I’ve been really busy reaching out directly to my constituents. I think I may have spoken to a thousand people already, and have truly enjoyed learning so much from listening. I’ve also had many of my platform stances confirmed, and feel really good about the support people seem willing to give my campaign – it is clear District 9 is ready for a change!
So many subjects have come up in my discussions that it is almost difficult to pick what to discuss here, but a couple of subjects are appearing more often than others, so I hope to touch on a few in detail in the coming weeks.
Today I want to discuss public land management. Many voters have asked my stance on the transfer of federal land to state control. I realize this is a complicated subject, and have the utmost empathy on what management of federal land means to our farmers and ranchers in particular. I want to be unequivocal however, that I oppose bills like the one my opponent co-sponsored in 2012: HB-148, and that was signed into law in March of that year.
A few reasons for my opposition are as follows:
1. Waste: We simply don’t have the money to sue the federal government for control of federally managed lands, and embarking on such a path makes no sense because the courts have repeatedly upheld the authority of the constitutional and legal authority of the federal government to manage these lands. Nevertheless, Governor Herbert, with the support of our Republican state legislature, has set aside $2M just to BEGIN a legal battle with the federal government over these matters (and has already spent untold amounts.) This is wasteful spending.
2. The current system generally works well: Despite what some may believe, federal management of lands in our state generally works well for ranchers, recreationists and the public at large. For example, check out this description of “Tread Lightly” (Who in fact, just completed a project with USDA Forest Service at Spawn Creek Trailhead, not far from District 9, with the Wasatch Outlaw Wheelers: https://www.treadlightly.org/projects/worm-fence-atv-trailhead-educational-kiosk-project/ However, where there is room for improvement, or specific conflicts between federal management and local uses of public land, we should work cooperatively with federal agencies and lobby our representatives in Congress to make the changes that we want—we should not resort to wasteful litigation that is doomed to fail.
3. Economics: The preservation of these lands, many of which are some of the most precious resources we have, is also absolutely imperative to our local economy. For example, our federally managed national parks host approximately 6 million tourists per year, with each visitor spending money at Utah businesses for things like food, gas, lodging and other services. All this cash flows into our state, and the feds pay to manage the parks (with some of that federal money going to employ Utahns).
I understand the designation of and the management of these lands is a particularly difficult subject for ranchers, but I believe the conflicts that exist can be resolved through collaboration, not wasteful litigation. Overall – if we look at our long-term prospects and resources, we must acknowledge that the preservation of the non-renewable resource of our State's natural beauty is the best choice we can make for the economy. One only needs to drive through Vernal to understand that the Dinosaur National Monument is a precious economic engine to that city, while still being incredibly well managed under federal control.
The bottom line is: while I acknowledge the complexities that ranchers and the federal government face when it comes to these lands, I believe the federal government actually does a pretty dang good job partnering with the state and that we benefit from it financially. I am opposed to spending what will likely be many millions of dollars suing for control of these lands and think we should focus on spending our state dollars in much more productive ways (on education for example). Given that this was one of only 8 bills that my opponent co-sponsored in his nearly six-year term, I don’t believe he’s spending his time on the matters that will actually improve the lives of his constituents.
Please stay tuned - I'll share more about what I think so that you can make an informed decision in the booth in November!