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Public Lands Transfer Could Be Economically Feasible for Utah

Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office

A new report on the impacts of transferring public lands to the control of the state of Utah indicates it could be economically feasible.

State lawmakers commissioned the report in 2013, a year after passing legislation demanding the federal government transfer the title of more than 30 million acres of public lands to the state. John Downen is a senior research analyst at the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. He and colleagues at Utah State University and Weber State University helped produce the report. He says they found that the economic success of a land transfer is heavily dependent on one thing.

“It depends largely on the prices of oil and gas," he says. "Those are the main sources of revenue; royalties, excise taxes on oil and gas production. And of course, since those are assessed on the value of production they are closely tied to the value of oil and gas.”

Downen says because of that dependence, the models that used a lower forecasted price show that the transfer of public lands would only be profitable to Utah under more aggressive management plans that include charging higher taxes and royalties.

In a statement, Governor Herbert says he expects the report will lead to good public discussions about the complexities and need for balance moving forward.

The legislature will now use this report to help decide the best way to get the federal government to transfer lands, including whether or not to file a lawsuit. 

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