying dollar values, and those resources are out there," Clarke said. "But this study is going to look at some of the implications of things like ... what happens when you lose the federal jobs that are in a community, which often are the highest paying jobs in that community. ... Would we expect to, perhaps, replace all those jobs with state jobs?"

Other factors considered in the study include "oil and gas, mining, grazing, hunting, fishing, recreation, and other rights and interests on public lands; the economic impact of those rights and interests on state, county, and local economies; (and) actions necessary to secure, preserve, and protect those rights and interests," HB142 states.

The study is being conducted by a consortium of experts at Utah State University, Weber State University and the University of Utah. The group is working under the direction of the Public Lands Policy Coordination Office in meeting with federal, state and county agencies to understand the ramifications and economic impact a public lands transfer would pose to each agency.

Clarke said the group is "well down the road" toward completing the study by November.

"There are lots of interesting questions, and I think you will find that the depth and breadth of this study is going to lay a foundation, not for giving you decisions, but for giving you data on which to make very well-informed decisions," Clarke told the committee.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

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