Monday, March 29, 2010

Utah Moves to Take Back Federal Land

Utah Moves to Take Control of Federal Land in Utah by Eminent Domain:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Fed up with federal ownership of more than half the land in Utah, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert on March 27, 2010 authorized the use of eminent domain to take some of the U.S. government's most valuable parcels.

Herbert signed a pair of bills into law that supporters hope will trigger a flood of similar legislation throughout the West, where lawmakers contend that federal ownership restricts economic development in an energy-rich part of the country.

Governments use eminent domain to take private property for public use.

The goal is to spark a U.S. Supreme Court battle that legislators' own attorneys acknowledge has little chance of success.

But Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and other Republicans say the case is still worth fighting, since the state could reap millions of dollars for state schools each year if it wins.

More than 60 percent of Utah is owned by the U.S. government, and policy makers here have long complained that federal ownership hinders their ability to generate tax revenue and adequately fund public schools.

Initially, the state would target three areas for the use of eminent domain, including the Kaiparowits plateau in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is home to large coal reserves.

Many people in Utah are still angry that then-President Bill Clinton's designated the area as a national monument in 1996, a move that stopped development on the land and greatly pleased environmentalists as he ran for re-election.

Utah lawmakers contend the federal government should have long ago sold the land it owns in the state. Because it hasn't, the federal government has violated a contract made with Utah when statehood was granted, they say.

Eminent domain would also be used on parcels of land where Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last year scrapped 77 oil and gas leases around national parks and wild areas.

Utah Land Use Statistics:

The federal government controls nearly 65 percent of the land in the state of Utah, as opposed to states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York or Virginia where the federal government controls less than 2% of the total land mass of those states.

New York State has 30,216,320 acres only 234,000 acres of federal land. One percent of the land mass is federal.

Pennsylvania has 29,475,200 acres of land and only 677,000 acres of federal land. That amounts to 2.3% of the land mass.

Illinois has 36,058,700 acres of land and only 490,300 acres of federal land or 1.4%.
On the other hand ...

Utah has 52,696,960 acres of land, and a staggering 33,258,253 acres of federal land 63%. Nevada has 70,264,320 acres of land, and (are you ready?) 54,159,458 acres of federal land. That is 77%. Idaho 60%, California, 44.7% Colorado, 36% Oregon 52% Wyoming 54%.

Not only do they control the land, with the anti-development, preservationist philosophy which is currently in vogue, there is great pressure to restrict multiple uses of public land even though “multiple use” is the theoretical underpinning of the concept of “public land”.

Take Back Utah is dedicated to reversing this trend and securing local rights as defined by federal law. Federal land agencies must honor and obey the intent of Congress in the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA) legislation that repealed the RS2477 statute, but preserved existing rights of way created prior to this act. To date, federal land agencies have yet to recognize one of those right of ways.

They have pushed cattlemen out of historical grazing rights, cut off access to mineral and other resource extraction, all at a cost to the well being of the nation, and to the very existence of local rural communities.

This imbalance must end. To do it you will have to become an activist. Take Back Utah urges your support.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hidden Gems Wilderness to Block 379,000 Acres in Colorado!

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has learned that within the next few weeks an anti-access group will present U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) with the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, which would designate 379,000 acres of public land in Colorado as federal Wilderness. These new designations would be in addition to 3.5 million acres already protected as Wilderness in Colorado.

Because Polis is expected to introduce related legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, the AMA is asking all motorcyclists and off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts to protest this latest effort to inappropriately designate public lands as Wilderness.

"The AMA has formally objected to the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, citing the inappropriate nature of the affected lands," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland. "In addition to the AMA, the Basalt Fire District opposes the measure, contending that the designation would thwart efforts to fight fires."

The Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign is designed to prohibit nearly all forms of non-pedestrian recreation on public land in the White River and Gunnison National Forests, such as the Flattops, Basalt Mountain, Red Tables, Thompson Creek and other areas. Included are many areas that have existing trails and other improvements that do not meet the federal definition of wild areas established by the Wilderness Act of 1964.

"We want AMA members, OHV users, recreationists and the general public to understand that this is the work of a single, powerful special interest group that is trying to act as a gatekeeper for public policy in Colorado," said Moreland. "Of particular significance are concerns expressed by firefighters over acquiring waivers to fight fires on land designated as Wilderness. This is especially troubling when those Wilderness areas are adjacent to communities.

"We need to protect public land for future generations, not from future generations, and that includes access for responsible OHV recreation," Moreland said. "The Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign does not accomplish that goal."

The quickest and most effective way to contact your representative is to call. You can find contact information for your elected officials at > Rights > Issues & Legislation. Enter your zip code in the "Find your Officials" box. A pre-written e-mail also is available to send to your representative by following the "Take Action" option and entering your information.

The direct link to the Issues & Legislation area of the AMA website

Wilderness designation is one of the strictest forms of public land management. Once Congress designates an area Wilderness, nearly all forms of non-pedestrian recreation are illegal. The National Wilderness Act of 1964 created Wilderness designations, which are designed to protect pristine, remote areas affected primarily by the forces of nature. In recent years, anti-access groups have abused Wilderness designations to force responsible off-highway recreationalists off public land well-suited to off-highway motorized recreation.

"The AMA supports appropriate Wilderness designations," Moreland said. "However, when those lands include roads, trails, power lines, dams, bridges and structures, they do not meet the clear definition of Wilderness. All recreationists must protest these unfair measures before responsible motorized access to public land is lost forever."

Last year, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act designated more than 2 million acres as Wilderness, and more bills have followed. Many of those proposals, such as the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign, would affect Colorado. They include H.R. 4289, the Colorado Wilderness Act of 2009, introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.). The bill will designate 34 areas totaling 850,000 acres as Wilderness, including 72,397 in Handies Peak, 20,025 in Browns Canyon and 38,594 at Redcloud Peak. H.R. 3914, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2009, introduced by Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), would inappropriately designate 44,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and private land as federally protected Wilderness.

"With 3.5 million acres of existing Wilderness, Colorado is already one of the most federally protected states in the nation, and it also is home to many of this country's OHV enthusiasts," Moreland said. "We need to keep OHV routes and legal trails in the state open, so this and future generations can continue to experience the sweeping vistas and rugged terrain that the state has to offer."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Congress Reacts With Outrage to the Administration's Plan to Take Public Land Without Public Debate

Congress reacts with outrage to administration plan to take public lands without public debate.
Bipartisan reaction was swift following the publication by the AMA and others of an internal Department of Interior (DOI) document that revealed the agency's plan to designate without public debate as many as 13 million acres of public and private land in the West as National Monument areas.

According to DOI documents obtained by the AMA, the administration is considering new National Monument designations totaling 13 million acres in 11 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

"The Obama administration continues to put the needs of environmentalists who want to keep the public away from public lands above the needs and desires of Utahns," Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), ranking member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, echoed Bennett's thoughts that the administration is bowing to anti-access groups.
"There are special interest groups whose sole purpose is to lock up land without any consideration given to the importance of wholesome outside family recreation," Hastings said. "While they are entitled to that view, it's deeply troubling that the President's administration is seemingly eager to help turn that view into reality by unilaterally imposing new monument designations without the consent of the people and communities who will be directly impacted."
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, and ranking member of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, noted that people from around the world visit the West to take advantage of broad-ranging recreational opportunities.
"Unfortunately, the current administration seems intent upon locking up much of the public lands throughout the West from recreational use, as witnessed in the documents that recently surfaced from the Department of Interior outlining new areas for potential national monument designations," Bishop said. "I commend the American Motorcyclist Association for its continued advocacy on behalf of not only motorcycle enthusiasts but all outdoor recreators, who are an important component of the West's tourism industry."
Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told the Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune that the documents that created the uproar were simply the result of a "brainstorming session" at the department.
But Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) remained concerned: "Given the lingering frustration felt by many Utahns following the 1996 'stroke of the pen' monument designation (of the Clinton administration's 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), it is totally inappropriate for this federal agency to even have preliminary discussions without involving the stakeholders on the ground."
"It remains incumbent upon the government to responsibly protect our lands for the people, not from the people," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "And that means proposals for land-use designations must be fairly debated. This proposal is not only an end-run around Congress, but also around the individuals and communities who would be directly impacted by this type of administrative maneuver.
"We are pleased to hear that there is bipartisan, bi-cameral support for an open dialogue on the long-contentious issue of public-land designations," Moreland said. "We hope that this issue will serve as a catalyst for bringing together both sides of the debate to work out any differences and preserve opportunities for responsible recreation on America's public lands for all Americans."
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