Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Exploring the ramifications of designating another Utah monument

Published: Sunday, June 1 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Webb: Wasatch Front residents ought to be just as concerned as our rural neighbors because of the impact on Utah’s economy. Certainly, pristine and beautiful parts of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument deserve the highest degree of protection possible (after proper due diligence and public input). In other parts, however, we ought to be mining coal and drilling for oil and gas. A gigantic monument designation, done on a whim, doesn’t take into account the variety of land uses, including recreation, that should be allowed in different locations.

Could the state manage these federal lands as well or better than the federal government?

Pignanelli: For decades, the feds were viewed as the enlightened forces promoting civil rights, clean air and water, and safer food. However, because of numerous blunders (i.e. Hurricane Katrina, veterans, citizens privacy, health care rollout, etc.) the federal government is the nation’s town drunk (well-meaning but a joke). States are on the cutting edge of reform and innovation. The battle for public land control will not be won by wearing silly costumes, but by demonstrating state competency.

Webb: The state does most things far better than the federal government, and citizens trust state government dramatically more than the federal government. So why should anyone think the federal government can magically manage lands better than the state? The state competently manages a great deal of publicly owned land, including numerous beautiful state parks and a lot of wildlife habitat. We don’t sell them off or put a McDonald’s arch in Goblin Valley.

State land managers get degrees from the same colleges and universities, go to the same conferences and seminars, and read the same literature and best practices as their federal counterparts. Many switch between federal and state jobs during their careers.

Did Kathleen Clarke magically boost her land management skills when she went from being a state land manager to direct the federal BLM? And did she suddenly lose those skills when she came back to Utah?

The federal government is broke, calcified and gridlocked. I guarantee Utah can do better. It is a myth perpetuated by silly environmental groups that only the federal government can properly manage public lands.

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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