There are mixed feelings in the state of Utah about how much land is controlled by government. Many of the students I know want it to remain in federal hands, while some of the law makers of the state want to take it out of federal hands and have the state manage it.
I bring up this subject today because on Wednesday I sat in a lively discussion about wilderness here in the state of Utah. In this discussion I heard both extremes. One girl standing in the corner referred to humans as greedy creatures who do nothing but take and destroy as they move through the country side.
I also heard a man get riled up because he thought if he was paying taxes on the land he should be able to build a road in it and drive and go and do what ever he wanted. My thoughts on this is this; I pay money to a bank, does that give me all purpose access to everyone’s money as well? His logic was stupid in my opinion.
Currently Mia Love, the recently elected congress woman, want’s to participate in this land grab as well. She sites the concept that “the people of Utah will know how to manage their lands better then those from Washington.” Citing the fact that most of congress have never been to this state. And she is right, they probably haven’t except to campaign, but few do that anyways(mialove4utah).
My issue with this statement is that the land is not run by people back east, but by men and women here in the state. I worked in Bryce Canyon National Park last summer. The people working there all lived there. They know the land, they know the people and they make decisions based upon that thought.
So in reality she does not want the laws being set up by the people back east to control the lands in this state. Her along with a other leaders of this state want to have a say on what happens here and they want to have access to the potential monetary value of this state.
As of 2012 the Federal government owns 57.5% of Utah’s land (New York Times). This land is divvied up into National Parks (including national monuments), military installations, Forest Service, BLM, and Tribal lands (Indian reservations). Within these BLM and Forest Service lands there are designated wilderness regions that prohibit certain activities and prohibit construction of roads and such. Looking at this map here, we can see that most of the state is owned by BLM. The goal of the land grab is to acquire most of this land. According to both Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the Salt Lake Tribune it costs the federal government about 300 million (300,000,000 yeah that’s 8 zeros there) in maintenance and fire control on this land. That 300 million is supported by all the United States, not one little state. Currently there are 2.9 million residents of the state of Utah. That would require every man, woman and child to pitch in an additional 100 dollars a year to cover that. Even if Mia or any other legislative power started selling all all these lands in order to pay for this, it is not a self sustaining plan.
Even if there were a billion dollars of valuable land here in Utah, in 10 years we would have spend 3 billion in maintenance alone to protect our country side. So no… This land grab is a bad idea. Sorry Senator Mia Love and Gov. Herbert it’s a bad idea.
If we can barely scrape together the funding to keep our national parks open for a few days, what makes you think we can do the entire state.
(And why aren’t national parks self sustaining anyways? Based on visitor statistics and running by that 25$ a car they could be pulling in 64 million a year at Zion)
But what about the people of Utah knowing how to maintain their own lands?
As I think about this and as I have learned much about wildlife, wilderness, and the people in this state over the years, No, I don’t think we as a state know how to manage our lands.
We still have too many people who say because they pay tax dollars they should have access to all regions via car or dirt bike.
We still have to many people who get angry at outpost workers who stop them to make sure their boats do not have Zebra Mussel that could destroy their entire lake system.
We still have people who think rainbow trout are native to this state and that they are good to have here. (fyi they are crossbreeding with our native cut throat and causing those fish to be pushed to extinction, that’s why there are limits on catching them)
Sure, I am all for having less large governmental influence. I feel like I got shafted big time by Obama Care with how much I have had to spend in order to get coverage on my upcoming child. I don’t like how much it costs a government entity to perform tasks. I don’t like how many of the employee’s of the government sit around around and say they are doing work but are not (remember I saw it first had). I don’t like how long it takes to perform simple tasks (It took 8 months to get a Facebook page approved for Cedar Breaks National Monument). I don’t like how their are several huge entities that do roughly the same job (yeah I am talking to you forest service, BLM, and division of wildlife). I hate applying with their job system because every department has a different application process.
I don’t like big government because when you work as an entity and have no competition you don’t have incentives to get it done right and quickly.
But every once in a while they do things right. And right now having them be in charge of Utah lands is the right thing. It protects more environment, and it saves Utah money.