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Utah Lawmaker Takes National Stage on Land-Transfer Idea

Michael Jolley
Flickr Creative Commons


A Utah lawmaker’s campaign to take back federal lands is getting new, national traction thanks to a Nevada rancher’s standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, is head of a political nonprofit called the American Lands Council. Its goal is to get the federal government to relinquish control of most federal lands to the states.

Ivory’s ideas are getting national exposure because of rancher Cliven Bundy’s fight over federal lands in Nevada. Ivory’s group sponsored a meeting at the State Capitol last week with leaders from nine western states.

“What we’re seeing throughout these lands,” he said to reporters at a news conference afterwards, “is that they’re ungovernable for the protection of our people, for the health and the safety and the welfare, the ability to educate our children to take care of our old people and sick people and poor people and roads and public safety because so much of this land is being controlled by a federal government that simply doesn’t have the resources and the reach and the ability to manage effectively.”

Bunkerville, Nev., Rancher Cliven Bundy has sparked new interest nationwide in an effort by states to force the federal government to relinquish the land it currently manages. In Utah, it amounts to around 30 million acres. Bundy says he does not recognize federal authority over the lands his cattle have grazed for decades, and he led a standoff with agents of the Bureau of Land Management earlier this month over unpaid grazing fees and penalties.

  Ivory has made Utah the leading state in the lands-transfer movement. He persuaded the state Legislature to pass a bill in 2012 demanding the federal government to turn over 30 million acres it manages in Utah. His nonprofit is recruiting new members and raising money. On Monday, Ivory promoted the lands-transfer concept on Fox and Friends and on Glenn Beck’s radio show.

Tim Wagner is part of the national Sierra Club’s campaign to protect public lands. He says Ivory is sending a mixed message.

“It’s about as wacky an idea as you can possibly get,” says Wagner. “Their whole mantra is basically everything should be privatized, including public lands, including public education. And there’s nothing left for the public trust.”

Wagner points out that Ivory is part of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an exclusive think tank that allows legislators to work shoulder to shoulder with companies to develop model legislation on public policy. ALEC has endorsed Ivory’s land-transfer idea, and other Western states are considering it, too.

Credit American Lands Council
Screen shot of the American Lands Council web page on Tuesday.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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