Utah's Campaign to Deregulate Public Lands

Newly obtained documents reveal the extent of the state's efforts to strip protections from federal lands around the United States.

2 minute read

October 17, 2018, 12:00 PM PDT

By Elana Eden


Lake Powell

Johnny Adolphson / Shutterstock

Pacific Standard's Jimmy Tobias reports on new insights into the depth of Utah's "anti-public lands agenda."

A 2016 document recently obtained from Governor Herbert's Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office outlines 15 pages of "top objectives" for federal lands, primarily falling under one broad category: deregulation. That document was apparently part of a "master list" of similar objectives being compiled by a conservative think tank to influence policymakers, Tobias writes, noting the influence wielded by conservative Utahn lawmakers in the arena of federal land regulations.

"Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, a position from which he regularly inveighs against conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, the Antiquities Act, and the Wilderness Act. Then there's Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who was a key player in convincing President Donald Trump to review and ultimately roll back some national monument designations in the American West. Utah's other senator, Mike Lee, is in the mix too. He recently likened federal lands to the "royal forests" of European kings and called for their effective abolition."

That influence is particularly important, Tobias stresses, because many of the proposals in the document look beyond state borders to impact federal lands across the entire country.

"Among other things, the document … proposes the rollback of a suite of land, wildlife, and climate protections, including the Obama administration's now-defunct moratorium on new federal land coal leasing. And it calls on Congress to amend laws like the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act to give states much greater control over federal land management."

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