Insulting Utah, the Public Lands Debate

On April 2nd, Utah legislators, Sen. David P. Hinkins and Rep. Keven J. Stratton -- co-chairs of the Commission for Stewardship of Public Lands -- Sen. Wayne Neiderhauser -- Senate President, and Rep. Greg Hughes -- Speaker of the House, wrote an ill informed, insulting, and demeaning OpEd in the Salt Lake City Tribune with the shocking titled, "Until Utah controls its federal lands, Utahns will be second-class citizens."

These men are insulting everyone in Utah past and present, while also denying historical fact.

Perhaps it would be acceptable to spend $14 million tax payer dollars on a frivolous law suit against the United States government to take 'ownership of lands' and regain sovereignty if everything else in Utah was going so well that our political leadership thought it would be a good idea to test the legislation that gave us Statehood in 1896 and was ratified through a constitutional convention by Utah territorial residents.

And where does that tax payer money come from? Tourism and the outdoor industry, which rely on well managed public lands bring in together somewhere between $5.8 and 6.8 billion dollars to the state with that totaling upwards of $890 million in state and local tax revenues.

These men are concerned that without the state of Utah's ability to build roads wherever they want, the Federal Government is plotting to prevent the growth of Utah's population and limit political power.

And yet, Utah is outstripping the national growth average for population all while we have federally managed public lands that are managed that way because the people of Utah decided that's what they wanted in order to become a part of the United States. Were the founding fathers of our great state second class citizens?

We're not, as a state, currently doing well taking care of the existing state population and these men believe more roads would help us get more people, but would they also help us solve the major issues of our state?

A few questions for the authors of the OpEd:

  1. Will transfer of public lands to state ownership speed up the plans these same men have no doubt put into place to curb the current epidemic of prescription drug abuse that has Utah at #5 on the national list of prescription drug overdoses?

  • Will it make it easier to give schools the resources necessary to move out of the 51st place of education spending per student or give educators and communities the resources necessary to combat the 4th highest level of teen suicide in the nation?
  • Will all the extra roads will help solve the issues of Salt Lake City-Orem-Provo and Logan being the 7th and 8th most polluted cities in America for short term particulates?
  • And if it doesn't help any of those things -- education, prescription drug abuse, teen suicides, or clean air -- while also flying in the face of a historical fact as to why we're a state to begin with, why is this such an important issue ?
  • By not prioritizing education, health, and clean air while instead attacking a major source of Utah revenue, our state political leadership is treating the rest of us like second class citizens -- or worse. These men also discount the value of wide open space, wilderness, and the public health benefits these places bring, as well as the physical manifestation of our democratic values that places like Zion National Park don't just represent -- but indeed are.

    Senators Hinkins and Neiderhauser, and Representatives Stratton and Hughes, I'm open to meeting with the four of you to discuss these issues with you at any time.