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Lands-Transfer Strategy Goes on After Oregon Standoff Ends

Judy Fahys/KUER
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-South Jordan, created the American Lands Council. Now dozens of western Counties help fund it. Montana lawmaker Jennifer Fielder became ALC's leader this month when Ivory joined another states-rights group.

Many see Rep. Ken Ivory, R-South Jordan, as the father of the lands-transfer movement. He calls last month’s death of rancher LeVoy Finicum tragic, but he also sees what happened in Oregon as proof of how frustrated Westerners are about the federal government trampling their rights.  

“So, what’s the answer? “ he wonders aloud. “Well, it’s not guns on either side of the question. It’s education, legislation, litigation. And we’re moving forward on all of those avenues.”

Even before the armed standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge ended last week, Utah politicians were pursuing political and legal strategies in the federal lands fight.

Politicians in rural Utah and the state Capitol back Ivory’s strategy to go to court over the issue even if it takes more than a decade and $14 million.  And new legislation in the Capitol outlines how state leaders plan to manage 30 million acres now controlled by the federal government.

Ivory says the idea’s spreading, and he’s helping that happen through a new national, states-rights group, Federalism in Action.

“Given the frustration that you see in Oregon and elsewhere, it’s time for the states to provide politically productive solutions to this very real frustration.”

But Aaron Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities, says mainstream Americans and Westerners won’t support the cause that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons made famous. He says the Bundys – and Ivory – have “lands-seizure agendas.”

“The idea he’s pushing is exactly the same as the Bundy family, and it’s just as absurd a goal,” he says. “These lands belong to all American people and they should continue to belong to all Americans.”

Weiss’s group is among several that say the constitutionality of federal control of public lands is well established.

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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