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Utah Lawmakers Seek Valuation Of Federal Lands In State

Angels Landing Zion National Park

Utah lawmakers want to get a valuation of federal lands in the state so they can deliver a bill to the U.S government to show how much revenue the lands could generate if they were privately owned.

  The Legislative Management Committee is meeting Tuesday to consider issuing a request for bids for a company to begin a valuation of federal lands in Washington County. 

The legislators intend to expand the assessment across the state following the initial project. They seek to find the difference between current payments by the federal government and the actual taxable value of the land in the latest attempt to show their disdain for federal control of public lands.

"The idea is that the federal government is withholding our lands and it made a promise that as long as it holds those lands, it will hold us harmless from the loss of tax revenue," Republican state Rep. Ken Ivory said. "We simply want them to treat us fairly."

The U.S. Department of Interior gave $40.7 million in lieu of taxes to Utah this year. Those payments barely reached over a dollar per acre for the 33 million acres (13 million hectares) of federal lands in the state, Ivory said.

"The 20 percent of our land that is taxable generates more property tax revenue in two months than we have received in over 20 years in (payment in lieu of taxes) money," Ivory said.

Under the program established in 1977, the U.S. government has paid $8.5 billion. The payments to local governments are designed to offset losses in property taxes from nontaxable public lands.

"We want the federal government to pay its fair share," Ivory said.