Utah Plans To Just Take Federal Land, Anticipates No Real Problem With That
We interrupt your regularly scheduled program of tragic police shootings of young black men with this BREAKING news from Utah. Beginning on Dec. 31, the state of Utah plans to "seize" 31.2 million acres of land currently owned and controlled by the federal government. This is the result of a 2012 law whereby the state of Utah basically decided that it gets to make up the rules, and the rest of the country gets to follow them. Here's the summary from the Washington Times, which is a terrible paper you should never read.
In an unprecedented challenge to federal dominance of Western state lands, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012 signed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act,” which demands that Washington relinquish its hold on the land, which represents more than half of the state’s 54.3 million acres, by Dec. 31.
So far, however, the federal government hasn’t given any indication that it plans to cooperate. Still, state Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the legislation, isn’t deterred.
“That’s what you do any time you’re negotiating with a partner. You set a date,” said Mr. Ivory. “Unfortunately, our federal partner has decided they don’t want to negotiate in good faith. So we’ll move forward with the four-step plan that the governor laid out.”
We are not sure we've ever seen a more succinct summary of what "negotiation" means to a conservative than the one offered by Rep. Ivory here. Utah wants this land, the federal government says no, and Utah says, "Screw you, we're taking it anyway." What could go wrong?
So why does Utah want to do this? Well, there's hydrocarbons in them thar hills.
[A report] found that Utah would incur an additional $280 million in costs to manage the lands, but would bring in some $331.7 million in royalties from mineral resources development, mainly oil and gas. Currently Utah receives only half the royalties from drilling that is allowed on federal lands inside its borders.
The math definitely works out, and thank goodness for the taxpayers of Utah that oil prices only ever rise.
Know what, Utah? Go for it. Sure, this would set an absolutely terrible precedent, and sure, there's a long history of corruption regarding the sale of mining rights to private entities in the American west, and sure, tourists might not want to visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument after you've covered it with pumpjacks, but go for it, you fucking idiots, enjoy your flammable tap water or whatever. We look forward to all those private-sector job creators who will undoubtedly rush into the godforsaken desert and allow you to turn a short-term profit off parklands that we once, quaintly, believed all Americans held in common.
Want to find out if your favorite public lands in Utah are headed to the auction block? Read the full bill here to find out, oh boy!
For whatever it's worth, former Sen. Bob Bennett (remember him?) took to the pages of the LDS Church-owned Deseret News to bring up a couple points that prove why the Tea Party wanted him out in the first place:
An effort to “take back” the federal lands within Utah’s boundaries was a hot political topic several years ago [...] “Taking back” something implies that it was yours in the first place. The original owners of these lands were the Utes and Navajos, followed by the Mexicans, followed by the U.S. government, which took possession of them after the Mexican American War and placed them in federally designated territories. One of these, named “Utah,” stretched from what is now Colorado to what is now California. The first state made in the Utah Territory was Nevada, in 1864, in order to give Abraham Lincoln three more electoral votes. The state of Utah wasn’t allocated its share of territorial acreage until 1896.
Thus the chain of title is pretty clear. Again: first the Indians, then the Mexicans, then the federal government, but never at any time any Western states until it was created by Congress. When it admitted Nevada and Utah into the Union, Congress gave each one only as much land as it thought good and proper, as was its right. I don’t see merit in the argument that the federal government now has a legal obligation to give them “back” something they never owned.
And that's why Bennett's byline at the Deseret News clarifies that he is the former senator from Utah.
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