Robert Bennett: Utah unlikely to 'take back' federal lands


Return To Article
  • Happy Valley Heretic Orem, UT
    Feb. 19, 2014 9:43 a.m.

    Dough said: Federal Government promised to dispose of the unappropriated lands, and that 5% of the proceeds would go to the schools as part of a permanent trust fund for education. Fourth, the Utah demand is for the transfer to be to the State, not to be privatized.

    ...and yet they've sold half of the school trust land to private interests?

  • airnaut Everett, 00
    Feb. 19, 2014 6:26 a.m.

    Let Utah cover the costs of just ONE forest fire for just ONE season,
    and then let's get back and talk some more...shall we?

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 3:05 p.m.

    @ Tulip, lease the land to private interests but make them leave it unfenced? Have you thought this through? Let's consider the options. Lease land for a mine. No fence? Lease for grazing? No fence? Lease for building on? No leaseholder controls? What else? Come on, think this through. Last summer, I was riding a bike in the Hudson Rive Vally in NY. Saw some gorgeous land with no improvements on it. Except fencing and lots of no trespassing signs. That's what's in Utah's future if you get your way. As I said earlier, Utahns won't like it. It will change a critical benefit of why we live here and our quality of life. By the way, many of those states where there is little federal ownership of land, the taxes are in fact much higher. There is so much federal land that would need to be managed by the state that won't be leased out that the cost will exceed the benefit. Again, think it through.

  • Dough Alton, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 2:24 p.m.

    In order to answer the question:

    Phoenix, AZ
    Wait a minute... When the Federal Government made Utah a state why did title to the land stay with the Federal Government? Doesn't seem fair.

    All of the states in their enabling acts (including the eastern states) "...forever and always disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated lands". The purpose of this language was to give the Fed unencumbered title which they could then dispose to the final owner, which they were duty bound by the enabling act to do. They simply failed to dispose for so long that most have forgotten the promise. That's the danger of ignoring history. In 1976 in the Federal Lands Policy Management Act congress decided to abandon a policy of disposal and pursue a policy of retention. The better question is how the federal government unilaterally change a contract without the other party (state) consent.

  • Dough Alton, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 2:06 p.m.

    This is an honest attempt to correct the misinformation in the posts...first of all, the Federal Government does own the land and has from the beginning of statehood. Second, in the State enabling act which is the contract between those who are states and those who desire statehood, the Federal Government promised to dispose of the unappropriated lands, and that 5% of the proceeds would go to the schools as part of a permanent trust fund for education. Third, the governors of all of the western states turned down the federal proposal to dispose because the proposed deal was to dispose of the lands but retain the minerals. The governors demanded "the whole loaf" in order to be on equal footing with the other states west of Colorado. (That was in 1933). Fourth, the Utah demand is for the transfer to be to the State, not to be privatized. Federal Lands would become State lands to be managed for true multiple use with all existing rights intact. The idea is to have the Federal Government honor to the western states the same promises it made and kept to all of the states east of Colorado.

  • jsf Centerville, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 12:59 p.m.

    andyjaggythe 19th century Mormons were not the miners. Back then it was the "gentiles", originating with the Johnson's army discharged soldiers.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 12:27 p.m.

    "As much Land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property." John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chapter Five, Of Property

    John Locke was known and respected as a seminal writer on governmental issues and the philosophies of freedom, who often applied his philosophies to Amerca as a land in a state of nature with great resources. He was a profound influence on our founding fathers. No constitutional provision or prohibition exists of claiming land for the federal government or disallowing it to the States AND the People.

    On the basis of this just provision of allowing land to belong to he who makes improvement of it, the federal government could claim but little of the vast acreages of wilderness which it leaves to weeds and reptiles. It is shameful, imo, that while people are unemployed and willing to work, the feds continue in a dog and manger attitude that denies employment and useful free application of labor to the people they are chosen to serve. There does not seem to be a lack of enterprising spirit in the people.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    19th century Mormons I don't think were as good of stewards as we like to think. Have you spent much time in the mountain around here and seen any of the abandoned mines that are now leaking toxic heavy metals into our water supply? Granted that's how it was back then and they probably didn't know any better. Interestingly enough though Brigham young actually advised people NOT to open the Kennecot open pit mine.

    Conservation is a relatively new ideology, back then people simply didn't understand, or they couldn't fathom that there would be a time when there would be so many people and so much development that access and preservation of nature and wide open free spaces would be an issue.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 10:10 a.m.

    Mr. Bennett. We miss you. Apparently such logic and rational discussion have no place in our current political atmosphere.

    Our public lands are one of the best things Utah has to offer. Sure the state "might" do a better job and they "might" keep them more open and accessible to the public, frankly it's not a chance I am willing to take. There are way to many developers and former real estate tycoons in our legislature for me to trust them any further than I can throw them. The lands were never Utahs, and frankly Utah can't afford to manage them. We currently have a great situation where the feds pay the cost and we reap the benefits. Let's not change that simply for political pandering and ideology.

    1Reader, Have you lived out east? Have you tried to go hunting? camping? If you like the idea of your state controlling all of your lands, I suggest you move and discover what it's like when there are precious few public lands in your state.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Feb. 18, 2014 7:36 a.m.

    Watch who gets their way with the State prison property,
    and you will see who wants more control of the "land"....

    Will it be --

    The good citizens of the State, for fine Parks and Recreation,
    Developers, exploiters, and greedy business charlitans?

  • 1Reader Sunnyvale, CA
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:26 p.m.

    All excellent points by Senator Bennett. However, it still does not seem fair that Eastern states control almost all of their land, but Utah just a minority of its. With Statehood came conferred the rights and control associated with appropriate state sovereignty. Presidents, US military, and other federal groups have taken Utah lands under federal control multiple times since statehood; that has not happened to most states.

  • wrz Phoenix, AZ
    Feb. 17, 2014 5:16 p.m.

    Wait a minute... When the Federal Government made Utah a state why did title to the land stay with the Federal Government? Doesn't seem fair.

  • Tulip West Jordan, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 3:17 p.m.

    @esquire, On the table for consideration: I would lease to the private sector with certain conditions (like don't fence it off... as a concession to our environmental friends) and then I'd take 10% of the revenue. I love the private sector. Taxes may be lower here than elsewhere but they could be even lower (yeah!). I love, love, love keeping as much of what I earn as is humanly possible. A foreign concept in this day to be sure.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 2:32 p.m.

    @jcobabe "My perception of the Sagebrush Rebellion has been that it forwards the interests of the real stewards of public lands,..." I would agree with you if you were talking about the 19th Century. THEN Mormon agriculture adopted a socialist model dealing with natural resources particularly water and timber. It's true - 19th Century Utah was at least half socialist. Those days are long gone, and we are a money hungry developer driven system. A Utah takeover of our Federal lands would rape those lands pure and simple.

  • jcobabe Provo, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 1:32 p.m.

    My perception of the Sagebrush Rebellion has been that it forwards the interests of the real stewards of public lands, those who had kept it for generations without any intervention, government controls acting as the typical irresponsible absentee landlord. Though not many realize it, this attitude has hardly diminished among those who actually reside and frequent public lands in the West. More of them seem to have a practical understanding of the freedom of the hills and what it represents in Utah.

    I suspect that the majority of residents of Utah never visit the wilds of Utah, and generally value the comfort and cultured convenience of their congested stuffy cities along the Wasatch Front.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 12:20 p.m.

    @ Tulip, I assume you are not aware of PIL. Utah gets millions from the Federal government - just for nothing. Utah receives more money from the feds than it pays. Utah is a taker state. And taxes here are lower than in a lot of places. (But it sounds like you want more taxes). But, tell me, just how would you exploit the federal lands? How would you turn them into revenue without turning them over to the private sector? And after you do that, how will you avoid all those formerly public lands from being fenced off, keeping all of us from enjoying them like we now do? So, give us some specifics? Exactly what will be done if the feds give most of the land back to the state? What will the state do with them, and what business interests will then get them? And what will those business interests do with them exactly? Huff and puff all you like about the evil feds and taxes, but you have no plan to put on the table for our consideration.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 12:18 p.m.

    @Florwood "Does it strike anyone else as interesting that Sen. Bennett doesn't know the name of the Utah governor? "

    I'll take "Utah governors for 200 Alex."

    What Utah governor turned down Federal lands when offered.

    Me: "Who was Governor Dern?"

    Sweat, sweat, sweat.

  • McMurphy St George, Utah
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:57 a.m.

    It never hurts to ask. However, what is the legal basis for saying the Federal lands must be returned to Utah ? Doesn't the Utah constitution and the enabling legislation making Utah a state pretty much make it clear it has renounced it's right to those lands ??

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    Feb. 17, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    @10CC - There is a reason why the state of Texas has so few acres of federal land. When Texas was an independent nation ("The Republic of Texas"), we owned all our land. When Texas joined with the United States in 1845, the contract allowed this state to continue to own all of its land. Over the years, we've sold some land to the Federal government for parks, etc., but we were careful not to go overboard. Much of the oil produced in Texas comes from state-owned land, and not surprisingly we don't have a state income tax. All in all, I think we came out ahead on this deal.

  • Tulip West Jordan, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:41 a.m.


    Mining and grazing...whoopee! As for your "vocal and greedy" comment, how about use of the land for the common good like education and healthcare. That way you don't have to constantly crush the taxpayer...and personally if those with the money and know-how make a living at it, why should any of us care? They'll pay taxes up the wazoo which benefits all of us...immensely.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:33 a.m.

    " And now I know why the vote to get you out and put Lee in was one the the best things that could have happened to the people here in Utah who have Republican and conservative and states rights values. Which, is the majority."

    Is that why Lee has been flip flopping and trying to appear more liberal since the government shutdown?

    Is that why Jim Matheson will soon take Lee's place?

    If utah were happy with Lee he wouldn't be flip flopping. Nor would Matheson have given up his seat to run against Lee.

  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    This is a good reason to go back and study the Tenth Amendment which limits federal authority to only those powers "expressly" delineated in the Constitution. Many states have already passed legislation limiting that authority (W.V. Intrastate Coal and Use Act (H.B. 2554). The problem I see is that too many local politicians aspire to federal office and don't give a whit about States Rights. This was foreseen by the founders as illustrated in the Federalist Papers but they were pinning their hopes on an active state electorate and a moral Republic. Unfortunately, we no longer have either of those.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:16 a.m.

    @ Florwood, I'm missing the basis of your criticism of Sen. Bennett on the name of the Governor. Curious.

    As for those who think transferring federal lands to Utah or to private interests, trust me, you won't like it if you are a public lands user. The quality of life in Utah will drop dramatically. And to folks like Tulip, resources on public lands are in fact being accessed now. Mines, grazing, etc. Just because there are a few vocal, and greedy, folks huffing and puffing does not mean they have the interests of the rest of us at heart.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 9:10 a.m.

    To reveal the underlying motive of Utah Republicans, let's engage in some simulated litigation of who the owners should be, paying close attention to the chain of ownership cited by Senator Bennett.

    My hunch is most of these Sagebrush Rebels would quickly scurry back under the federal umbrella, if it looked like legal ownership was going to be granted to the first owners of Utah land, upon contact with outsiders: the Utes, Goshutes, Paiutes, Shoshone and Navajo.

    Though the tribes would be overrun by business proposals by potential "partners", the end of the debate would quickly end when the tribes proposed a large casino complex in the Salt Lake Valley.

    Utah conservatives would happily embrace federal ownership, claiming the whole idea was prompted by erroneous fears of a "complete federal takeover of healthcare" by Obama, which can now be pinned on a repentant Glenn Beck, who regrets dividing the nation through his rhetoric.

    I've seen this movie before, just with different actors and a slightly modified script.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:47 a.m.

    For those who believe Utah will get this land "back" I say respectfully all you are doing is political grandstanding. Let's spend time on issues that could be more easily resolved if we had the political will to do so. Education anyone?

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:38 a.m.

    "Excellent historical perspective, Mr. Bennett.

    Why in the world anyone thought Mr. Lee and his hair brained schemes deserved their vote rather than you, Mr. Bennett, will always puzzle me."

    Because rational candidates don't win in party caucuses.

    In order to win in caucuses you must sound angry and more radical than all the other candidates.

  • Tulip West Jordan, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:33 a.m.

    Not sure why that little story matters now. Just because it was once offered doesn't mean we can't request possession of it today. Times change Mr Bennett and if the federal government won't use the resources then our request for it's use shouldn't be seen as some kind of rebellion. As for who possessed it before the federal government, well you could make the same argument for all of America.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:27 a.m.

    Another aspect seldom mentioned is the Utah School Trust Lands, parceled off and often mixed in with federal land, for the benefit of Utah's school children.

    Over time, half of those lands have been sold off, so now Utah's school children only have 50% of the land which was actually deeded to them.

    Clearly, local interests - under the temptation for short term gain - have not done a good job of being stewards of the land originally given.

    So, naturally, they want more.

    Sometimes it's beneficial to have an authority above you to help you make wise and prudent decisions. You can rail and complain and cry injustice, but more & more people are realizing that having the federal government own most of the land in Utah has resulted in that land still available for the public.

    If you want to see what it would be like to have Utah take ownership of federal lands, go visit Texas, where there are almost no public lands, and if you want to hunt or enjoy open spaces, you need permission and probably a fee from a private owner.

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 8:19 a.m.

    I'm rather new to Utah. Thanks Mr. Bennett for showing us your true hand. Democrat in Republican clothing. You sounded like a typical liberal with all that stuff about who owned this land, going back to the Indians. Why not just say that Mexico should still be running this place? And now I know why the vote to get you out and put Lee in was one the the best things that could have happened to the people here in Utah who have Republican and conservative and states rights values. Which, is the majority.

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:41 a.m.

    Interesting story. Does it strike anyone else as interesting that Sen. Bennett doesn't know the name of the Utah governor? Makes me wonder if the story is more folktale than fact...

  • Furry1993 Ogden, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:11 a.m.

    Well said, Robert Bennett. It's nice to see the TRUTH told on this issue for once, instead of just seeing political rhetoric being used to try to gain political advantage for those on the far-right. In the course of my work I've seen the patents from the government (in all of Utah's counties) which conveyed federal land to Utah when the state was created -- they did NOT include the lands Utah's politicians are now trying to co-opt. Thank you for your insight.

  • Meckofahess Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 7:04 a.m.

    Senator Bennett, thank you for this enlightening review of history. Now, is there some way we can get you to run for office again please! We need wise and balanced men like yourself in office.

  • southmtnman Provo, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 6:35 a.m.

    Excellent historical perspective, Mr. Bennett.

    Why in the world anyone thought Mr. Lee and his hair brained schemes deserved their vote rather than you, Mr. Bennett, will always puzzle me.

  • John Kateel Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 6:08 a.m.

    Probably the best article I have ever read that outlines the reasoning of the Sagebrush Rebellion folks. Using this same logic of rugged individualism, I want to "take back" my office space from my landlord who owns my office tower. I have requested time and time again to be able to have a pay by the hour bedroom set up in one of the cubicles. Sleepy office workers, long haul truckers, and other folks can then pay me for a place to lay their head and snooze. They denied my requests and I could of made thousands of dollars if I was not stifled by such tyranny. If I could just seize the title of my office, I will never have my property rights trampled by my landlord again!

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Feb. 17, 2014 5:50 a.m.

    Mr Bennett.

    This piece is an excellent example of why you are no longer in Congress.

    Your piece contains facts and rational explanations which are contrary to a well crafted "government is always the problem" message.

    The notion that you "cant take back something that was never yours" does not fit the narrative and will only bring you wrath and rebuke.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 17, 2014 1:11 a.m.

    This is really interesting history. I tend to be opposed to the state's claiming current Federal lands because the motive is generally one of a local private interest wanting to get property at a bargain price. Moreover had the state seized these lands public recreation would be virtually nil. Utah would be the private preserve for rich Californians - we would have to pay dearly to camp, hunt or fish on these lands. I value these activities - so keep Federal ownership.