SALT LAKE CITY — Land-use advocates from across Utah gathered Saturday for the Take Back Utah parade and rally.
The event, which started at the Utah Fairpark and made its way to the state Capitol, was held to promote resistance to the federal government's control of public lands in Utah. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, addressed the crowd, drawing cheers as they spoke of the fight for state's rights going on in Washington.
"We have, unfortunately, an administration right now that doesn't have quite the same vision for public lands that we do," Bishop said.
Bishop said that 1 out of every 3 acres in the U.S. is owned by the federal government. In the west the numbers are even more severe, he said, where the federal government owns half the acreage.
The problem is not a new one, he said, but instead of moving toward local ownership the federal government is looking to expand.
"I defy you to find somewhere, anywhere in the Constitution that justifies that," Bishop said.
Hatch described the federal government as "jumping all over us." He spoke about bills currently in the works that aim to return land ownerships to the state.
"We're going to see what we can do to get our lands back because we can manage them better, we know how to keep them good, we know how to use them, we are tired of them usurping our rights and taking our lands from us and preventing us from being able to use them in a reasonable decent fashion," Hatch said.
Glen Olsen of Roy said Saturday's event was intended to let state officials know of constituent support on the issue of land use and to get the word out to other areas in the west. He said public lands are key to Utah's prosperity and while many Take Back Utah advocates are jeep and ATV owners, the issue of land ownership goes beyond recreational use.
"What Take Back Utah is trying to do and is working for is to bring all these organizations under one umbrella, so we have everyone together and fighting the same battle," Olsen said. "We want responsible land use."
Noel said that as a result of federal land ownership, there has been a gradual usurping of the ability of residents to use public lands. That has resulted in lost access to trails, county roads being shut down and a decline in grazing and industries like filmmaking, he said.
"We've almost lost our movie industry in Kane County," he said. "You can't even ride a bicycle in wilderness land, that's extreme in my opinion."
Noel said a number of southern Utah counties are currently involved in lawsuits against the federal government.
"We're gonna win those cases," Noel said. "There's no doubt about it."