Federal Lands Takeover Would Harm the Public

Jan 29, 2015 | Stegner Center

Press release dated January 27, 2015 – The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources & the Environment at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law today released a White Paper titled “The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands.” The White Paper discusses Utah’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, or TPLA, which demands that the federal government transfer title to more than 31 million acres of federal public lands within Utah to the State. The TPLA has inspired eight other states to take up legislation seeking to control federal lands.

The Stegner Center’s White Paper concludes that the TPLA hinders, rather than helps, efforts to advance public land management reform. Statements by TPLA backers signal a profound shift towards commodity production if Utah secures these lands, and even if more moderate voices prevail, a recent legislatively-commissioned report reveals that economic realities will force Utah to dramatically increase oil and gas development in order to cover new management expenses. Utah will likely also be forced to increase the rates it charges to all who access what were formerly public lands — including grazing permittees, mineral developers, hunters, anglers, and other recreational users. The public will also have less influence in land management decisions because federal planning and public input laws will not apply, and Utah has no comparable land planning or public participation requirements.

University Distinguished Professor of Law Bob Keiter, Director of the Stegner Center, and John Ruple, Research Associate Professor, authored the White Paper. According to the authors, “If Utah succeeds in taking over federal public lands, the public will have less, not more, input into land management, and all who utilize what are now public lands — industry and recreation interests alike — will see the cost of access increase substantially. In short, the public will suffer from this misguided effort.”

“The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands” is a follow-up to “A Legal Analysis of the Transfer of Public Lands Movement,”  in which Professors Keiter and Ruple concluded that Utah has no legal basis to demand title to federal public lands.

Questions should be directed to John Ruple, at 801-581-6545 or john.ruple@law.utah.edu.