It was the first day of classes and I had just settled into my chair and opened my notebook. My political statistics professor began his lecture with this phrase: “Association does not imply causation.” I didn’t know it then, but those words would both determine the fate of my grade for that semester and stick with me in a profound and lasting way as I looked for examples of this in my academic and professional career.
Such was the case when I read an article by Defending Utah that attempts to link the Utah Transfer of Public Lands Act (TPLA) to the United Nations’ Agenda 21. After hours of research and digging deeper into their conspiracy theory, I not only failed to find any causation whatsoever, but their claim of association is completely unsubstantiated as well.
My conclusion doesn’t down play Agenda 21 and its 700-page action agenda that the U.N. hopes to execute at local, state, national and global levels. Agenda 21’s “sustainable development” could restrict many of the most fundamental and cherished rights we hold dear as Americans, and it should be of concern to all of us. It is in fact so disturbing that our state Legislature addressed it by passing SJR11, which puts Utah on the record as opposing Agenda 21 and rejects “both its intent and its potential for abuse.” The claim by Defending Utah is that this same Legislature (which is adamantly opposed to Agenda 21) created a sort of TPLA Trojan Horse to carry the United Nations agenda forward.
Much of what Defending Utah is saying centers on the idea of “regional governments.” It claims that these will be the enforcement mechanism used to impose Agenda 21 and that its power will supersede that of city, county and state governments. So how does this relate to Utah’s federal land transfer legislation? TPLA references a number of times the need to collaborate with other Western states to both help the transfer of federal lands actually become reality and to assist in the management of these vast tracts of land. This will be done by investigating “an active and robust coordination effort with Western Governors and members of Congressional delegations … to facilitate a process that would allow for and expedite large-scale land exchanges and re-designations,” “pursuing a regional agenda for Western management of public lands,” and exploring the “option of utilizing the Interstate Compact Clause of the United States Constitution.” Defending Utah claims that these measures are unreasonable and lead to the creation of regional governments. We, on the other hand, believe them to be vital components of TPLA, and they are in complete contradiction to the purposes of Agenda 21.
A significant transfer of federal lands has only occurred a few times in our nation’s history and has never been of the scale and scope that TPLA is proposing. Because of this, legislative action will require getting as many Western states on board as possible. It goes back to the old concept of strength in numbers. One state taking on the federal government by itself is far less likely to succeed than a group of them standing together. In addition, if the states truly are the Laboratories of Democracy, I would prefer to have as many of them cranking out ideas for land management as possible.
Western states have a lot to learn from one another and should pool their knowledge to create sound policy. An interstate compact goes hand in hand with this. Interstate compacts are nothing new to the American political system and have their roots in our nation’s early history, when the colonies used them to settle boundary disputes.
Interstate compacts are just as relevant today as they were 300 years ago. The Driver License Compact, for example, is used to exchange information concerning license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents and forwards those to the driver’s home state. The home state treats the offense as it had been committed within its state, applying its laws to the out-of-state offense by adding points to the driver’s record or suspending a license for major offenses. This is good policy that is working to keep our roads safe. More than 200 interstate compacts exist today, with 30 of those being regional in scope.
Self-government is at the heart of TPLA. The desire to make decisions locally, instead of watching as bureaucrats nearly 2,000 miles away determine what is best, is why TPLA advocates do what they do. Westerners know the land they live on better than anyone else, and that is precisely why they should be governing it. If Western states are willing to fight this hard for control of their lands from their own federal government, we can’t honestly believe they would put themselves in a position to be ruled from abroad. To do so would completely undermine the purpose and hopeful outcomes of TPLA. Do Agenda 21 and TPLA both contain the term “regional” a number of times? Yes, but to assume that this slight similarity means that one is being used to implement the other is irrational. The colors red, white and blue are prominently displayed on both the North Korean and American flags. However, no one would ever confuse the two or the countries they represent. The first is a symbol of tyranny and oppression. The second, with its 13 stripes and 50 stars, is a beacon to the world of freedom, liberty and prosperity.