Letters from the West

Utah congressmen launch public land transfer group

If you think the drive to transfer public lands from the federal government to the states is going away because states that studied it largely rejected it, think again.

Utah Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop launched the Federal Land Action Group to develop a legislative framework for transferring public lands to local ownership and control.

“The federal government has been a lousy landlord for Western states and we simply think the states can do it better,” Stewart said. “If we want healthier forests, better access to public lands, more consistent funding for public education and more reliable energy development, it makes sense to have local control.”

Rep. Bishop, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, repeated the erroneous idea that the states somehow had this land before.

“This group will explore legal and historical background in order to determine the best congressional action needed to return these lands back to the rightful owners,” said Bishop. “We have assembled a strong team of lawmakers, and I look forward to formulating a plan that reminds the federal government it should leave the job of land management to those who know best.”

The Federal Land Action Group will hold a series of forums with experts on public lands policy, with the goal of introducing transfer legislation.

Other members include Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy of Nevada, Diane Black of Tennessee, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.