Utah has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and it’s also rich with natural resources such as minerals, oil, gas and coal. The problem is that many of these resources are inaccessible – not because of natural barriers or insufficient technology, but because Utah doesn’t own most of its land.
Believe it or not, the federal government owns and controls 57 percent of Utah’s land, the third highest proportion among the 50 states. What does this mean for Utahns?
It means we have fewer jobs and less state tax revenue that could be used to fund public schools. It also means fewer opportunities for recreation on Utah’s scenic lands. Certainly, we need to balance the use of our land with the need to preserve and protect it, but Utah can maintain the right balance as well as, if not better than, the feds.
What can we do about it?
Taking our land back won’t be easy. Since the 1970s, Utah and other Western states have been fighting to gain more control of their lands, to no avail, all while federal agencies and environmentalists have tried – and succeeded – in taking over even more land.
The state Legislature, governor and attorney general are working to pass laws and file lawsuits to force the federal government to give us access to these lands, and our congressional delegation has tried to pass laws in Washington to restore them to us.
Though these plans could take many years to carry out and may require national support, they are worth the effort. If successful, they would provide a huge boost to Utah’s economy and public schools, since Utahns would have the ability to manage and develop more of the state’s resource-abundant land.
Policy Paper: A Brief History of Land Use in Utah