This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questionnaire. I believe the management of public lands in Utah is a significant issue that will require the efforts of many branches of government to resolve. I believe the Attorney General can be a significant participant in the process and welcome this opportunity to respond to your specific questions.
Q1: How do you as a candidate propose to aid in solving some of the major economic problems we face as a State? For example:
Utah is $2.6 billion below average in per-pupil funding for education (source); and Nearly 40% of Utah’s total state revenue – the single largest line item of Utah’s revenue – comes from a federal government that is fiscally dysfunctional (source and source); The economic issues stated above will require solutions from many branches of government. We could solve the problem by asking the legislature to increase taxes. We could ask our representatives in Congress to work for a larger slice of the federal tax dollar. We could ask Governor Herbert to divert money from other areas of the state budget. However, in my opinion none of these solutions will be very palatable to the average Utahan. Perhaps the best solution is to pressure the U.S. Government to give us our own property. The federal government holds title to approximately 66% of the land within the state boarders. When Utah was granted statehood the enabling act passed by Congress specifically stated that: That five per centum of the proceeds of the sales of public lands lying within said State, which shall be sold by the United States subsequent to the admission of said State into the Union, after deducting all the expenses incident to the same, shall be paid to the said State, to be used as a permanent fund, the interest of which only shall be expended
for the support of the common schools within said State. 9).
(Utah Enabling Act, Section
If we were to control our own public lands we would be able to realize the revenues that those lands generate. For example, we would be able to increase our revenues on the following: 50% increase in mineral lease revenue (including oil) 75% increase in revenue from timber, grazing and recreation in our National Forests 75% increase in revenues from fish and wildlife To put this in perspective North Dakota has less that 4% of its land owned by the federal government (including Indian reservation land) Oil and Gas revenues exceed 1.1 billion in revenues to the state. We could realize these increases, and many more, without raising taxes. We would simply be receiving the money that the federal government currently holds back from the revenues those lands currently generate. It should be noted that there is substantial precedent for the transfer of public lands. Most of the states in the East and Midwest have less than 10% federal lands, even though their enabling acts have very similar language to Utah’s act. As your Attorney General I would support the transfer of public lands to the State of Utah. I believe that in conjunction with the Governor’s Office and our congressional contingency we could negotiate the transition of the federal lands to the state. If negotiation fails I believe there is a solid argument to be made in the courts. If most of the other states have received their public lands why are Utah and a few other western states being singled out? I believe that our state has a strong argument for equal treatment under the law and if necessary I would support litigation to enforce our rights. I support HB 148 and the concepts it embraces. One note caution, litigation of this type is very expensive and time consuming and uncertain in its outcome. Therefore I believe that litigation should be a last resort after all other avenues have failed.
Q2: Were you aware that there are trillions of dollars of economic resources in Utah locked up in federally controlled lands that could be the solution to our economic challenges? For
example: There is more than $150 trillion in mineral values (source); and More recoverable oil in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming than the rest of the world combined (source) locked up in the federally controlled lands. The value of the minerals, timber, grazing and other land use is substantial. The exact dollar value seems to be something of a moving target however nobody disputes that the number is very large. The $150 trillion in mineral values cited in your question is for all federal lands in all 50 states however Utah is blessed with a large share of that number. Our oil shale resources are extensive and there are several private companies that have immediate plans to build projects that will extract and refine the oil shale. Thirty years ago the
technology did not exist to economically extract the oil from Utah’s shale however, now the technology not only exists but is being used in other states with large oil shale reserves.
Q3: Were you aware that the federal government promised, as part of our agreement of statehood (our Enabling Act), to transfer title to the public lands in Utah but never did?
(source). Yes. Transfers have been very limited.
Q4: Were you aware that the statehood promises to transfer title to the public lands are the same for all newly created states both east and west of Colorado?
(Links: UT v. ND Enabling Act, Examples of other Eastern States’ Enabling Acts) The language for various states differs in its specifics but conveys the same concept. For example: In many of the northeastern and mid-west states the enabling act does not expressly as the state to “disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands”. However, in virtually all of the enabling acts the federal government “grants” certain tracts of land to each state to be used for universities, public buildings, hospitals, schools etc. If their was no intent for the Federal Government to hold the lands then they would not have needed to allocate specific tracts to the individual states. Accordingly, I agree that the concept of transferring public lands to state control is reflected in a the various enabling acts in most states. Q5: Despite the fact that statehood promises to transfer title to the public lands are the same, the federal government still controls nearly 70% of the lands in Utah, and more than 50% of the lands in the western states, but less than 5% of the lands on average in states east of Colorado. (Links: Federalist Society Legal Analysis, Executive of Legal Analysis). Do you think this is legally justified? No.
Please explain why or why not? Also, please explain what is the difference in the federal government’s disposal of the public lands for states east and west of Colorado?
Q6: States like IL, IN, MO, AR, LA, AL, MS, and FL were as much as 90% federally controlled land for decades. Their statehood enabling act promises to transfer title to the public lands are in most cases the same as Utah’s, yet they succeeded in compelling Congress to transfer title to their lands and today have less than 5% public lands! (Links: : U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton (D-Mo), Missouri Resolution, Congressional Public Lands Committee Report).
Is there a reason why the federal government should not have to honor the same statehood promise to transfer title to our public lands that it already kept with Hawaii and all states east of Colorado?
What does Utah need to do to make the federal government transfer title to our public lands like it already did with states like HI, IL, MO, LA, AL, AR, etc.? Please
When many of our Midwestern states mentioned above were considered “western” states they formed a coalition and lobbied the Congress to take action and slowly the federal government yielded to the pressure. This coalition had substantial power in Congress and constituted a formidable presence. I believe that Utah has and our neighboring states are moving in the right direction and would be wise to follow the example of our midwestern neighbors. The western
states have several very powerful members of Congress. If we can formalize our coalition and be united in our direction we should be able to make substantial progress toward the goal of returning public lands to the respective states. House bill 148 and similar bills passed in other states is a good first step. As the Attorney General I would work with the federal government representatives in both Congress and the administration as well as other Attorneys General in the western states to establish a timetable for the transfer. If the federal government is unwilling to co-operate then I believe it will be necessary to seek enforcement in the courts. If other western states will join in the litigation we can substantially increase pressure on the federal government and will also be able to share some of the costs associated with said litigation. Q7: Five States have already passed legislation following Utah’s lead on the Transfer of Public Lands Act (HB148 2012) – Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming (summary). Earlier in 2013, South Carolina passed a Resolution supporting the transfer of public lands to western states. This matter is now being raised in meetings of national organizations like Heritage Foundation, State Policy Network, Council of State Governments, State Budget Solutions, National Farm Bureau, National Association of Counties, etc., and in various national publications (Some examples here, here, and here).
Please explain why you have (i) the courage it will take defy the status quo and (ii) the ability to educate and build the coalitions it will take to persuade Congress that transferring the public lands is in the national interest, and Please explain what other states, groups, or individuals you would be able to rally to support the transfer of public lands effort?
I have always been a person that is willing to take on a challenge if I think it is the right thing to do. I believe that the citizens of Utah are somewhat uninformed on this issue. Once they realize how much of Utah’s money is going into federal coffers they would be outraged. Part of my job will be to help educate people to understand just how much money they are sending to Washington every year and how little we get back in the form of reimbursement. Building coalitions is not difficult when you have the facts to support your claim. In addition, it is much easier to lead when you have an army of citizens behind you. Educating the general public will be the first step. For the last 7 and one-half years a large portion of my job as Managing Director of Law and International Studies at BYU has been to build coalitions of people that support a common cause. I have experience working with some of the best government leaders in the world. I have been able to bring people together that didn’t know the other party had an interest in a common cause. I also have substantial relationships in government in both Utah and around the country. I would bring all of that experience in relationship building to the office of the Attorney General.
Q8: How specifically can I (we) help you secure the transfer of our public lands to our state? Explain.
The ALC is doing a great job in helping get out the message. Your resources are excellent. If I had a suggestion I would suggest that you quantify some of your message. In these responses I have tried to point out some real dollar numbers. In my experience numbers really bring a message
home. If we are giving 50% of our oil well revenues to the federal government we should let people know that the 50% amounts to x million dollars. We should let them know that we could raise our per pupil spending by x dollars per child if we could get 100% of our grazing lease fees etc. Finally we need to reassure people that we are not going to ruin the environment if we get control of our lands. We can protect our wonderful Utah scenery better than someone in Washington who is looking at a map.
Q9: If elected to this office, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, what priority will you give to compelling Congress to honor the same statehood promise to transfer title to our public lands to Utah? _______
8 Summary Thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts and insights. I hope I can count on ALC and its members for your support. Regards,
Bob Smith Candidate for Attorney General
For more information please contact the American Lands Council at 801.ALC.6622, info@AmericanLandsCouncil.org or visit the website: www.AmericanLandsCouncil.org.
The American Lands Council is a 501(c)(4) pending, non-profit organization. Members of the American Lands Council include 17 Utah counties, and dozens of other counties, state representatives, organizations, businesses, and individuals throughout Utah, other western states, and the nation. The mission of the American Lands Council is to secure and defend local control of land access, land use, and land ownership.