Utah Lawmakers Question $14 Million Land Swap Litigation

Dec 9, 2015

Utah legislators are voting to have consultants draft a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's control of federal lands that make up two-thirds of the state.

A Republican-dominated commission made the decision Wednesday after a consulting team said its research concludes the Constitution doesn't give the U.S. government power to control federal lands within state borders.

Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis is one who opposed the lawsuit. He felt the decision lacked representation of Utah's minority groups.

“We have another perspective. There is another point of view. Like it or not, agree with it or not … and as this state grapples with one of the greatest issues facing our state, this should not be done without somebody in the sausage making with another perspective.”

The consulting teams of lawyers estimate a lawsuit could cost $14 million.

“Because my issue isn’t particularly the $14 million, it is the feasibility. If we had to spend $14 million and get this thing solved … that would be one thing. But if it’s part of this generational millions and millions of dollars that seem to go nowhere and resolving of nothing, what I’m saying is you either let somebody from the minority into the inner circle or you just run it yourself.”

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups strongly oppose the plan. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said it's a waste of time for Utah to debate taking over the land.

Utah passed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government hand over the lands by the end of 2014, but the deadline passed with no such transfer.