The Utah legislature adjourned last week with a nice package of bills to support the state’s Transfer of Public Lands initiative. Since they’ve already passed a bill demanding transfer, the next step is to address what happens to the lands when that transfer occurs.
Other states contemplating a TPLA-like effort can front load some of the debate and address the concerns of many potential detractors by including some or all of these “next step” bills in their initial package. The idea is to demonstrate that this isn’t an industry grab or an effort to develop every federal acre out there, but rather to responsibly manage these lands in a way that balances responsible conservation with betterment of the human condition. This means that some lands will remain (or become) preservation areas, some will be economically developed, and most will probably see some of each of those things since they’re rarely mutually exclusive.
Here are the Utah bills (with links) that I think most directly address the “what next” issue and show good faith in future management plans:
HB151: Commission on the Stewardship of Public Lands. Sets up the infrastructure for a lands transfer and for deciding the ultimate status of transferred lands.
HB160: Utah Wilderness Act. Recognizes the importance of protected areas and sets up a process for nominating/approving state wilderness designation.
HB164: Interstate Compact on Transfer of Public Lands. Creates a multi-state vehicle for transferring lands.
HCR13: Concurrent Resolution on Transfer of Public Lands. Resolution supporting TPLA.
In addition, Utah passed several bills advancing self-government principles and challenges:
HB67: Political Subdivision Jurisdiction Amendments. Provides mechanism for local jurisdictions to address immediate and imminent threats (e.g. fire) emanating from federal lands or policies.
HB120: Continuing Education on Federalism. Requires representatives from certain state and local jurisdictions to receive continuing education on state/federal rights and responsibilities.
HB133: Contingent Management of Federal Facilities. Authorizes governor to work with federal agencies to keep federal facilities open in the event of a federal fiscal emergency.
HB149: Amendments to Federal Law Enforcement Limitations. Clarifies jurisdiction and authority in federal enforcement of state and local laws.
HJR21: Joint Resolution on the Sovereign Character of PILT – Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Urges Congress to permanently fund PILT.