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IN THE NEWS: Utah lawmakers are working to cut back on federal control of public land in our state

May 15, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – The majority of public land in Utah is controlled by the federal government, about 70%.

Many Utah lawmakers are growing frustrated with the way it is managed and want it transferred to state control.

Representative Rob Bishop, of Utah's 1st Congressional District is leading the charge with his Public Lands Initiative.

Bishop says local government is more capable.

"We're 17 trillion in debt, the park service is 400,000,000 in back logs, the BLM has shown it does not have the capacity and in some cases not the will to actually manage all the land that they have. There is a better way of doing all of this," said Bishop.

At the core of the Public Lands Initiative is the belief that conservation and economic development can go hand in hand.

It calls for collaboration, compromise and creativity, with the goal of ending complicated land disputes once and for all.

"This is going to be big, this is going to be doing something that we have never tried on this scale before and we're going to try to break down some of the traditional road blocks that have stopped making progress," said Bishop.

State leaders are working on similar efforts.

Speaker of the House, Becky Lockhart says the overreach in land control is the result of the feds failing to live up to their end of the bargain many years ago.

"We believe that was the promise at statehood and we would like to see that happen in a very legal and orderly way," said Lockhart.

That being the transfer of federal control to the state, with the exception of national parks.

Lockhart is working with lawmakers from neighboring states to achieve that.

"The western states as a group will be much more powerful when we begin to work with Congress and the Administration in Washington than if we are all alone," said Lockhart.

She believes the coalition's work compliments Bishop's Public Lands Initiative, which he plans to introduce as legislation in January, 2015.

"What we need to do is try to bring some finality of where the federal government has control and where the state and counties can have some control and actually make sure when we make those decisions they are not going to be challenged by some arbitrary bureaucracy," said Bishop.

Copyright 2014