“Land Grabs”? Look at the Utah Constitution

(This is a version of a post I wrote in ***2012***.  Some things never change!)

Efforts to seize the land in Utah that is protected from development by the Federal Government are continuing by Utah legislators and others. This has been an ongoing controversy that is gaining momentum with the election of Donald Trump to President of the United States. Utah legislators are doing everything in their power to persuade Trump to rescind all Monument designations.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Back in 2012, an article in Utah State University’s the Utah Statesman,(which is no longer available) on this very same subject quoted Morgan Philpot who was planning to run for Governor in Utah as saying that Utah needed to demand the feds to return the land to Utah.

“Our governors, in times past, have behaved like geographic-area administrators for the federal government,” Philpot said. “They are not. We are a sovereign state. That is our land — stolen from us.”

The 2012 article also quoted political science department chair from USU who says that the documented verbiage for control of the land when Utah became a state is being misinterpreted:

“Some members of the Utah Legislature believe a part of the legislation that allowed Utah to join the U.S. — the Enabling Act of 1894 — requires the federal government to dispose of lands it currently controls inside state boundaries.”

“I just don’t think that’s an accurate reading of Section 9,” Lyons said. “I think they’re taking it out of context.”

Lyons said the enabling act states even after Utah gained statehood, the federal government would continue to own a substantial amount of the land inside Utah boundaries.

“The national government owned this land as a territory prior to the creation of the state of Utah,” Lyons said. “The Enabling Act delineates tracts of land formerly in national government control that are ceded to the state of Utah … then it says, ‘But all the other federal land is ours and Utah has no claim to it.’”

Back to Philpot’s 2012 statement….Who is “us” ?

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune
Bears Ears buttes sit high over the surrounding canyon country in San Juan County. The formations are at the heart of the proposed Bears Ears National Monument.

This sentiment continues in 2017. Utah’s Congressional Representatives are violating the Utah Constitution by pursuing the act of “retuning the land to ‘us'”. the most recent iteration of this controversy is over the desgnation of Bears Ears as a National Monument.

The notion that protected Utah lands should be in the hands of Utah’s government for economic growth is preposterous. The only people that lands should be “returned to” are the original guardians of the land (that really belongs to all life) – Native Americans.  Until that is agreed upon, the land should remain in its protected state from any type of development.



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