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Democratic AG Candidate Says Suing Fed. Government Is Wrong Way to Deal with Public Lands

Brian Grimmett
File: Democratic AG Candidate Charles Stormont

A growing group of Utah lawmakers want to take control of land inside the states borders that is managed by the federal government. Democratic Attorney General candidate Charles Stormont is arguing that the federal courts should not be the place to stage that fight.

In 2012 the Utah legislature passed a bill that gave the federal government until the end of this year to hand over control of public lands. Failure to do so could end in a lawsuit. Charles Stormont says he realizes that the fight over control of federal lands in the state is complicated and has many stakeholders, but he says suing the federal government for control is the wrong thing to do.

“If we need to negotiate to improve our ability to manage lands within our borders we should not start by falling flat on our face in litigation," he says. "We need to start from a position of strength not a position of weakness and certainly not from a position that move us backwards.”

Stormont says state leaders could solve the problem more effectively by working with the federal government, instead of fighting it.

“We’ll spend untold amounts of money that could be much better spent studying, creating, and finding real solutions that we can move forward with, with congress, through our policy makers in the state,” he says.

Stormont will face Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes in the November election. Reyes was unavailable for comment, but in recent months, members of the Attorney General’s office have said they would not be ready to file a lawsuit in January and that it would be a tough case to fight. While in office, Reyes has also aggressively gone after R.S. 2477 roads that grant public access to federal lands. 

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