The Utah public lands battle has nothing to do with the public

Red Rocks

Red Rocks NCA, Nevada

Written by Dallas Hyland. First published in The Southern Utah Independent.

It can be reasonably stated — and anyone would be hard-pressed to disagree — that on Sept. 12, 2001, there were no Republicans or Democrats in the United States. In the wake of the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, the only people you could find in this country were Americans, united in our grief and our resolve to defend not only our country but every single person in it.

While from a historical perspective that unity was somewhat short-lived, it was poignant and something to be remembered. Sometimes, as Americans, we need to set aside lesser differences and keep our eye on the ball together. Our enemies do.

Fifteen years later, America has a new common enemy. But uniting us on that front will be much more difficult than in the wake of an attack, because it is being meticulously carried out by measured and calculated individuals who wish to keep us divided on the matter for the purpose of their success.

There are some individuals who guise themselves as Constitutionalists. But they are in fact proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing who, if successful in their plans to transfer federally managed lands to individual states’ control, will set into motion an irreversible devastation on our country.
First, it is important to clear something up. While the terminology in the public lands battle varies from “take back” the lands to “transfer control” of the lands, neither has any legal ground whatsoever. The Constitution does not state that the government is under any compunction to comply with these demands, and the legislators and lobbyists who propose so know it.

In fact, as a condition for entering the union, ten states have disclaimed all legal rights and titles to unappropriated public lands. And at least two of the ten, Nevada and Utah, have it in their state constitutions. The other states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

So why, for instance, is Utah mounting a taxpayer-funded $14 million lawsuit to transfer control of the land? Is it because it, like the embroiled and possibly justifiably angry ranchers, needs someone to fight the big government bad guys and “defend freedom?”

Sincere and heartfelt empathy for that iconic group of Americans who are in the twilight years of their relevance notwithstanding … ranchers, you are being used. Used to ratchet up the emotion and embolden a cause that, if successful, will leave you even worse off than you are now.

Want to know how that might be true? Just look at what western states have historically done with the “trust lands” awarded to them by the federal government in exchange for relinquishing claims to public property. The lands are by and large utilized for extraction industries, logging, mining, and real estate development.

To be clear, that is what the trust land is for. But there is no indication that the legislators who wish to push this land war are telling ranchers — or any of us, for that matter — that their mandate is to maximize profit. The only way to do that is to sell to the highest bidders, and ranchers simply won’t be at that auction. None of us will.

Ken Ivory, the former executive director of the Americans Lands Council and Republican member of the Utah House of Representatives, recently left his post at the ALC to take his public-lands message to an even larger national audience with the South Carolina-based group Federalism in Action. It’s a group, mind you, that is affiliated with extreme right-winged agendas and organizations funded by the Koch brothers.

The bills and litigation the likes of what Ivory pushes literally have not a chance of succeeding in federal court, but perhaps that is not their intent. Remember that “keep your eye on the ball” thing? 

Their intent is to rally support in Congress where a majority vote for a proposal — like the one from Sen. Mike Lee that would have, in essence, gutted the Antiquities Act — could aptly be a huge victory for their greedy plan.

Are you following here? The state of Utah is waging a frivolous $14 million lawsuit that it knows it has no chance of winning in the name of something it touts as in the best interest of the public when, in fact, the real agenda is to rally support from its misinformed constituency. It’s called a successful loss, and this is because $14 million is a small price to pay to keep a Republican majority in Utah, one that will be led blindly into the trap of taking over the land, only to see it sold off to extraction companies that will yield trillions for themselves and their bought-and-paid-for politicians.
Who most wants control of these lands? Commodities exploiters.

And if they succeed, the use of these lands that are guaranteed and protected for all Americans will be available to less of them and at a prohibitively higher cost to them than it has ever been under federal management.

The people waging this land war have their eye on the ball for sure. They’re hoping we don’t.

Think about it.

See you out there.

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About dallashyland

I am first and foremost a husband, father, and friend. My personal and professional aspirations as a documentarian merge in the craft of storytelling and I accomplish this through the mediums of writing, photography, and filmmaking, all of which require the skill and convictions of an investigative journalist. It really boils down to a desire to be both at once action oriented and of deep philosophical inclinations and, to get at the truth. I cherish the modest life lived well.

Posted on February 7, 2016, in Politics & Argumentation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. By the end of the third paragraph I was thinking Dallas must be talking about the organized pro wolf movement……..not really, but you get my drift.
    Love it how the left (that would be you in this instance DH), is managing to get a jab in at those evil Kochs in EVERY damnes diatribe I come across lately. Date I say they put the little Bohemian with them moustache to shame?
    It was big of you to note, after the inflammatory comments on SITLA lands, that their purpose is to generate funds for the state’s schools.
    I just ain’t buying that having more state input on land management is going to translate to them being trammeled by the Snidely Whiplash extraction companies.

  2. How about the In lieu lands that can’t be traded because they are locked up with the National Parks and reservations? That doesn’t seem like its been managed very well by the Federal Government. Still learning more about this issue. Thank your for article.

  3. We forget the lessons of old…. Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912….. Less government use to mean more liberty but in today’s day and age, government is the only thing to prevent the enslavement of the people by the great corporations…. mind you 1912ha

  4. We have forgotten lessons learned long time ago…. 1912 Teddy Roosevelt said. IT USE TO MEAN LESS GOVERNMENT MEANT MORE LIBERTY, BUT IN TODAYS AGE, GOVERNMENT IS THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT ENSLAVE ME T OF THE PEOPLE BY THE GREAT CORPORATIONS. Remember 1912

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