Last week, Gov. Herbert’s spokespeople responded to SUWA’s statewide media campaign (which educates the public about the costs and effects of Governor Herbert’s federal land takeover initiatives) by saying that his initiatives “actually protect Utah’s wilderness, as well as state and national parks.”

This statement is untrue, and it’s time for Governor Herbert to set the record straight about the true effects of his federal land grab initiatives.

Governor Herbert’s radical attacks on our public lands includes his support of HB 148 — a law which would allow Utah to seize 30 million acres of public lands currently managed by the federal government — and the 22 lawsuits against the United States government that Governor Herbert recently directed the state of Utah to file regarding RS 2477 claims.

If successful, Governor Herbert’s litigation would take away the ability of professional land managers to control off-road vehicle (ORV) use in Utah’s National Parks and in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Indeed, Governor Herbert is currently spending tax dollars in an attempt to open an off-road vehicle route in Capitol Reef National Park.

Governor Herbert’s land grab would also open up millions of acres of Wilderness Study Areas and proposed wilderness areas to oil and gas development, off-road vehicle abuse, or even to private development. The Governor is even attacking the 2009 Washington County wilderness bill, which was supported by the entire Utah congressional delegation and Washington County commissioners, by seeking to open ORV routes across the Canaan Mountain and Red Mountain wilderness areas.

Governor Herbert’s plans to ultimately privatize much of Utah’s public lands would radically alter the character of our state, and undermine Utah’s heritage. The loss of our public lands means Utah families won’t be able to roam freely across open land, unmarred by roads, ORVs and oil rigs.

“If Herbert is spending millions of dollars of our tax money for his litigation against the United States, he should at least be honest with Utah Citizens about what he’s doing, “ said Scott Groene, SUWA’s Executive Director. “He’s attacking Utah’s wilderness and national parks, not protecting them.”

Mathew Gross