Alan Matheson's recent My View ("Utah needs a balanced public lands policy," Sept. 13) contained some nice rhetoric on balance in public lands policy. But actions speak louder than words, and Gov. Gary Herbert's public lands actions lately have been anything but balanced — and Utah taxpayers are paying the price.
It's ironic that Matheson, the governor's senior environmental advisor, complains about "expensive lawsuits" in federal lands management just months after Herbert filed 22 lawsuits against the U.S. seeking over 10,000 "road" claims crossing designated wilderness, national parks and national monuments. A similar lawsuit over a single route in Salt Creek has already cost the state and San Juan County more than $1 million — to no avail. How is it balanced to waste taxpayer money in this way?
Nor is the Herbert's support of HB148 — the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which the governor signed into law in March — a balanced approach. Rather than "engag[ing] constructively" in a conversation about better land management between stakeholders, the law seeks to upend more than a century of public land management by forcing the federal government to hand over 30 million acres of public lands to the state. How Utah will come up with the hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. spends to manage these lands each year is a question that Herbert and Matheson don't have an answer for, other than vague promises to "do better."
Rather than doing better, however, HB148 would throw into disarray the system that public lands stakeholders — from ranchers to miners to hunters to outdoor tourism companies — rely upon to do business in our state. When it comes to Herbert's and Matheson's professed belief to "balance" in public lands management, an old maxim comes to mind: Watch what they do, not what they say.
Salt Lake City
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company