April 30, 2010
|Salt Lake City –
Utah is itching for a land fight. A battle with Washington over territorial rights and state sovereignty. It wants to spark a revolt in which Western states attempt to wrest control of federal lands within their borders.
The Beehive State might just get its way, too. In March, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a controversial law authorizing the use of eminent domain to capture some of the millions of acres that the federal government owns here. The law was tailor-made to provoke a lawsuit, possibly reaching the US Supreme Court, and to inspire other Western states to enact similar legislation.
While it’s unusual for eminent domain to involve the taking of federal lands, this law is a byproduct of many Utahns’ frustrations: The US government owns more than 60 percent of the state, thus dictating whether land has been set aside for preservation or can be accessed for mineral deposits.
IN PICTURES: The Future of Federal Land in Utah
The law also comes amid a wave of states’ rights initiatives nationwide, which are challenging the federal government’s authority on gun laws and President Obama’s health-care reform.
The eminent domain law, Ms. Harrison says, “gives us the opportunity as a state to tell the federal government that this is ours and we know how to control it.” She adds, “We can take some of these public lands and put them back to work for us.”
Indeed, some blame the federal government’s barriers to development on mineral-rich public lands for keeping millions in associated tax revenues from flowing into schools. Utah has the lowest per capita student spending in America.
Over the past 15 or so years, the state has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against the expansion of federally protected land. The catalyst: In 1996, President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a 1.9 million-acre swath of southern Utah that the state had eyed for energy developments.
“One small section of the Grand Staircase has a trillion dollars in natural resources,” says Rep. Chris Herrod, the Republican state legislator from Provo who sponsored the eminent domain bill. “The people of Utah are being robbed.”
Then, last year, the Obama administration revoked 77 leases for development on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Utah. Many here saw it as a sign that more federal control was bound for Utah’s public lands.
What’s more, a recently leaked Interior Department memo suggests that two more sites in Utah could be potential national monuments, which would put them off limits to any development. That set off a firestorm of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said Mr. Obama was on the verge of orchestrating a massive and secretive federal “land grab.”
But according to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), more than three-quarters of the nearly 23 million acres of BLM land in the state is available for oil and gas development, even though only 1.1 million acres are currently in production.
SUWA is a leading advocate in Utah for greater federal protections of the state’s dramatic canyons, rugged cliffs, and lumpy stacks of gravity-defying red rocks. Like many preservationists, SUWA sees much of the state’s public lands as national treasures in need of conserving. It’s also advocating that much more of the state’s pristine canyon lands receive wilderness designation.
“We still have these truly wild areas, and that’s becoming a real rarity,” says Ray Bloxham, a SUWA field inventory specialist.
Mr. Bloxham recently flew with a reporter from Salt Lake City to Moab, an eastern Utah hamlet that serves as a tourists’ gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. From the window of a small airplane, Utah reveals its scenery: Snowcapped peaks slope into deep crevices that squiggle like centipedes across the landscape.
On the ground in Moab, a town once populated with uranium prospectors, residents largely rely on tourism for their livelihoods. If development isn’t tempered, they say, visitors may start going elsewhere.
“If you don’t set aside wilderness for the future, what will you have?” asks Theresa Butler, a river guide, shrugging her shoulders.
But Representative Herrod says he’d never advocate sticking an oil well in the middle of Zion National Park, one of Utah’s five national parks. But, he says, “I believe that we should manage the land. We are better stewards of it.”
Many legal scholars and environmental law experts say Utah has little chance of successfully defending its eminent domain law in court. But according to Herrod, the federal government is in violation of the 1894 Utah Enabling Act, which allowed Utah into the Union. In his view, the law stipulated that the federal government was to sell lands held in a public trust back to Utah.
“When Utah and other states came into the Union, they gave these lands up,” says Steve Bloch, an attorney for SUWA. “Trying to hang your hat on the language of the Enabling Act is a dead end. That is not going to be the basis for the state to survive a constitutional challenge in this case.”
Other states have tried similar tactics and failed. For example, the US government controls about 80 percent of the land in Nevada. In a case in the 1990s, the state argued that this violated the equal footing doctrine, which holds that states should be treated equally when admitted to the Union. A federal judge rejected the case.
For its part, Utah has set aside $3 million to cover legal fees to defend its eminent domain law. The state hasn’t tested the law yet, but it may do so next year.
The moment Utah begins plowing through federally protected lands, a Justice Department lawsuit will probably follow. Many states will be watching.
Link to article at The Christian Science Monitor
Archive | April, 2010
The Gems’ narrow vision – Letter to Aspen Times
COHVO sponsoring 10th Annual OHV Management Workshop in June
April 22, 2010 (announcement date)
|10th Annual OHV Management Workshop
“Making It Work: Where Do We Go From Here?”
June 17-20, 2010 in Gunnison, Colorado
This Special Workshop is FREE For Enthusiasts with FREE Lodging for qualified club reps.
Sponsored by the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) with assistance from: NOHVCC, BRC, US Forest Service, BLM and Colorado State Parks.
The purpose of this workshop is to assist the US Forest Service, BLM and other stakeholders in gaining knowledge and developing skills and partnerships that will result in long-term sustainability and improvement of trail systems.
The workshop is an educational forum with a combined audience of off-highway vehicle recreation land management decision makers, recreation planners, resource specialists and leadership representatives from Volunteer Recreational Enthusiasts Organizations.
This collaborative effort helps to build camaraderie and a sense of understanding among agencies and different user groups.
Land Management Agency personnel and can sit down one on one in a relaxed, educational forum and discuss local issues, and develop the needed contacts to interact closely on the status and implementation of designated OHV Routes with
Included will be educational discussions of OHV Management Techniques, Volunteer Stewardship, issues and general principles:
OPTIONAL Thursday Sessions:
Please mark this on your calendars and REGISTER NOW to attend.
SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE TO OHV ENTHUSIASTS AND CLUB REPS.
For a more information, please contact:
Corey Corbett firstname.lastname@example.org
Economic Importance of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation to Arizona
A study released by the Arizona State Parks in 2003
|Whether you enjoy exploring Arizona’s backcountry driving your truck, dirt bike or quad, or you prefer using your own muscle power to hike the trails, the following information may surprise you. In 2002, Arizona State University conducted a yearlong economic study of recreational off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in Arizona as part of the state’s OHV Recreation Program. Completed surveys included 15,000 telephone surveys and 1,269 mail questionnaires from randomly selected Arizona households.
The study findings show that the total economic impact to Arizona from recreational OHV use is more than $4 billion a year. OHV recreation activities provide an economic contribution to the state and its 15 counties mainly through direct expenditures for motorized vehicles, tow trailers, related equipment, accessories, insurance and maintenance costs.
Additionally, an economic benefit is generated when OHV recreationists spend money in local communities close to areas they recreate in for items such as gasoline, food, lodging and souvenirs. These direct purchases provide indirect benefits by helping to pay for many people’s salaries and wages, and contributing to local and state tax revenues. Specific information regarding these elements is available for Arizona and its 15 counties.
Arizona State Parks offers grant funding to assist in developing OHV facilities and signage, mitigating environmental damage and educating people about safe use of OHVs and about responsible and respectful behaviors to others and the
Download the PDF to read the entire report
Hidden Gems sign at KTM of Aspen
April 3, 2010
Sign spotted outside at KTM of Aspen