SALT LAKE CITY — Alliance for a Better Utah initiated an online petition Monday urging Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to nix a legal battle with the federal government over public lands.
The organization, which describes itself as a promoter of "balance, transparency and accountability" in public policy, says it is making the request in light of a report approved by the Conference of Western Attorneys General made public last month.
That report, passed by a 11-1 vote, cast a skeptical light on the state of Utah's chances of succeeding in suing the federal government over control of more than 30 million acres of federal property. Legislators say they want greater control over Utah's lands and have passed a law enabling a legal team to prepare a case arguing for state autonomy over that land. However, the choice as to whether or not to file a lawsuit ultimately falls to Reyes.
Reyes was not present for the vote by the Conference of Western Attorneys General, according to Alliance for a Better Utah, and is still reviewing the report. Rachel Sanders, the organization's executive director, said in a statement Monday that a lawsuit would be a waste of money. Previous estimates have concluded the lawsuit could cost up to $14 million if carried through.
"We encourage all Utahns to join together in asking Attorney General Reyes to uphold his constitutional duties rather than continuing to pursue the partisan politics of this fiscally irresponsible folly,” Sanders said.
According to Alliance for a Better Utah, the online petition will at some point be delivered to Reyes.
"Every day, the Utah government’s pipe dream of taking our public lands from the federal government is shown to be unwinnable and the waste of taxpayer money that it is," the petition states, in part.
Utah lawmakers have contended the federal government does a bad job managing its land in the state. They have also argued the large amount of federally owned land in Utah harms the state's potential to derive revenue from those areas.