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A regional public media collaboration serving the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Attorney General Plans Suit To Give States Control Of Federal Lands

KUER File Photo
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) is talking with state legislators about suing over the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, which limits state control of federal lands.

The fight for state control of federal lands may be headed to court soon. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes wants to take on the federal law that limits states’ control.

Western state leaders say they deserve more authority to manage natural resources on hundreds of millions of acres of federal land. That’s because some westerners contend states do a better job than federal agencies on everything from fighting wildfire to regulating energy and even protecting wildlife like the sage grouse.

So, Utah’s Republican attorney general plans to challenge the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

“This would help to revise that law and make it so that locals are closer to the management of those public lands,” said Dan Burton, the attorney general's spokesman. “The intent of our lawsuit is to make sure that Utah lands are managed by those who can manage them best.”

The American Lands Council is a nonprofit based in the Mountain West that likes the idea.

“Out of touch policies from D.C. are just causing all kinds of problems with our public lands out here in the West,” said Montana Senator Jennifer Fielder, the ALC’s CEO.

“No group of people understands and cares for our land better than those who live nearest to them.”

Conservation groups have opposed efforts to increase state control as a step toward privatizing public land.

This piece was produced as part of the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism consortium of six public radio stations in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.

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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