Public lands groups have come out in opposition to Utah taking over federally controlled land after a report commissioned by the state about the costs and benefits of purchasing and managing the land was released Monday.
“The new report is unrealistic and would threaten the future of hunting, fishing, and other multiple uses currently enjoyed on our public lands,” Joel Webster, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Western Lands, said in a statement.
The federal government controls more than 35 million acres in Utah, or about 66.5 percent of land in the state’s borders. Most of it is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, and only Nevada has a higher percentage of state land managed by federal agencies.
“There’s no way Utah could afford to manage all those lands,” Bill Dvorak, a public lands organizer for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. “Taxpayers would end up paying more for fewer services, and the countryside that supports hunting, fishing, and the rest of Utah’s $12 billion outdoor recreation economy would be damaged, closed off or sold to the highest bidder.”
The report’s authors “bend over backwards to be polite in their summary,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow for the Center for American Progress, in an e-mail, but the substance of the report “describes in plain terms just how costly and fiscally reckless this land grab scheme really is.”
According to the report, $331.7 million was generated on lands in Utah managed by the BLM and Forest Service in 2013. A transfer of the land from the federal government to the state could be profitable for Utah if certain conditions are met, including if oil and gas prices “remain stable and high” and if the royalty revenue share was increased from 50 percent to 100 percent, the report said.