Great news! Last week, a federal court judge placed a restraining order on a bizarre state law that would have criminalized any attempt by a Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service ranger to enforce state laws (like speed limits) on federal lands in Utah.
You might be thinking ‘what does this have to do with redrock wilderness?’
Well, a lot.
Over the last few years, the state of Utah has embarked on a costly battle with the federal government to take control of nearly every aspect of public land management away from American taxpayers. In this case, reality has finally caught up with Utah Governor Gary Herbert – but only because the United States Government vigorously defended its rights.
We need to see more of this. Can you take a moment to contact Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and ask her to vigorously defend public lands from the state of Utah’s massive public lands takeover?
Click here to contact Secretary Jewell now.
In particular, Secretary Jewell needs to hear that people across the country support the federal government’s opposition to Utah’s demanding title to dirt tracks, roads and trails under the nineteenth century mining law provision known as R.S. 2477. These claims threaten millions of acres of proposed wilderness and the proposed Greater Canyonlands National Monument — because if Utah wins, these claims would essentially grant vehicular access everywhere in perpetuity.
This can’t happen. Please ask Secretary Jewell to stand up to the nonsense coming out of Utah and help safeguard our public lands.
Click here to contact Secretary Jewell now.
Educators, parents and students spoke out against Governor Herbert’s land grab in Utah today, united by a concern for Utah’s children and public lands. Rejecting the claim that state control of federal lands could benefit education, speakers urged the Governor to “safeguard – not to seize – Utah’s public lands.”
The event was hosted by “For Kids and Lands,” a group of educators and other citizens who support stewardship of Utah’s federal public lands and realistic solutions for funding education.
A crowd of more than 50 citizens – including parents and grandparents with young children, as well as high school and college students – flanked the speakers. They held aloft photos of families hiking on Utah’s public lands and signs with messages such as “Spend money on schools not on lawsuits” and “Don’t spoil my future, protect public lands.”
The group is delivering a position statement to the Governor endorsed by over 60 community leaders and currently signed by more than 1200 citizens. The statement challenges Herbert’s efforts to assert state ownership over Utah’s federally-owned public lands and the roads and routes that crisscross them.
“When litigation and increased management costs are added together, the state is likely to lose rather than generate money,” said Heather Bennett, vice-president of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education and a mother of three children who attended Utah’s public schools. “Besides, I believe we set a poor example for our children and dishonor the values of our ancestors when we arrogantly seek to seize and exploit.”
James Thompson, a fifth generation Utahn and public high school teacher for 31 years, said that the Governor’s land grab “will destroy the landscapes that inspire, educate and renew us.” Utah’s public lands “would be thrown open to extraction activities or sold off to the highest bidder in an effort to maximize short-term revenues,” he noted. “Moreover, they would become marred and scarred for generations to come as the state seeks to develop a virtual spider-web or road rights-of-way.”
“The Governor is out-of-step with young people in Utah like me,” noted Ethan Lake, a public high school student who who grew up hiking and camping with his family on Utah’s public lands. “We want to see these places safeguarded, not exploited.”
Heidi Chamorro, a law student who attended public schools in Utah all her life, noted that, “Utah’s unspoiled public lands are the main reason why young people remain in our state and why businesses choose to locate here. If we allow the state to seize control and destroy the beauty that is in our backyard then we will lose what makes Utah such a unique and special place.”
For Kids and Lands urges citizens who share their concerns to add their name to the position statement at www.forkidsandlands.org and contact them at email@example.com for info about how to support their campaign.
When ideology collides with reality, reality wins.
Last Monday, a federal judge blocked implementation of a new Utah law that would have prohibited BLM and Forest Service employees from enforcing state laws anywhere in Utah.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
In a filing Monday, the Justice Department said that Congress has the authority to make laws governing federal lands and that the Utah Legislature does not have the power to overturn or supersede those laws and rules.
The federal regulations governing the officers and land have been written to incorporate state laws and local ordinances.
After a conference call with attorneys for the state and federal governments, Judge David Nuffer signed a temporary restraining order blocking the law from taking effect until a June hearing on a longer-term injunction.
Ultimately, the Justice Department is asking the judge to strike down the law as unconstitutional.
This is the first instance where Utah’s loony tunes campaign to take over federal land ran up a against a federal court. And Utah lost.
Also losing, however, is the Utah taxpayer, who is footing the bill for the state’s attorneys to return to court in June to argue against a permanent injunction — not to mention the 30 lawsuits against the feds that Utah taxpayers are paying for so the state can gain control over so-called RS2477 routes, many of which are little more than old cattle trails and dry stream beds.
As the Salt Lake Tribune declared in an editorial on Saturday:
If the law is eventually nullified, it won’t matter to the quixotic [State Representative Mike] Noel. He seems to enjoy spending Utah taxpayers’ money in court. In fact, he relishes any kind of standoff with federal government agencies and employees almost as much as he likes to thumb his nose at groups trying to protect the natural resources that bring many millions of tourist dollars to the Beehive State every year.
Noel… believes in the outdated philosophy that wide-open spaces are there to be used up and discarded for short-term gain and temporary jobs. He fails to see the writing on the wall: The future mainstays of the Western economy will not be ranching, mining and extractive industries….
Arguing in the Legislature for laws that do nothing but antagonize federal officers and cost tax money to defend in court is not responsible governance. It’s a provincial, last-gasp attempt to control lands that belong to all Americans, not only the Utahns who live near them.
Poking the U.S. Constitution in the eye by ignoring the Supremacy Clause, which elevates federal law above state and local laws, may be fun for Noel, but Utahns should see it for what it is: a waste of time and money that should be spent on solving Utah’s real problems.
The Tribune gets it right. The radical nature of the state’s campaign to “take back” federal lands in Utah will eventually collapse — but not before a ton of taxpayer money is wasted.
The following letter to the editor ran last week in the Times of Trenton. We join Terry in thanking Rep. Rush Holt for his tireless advocacy for protecting Utah wilderness.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-Hopewell) has been a long-time champion for the people and conservation. On April 18, he once again stepped up to the plate as the new lead sponsor of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, which would protect more than nine million acres of spectacular public lands in Utah from threats including oil and gas development, mining and inappropriate off-road vehicle use.
I thank Rep. Holt for his bold, visionary leadership in seeking to protect these lands that are owned by every American citizen, including all of us in New Jersey. I have hiked in southern Utah and know firsthand the value of preserving the natural, recreational and cultural resources of the region for future generations. The act would leave large undisturbed landscapes intact, helping to reduce the effects of global warming on this dry, desert area.
All of us in New Jersey should applaud Rep. Holt for his commitment to protecting our country’s wild places and, specifically, America’s Red Rock Wilderness in Utah.
– Terry Stimpfel,
The writer is New Jersey Sierra Club Central Group chairwoman.