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Senate Leaders Discuss Public Lands Lawsuit

Nick Herrmann

State Senate Leaders meet at the Capitol Building, Monday afternoon, for the opening of the State Legislature.

During the conversation,  Utah Senate President Wayne Neiderhauser made mention of a recently announced Public Lands Trade agreement drafted by Utah Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chafetz. Throughout the day several lawmakers said opposition to the plan by environmental groups and tribal leaders is another reason why it is time for a court to settle the question of whether Utah has the right to own public lands.

"I believe Utah has a case with Supreme Court, and Utah was not treated the same as Kansas or Illinois, and other states. It’s clear that we weren’t treated the same. I believe that we should pursue that equity doctrine that states be treated the same. "

Senator Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund says lawmakers should approve the plan to spend the $14 million dollars it will cost to take back federal lands.

"When you look at the state of Utah, which only has about 40% of control of land in the state, and you compare it to Pennsylvania that has 97% of the land that’s private, it’s a wonder that we are able to as well as we are here. "

Supporters of Utah's lands push argue the state is better suited to manage those acres than the federal government, which currently controls about two-thirds of Utah's land.

Critics say Utah doesn't have legal rights to the land and the lawsuit will be costly for the state.