SALT LAKE CITY –
Utah's conservative politicians are mounting a posse with their taxpayers' dollars to challenge the supremacy of their federal government and to assert their state's "sovereignty." Additionally, they will soon introduce into their bi-cameral state government system an effort (via HB131) to create a commission on "Federalism," their way of managing a federal government they feel has overreached its own authority.
This reoccurring theme is at the heart of their effort to secure public lands for Utah's own use, and to reverse extraction royalty calculations placing the state's share of oil, gas and mining revenues into the first and larger position. Additionally, recent efforts to place permanent development restrictions on scenic and watershed lands would be determined directly by the state and not with potential presidential fiat. Since Utah (unlike states like Texas) contains more than 20 million acres of land presently under the authority of the federal Bureau of Land Management, this trail rhetoric gets as pervasive as cheat grass and just as invasive within public discourse.
Some Utahns believe that the effort is misguided and a waste of their money. In Rep Spencer Cox's (R- Sanpete) district 58 in central, rural Utah, many families have maintained continuous ownership of their land originally homesteaded when Grover Cleveland signed their titles. In Uinta County, commissioner Mike McKee reported in November of last year that Anadarko Petroleum, his county's largest taxpayer, tendered a check for $14 million in property taxes, with 57% distributed to the schools.
Before leaving office at the beginning of President Obama's second term, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Utah to praise Utah's efforts in finding solutions to help the administration reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. Months before, a unique coalition of stakeholders was able to agree on how best to use the geography and geology of the Uinta basin for the development of significant energy reserves located there. Those involved allowed for drilling while agreeing to preserve prime outdoor recreation areas and wildlife habitat above the natural gas. Regarding the unprecedented success of that effort, Secretary Salazar said, "The world today should simply stand back and say, 'Wow!'"
It may become a long and dusty trail.