Outdoor Retailer should avoid ultimatums on lands policy

Today, some leaders from the outdoor retail industry are making demands and issuing ultimatums to Utah’s elected officials, threatening to pull the Outdoor Retailer trade shows from the state.

Their aggressive actions highlight how the discussion around public land management has been absolutely degraded. So, while questioning our state’s values and love for public lands, their ultimatums are actually restricting and undermining real collaboration and constructive dialogue on this critical issue. So, those who care about our public lands need to move beyond the bluster and bombast and get to principled compromise and viable land management solutions.

Clearly, tourism and outdoor recreation play a vital role in Utah’s economy today and will for generations to come. Utah’s unparalleled beauty and recreational opportunities draw visitors from around the world, driving small businesses, providing tax revenue, and making our state a great place to work, live and play.

To claim that the only appropriate use of our public lands is outdoor recreation is to ignore the needs of real Utahns – especially those who live in our rural communities. And despite the false claims often depicted on the internet and in the media, responsible land management is not a zero-sum game with only winners and losers.

The type of bullying rhetoric currently coming from some in the outdoor retail industry is creating the kind of fake fight and false choices we often see in Washington, D.C. That is not how we do it here in Utah.

We understand that stewardship of natural resources is everyone’s responsibility. We know public lands can and ought to be put to multiple – often complementary – uses, which expands the economic pie to everyone’s benefit. We must remember that ultimatums kill collaboration and compromise.

We call on Utah’s elected officials, the outdoor retail industry, and other key voices to engage in an inclusive, elevated dialogue that will lead to land management policy that will foster a healthy environment, abundant recreational opportunities, and a diverse thriving economy for all Utahns now and for many generations to come. That is the Utah way.

Outrage, riots and knowing where you’re going

It is so easy to get swept away in the fog, rhetorical riptides and tweet storms of the digital age. Leaders can overwhelm the public with a whirlwind of words designed to distract and confuse – often leaving citizens wondering where in the world we are. If we do not know where we currently are, it is impossible for us to chart a course to where we truly want to go.

Long years ago, before cell phones, Google Maps and GPS systems, I was on a speaking tour in Ireland. On the first day of my tour I was scheduled to speak to corporate executives at a company in Cork. I set out for the speech with a very specific and detailed old-school map. I immediately encountered several ring roads and roundabouts, and soon had no idea where I was. After about 20 minutes of wandering through the Irish countryside, I realized that this was not a good use of my time and I did the hard thing: I bit my ego and pulled into a little gas station at the side of the road to ask for directions. Map in hand, I went in and asked the man behind the counter, “Where am I?” The man obviously knew I was a foreigner, because he just flashed me a big Irish grin and said, “Why, you’re in Ireland don’t you know!” I then tossed the map at him and asked, “Where am I on the map?” Once the attendant pointed to our specific location I had no problem navigating my way to my speaking engagement. By stopping to figure out where I was, or what the present reality was, I was better able to chart the right course to my desired destination.

Before a critical debate in the United States Congress, Daniel Webster said: “Mr. President, when the mariner has been tossed about for many days in thick weather on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun to take his latitude and ascertain where he is in relation to his desired course. Let us imitate this prudence and before we float on the waves of this debate refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to surmise where we now are.”

As a nation we have been through some thick weather and tossed about, to say the least. Here are a few areas where I believe we need to figure out where we really are before we start to try and solve the problems:



National division


Criminal justice

Federal lands

Health care

(Just to name a few …)

Before the American people and our elected representatives float on the waves of debate on these critical issues, let’s stop and determine where we are today.

By specifically identifying our present reality we will be able to chart the best possible course to reach our desired destination as a nation.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly via iTunes by clicking here

legs of men walking on a cobblestone square in the city

San Juan County residents bring civil opposition to S.L. Bears Ears celebration

Twelve hours on the road, 600 miles, and day-old gas-station food – that’s what a group of San Juan County residents willingly went through so they could have their voices heard at Monday’s Bears Ears celebration hosted by groups who supported the monument designation.



Throughout the campaign to designate the Bears Ears National Monument, the most important voices – those of locals who are directly impacted by the designation – were repeatedly ignored and drowned out. Local tribes and the people of San Juan County were simply outmatched by the deep pockets, deceptive tactics and loud voices of extreme environmental groups, out-of-state tribal leaders, and the pen of President Barack Obama. Despite the uphill battle these people faced, they kept fighting for their home. That fight continued on Monday evening as they worked to inform the public of their plight and persuade the Trump administration to rescind or reduce the Bears Ears National Monument.

The group of 25 or so protesters arrived more than an hour before the festivities began – standing outside with their signs and talking of their hope to get things “back to normal.” Once the event began they quietly took their seats and listened to the presentations from out-of-state tribal leaders. Such civility has been a rarity in the Bears Ears debate. Monument supporters have made a bad habit of interrupting public meetings by shouting talking points and yelling at legislators. The courtesy displayed by this small group of San Juan County residents was a model of what the exercise of our First Amendment right should look like.

After the meeting I spoke with Devin Hancock, an organizer of the protest, and asked her why her group came all the way to Salt Lake City. “This monument designation is not about love and protection of the land. It’s about control, power, publicity and money,” Hancock said. “Money-hungry recreational and environmental NGOs (non-governmental organizations) used manipulative tactics to sway some Native Americans outside of San Juan County and others into believing this is right. Native Americans should not be used as political pawns; this is not a game to us.”

While their group at Monday’s event was small, the San Juan residents have what should be the most important voice in the Bears Ears debate. There is no denying that the lands within the monument are public and open to all Americans. However, no one is impacted more by Obama’s designation of the monument than the people of San Juan County. These public lands provide live-sustaining resources, jobs and educational funding, and they are an integral part of the residents’ culture and way of life. This area is a part of who they are and part of their children’s future.

Sutherland’s Education Vision

Reform requires vision. Leaders who want to transform education must know where they want to go and why they want to go there. They spread their vision by elevating public dialogue to the level of values, principles and ideals – the “attainment of the highest things.” They avoid the temptation to only oppose bad ideas without offering bold new ones, recognizing that without the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Boston Tea Party would not have been even a footnote in history. To this end, Sutherland Institute offers its vision for education: how we view human learning, what we believe to be the purpose of education, and what education should look like once it is transformed.

Read our complete Education Vision!

Poster map of United States of America with state names. Print map of USA for t-shirt, poster or geographic themes. Hand-drawn colorful map with states. Vector Illustration

Federal funding: far from free

Recently, the Tax Foundation released a study showing which states rely most on federal aid and what percentage of their budgets come from these federal dollars.

States receive a significant amount of assistance from the federal government in the form of federal grants-in-aid. In fact, when averaged together state governments relied on federal money for almost one-third of their general revenue in 2014.



This dependence diminishes local priorities in favor of national special interests, incentivizes unnecessary spending at the state and local levels, mandates burdensome regulations, and leaves states vulnerable to future federal spending crises. Simply put, these dollars aren’t free – and the economic, social and financial costs are passed along to taxpayers.

Sutherland Institute wrote an article a year ago about the negative consequences of federal aid in an op-ed in the Daily Herald titled The Myth of Free Federal Money:

“No such thing as a free lunch.”

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

“You don’t get something for nothing.”

We know all this. Yet the allure of “buy one, get one free!” “no money down!” and “get 6 months free!” still draws us in.

We see this natural impulse at work when “free” federal money is offered to our elected officials. With billions of tax dollars dangling in front of state and local governments, the sales pitch of better schools, stimulated economies and improved roads usually proves too enticing to turn away.

Unfortunately, this promise is based on a misconception. Federal funding isn’t free at all. In fact, according to new research, it costs Utah taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

A new study from Economics International (EI) reports that each additional dollar of federal grant money to the states is associated with an average increase of 82 cents in new state and local taxes.

In Utah, the extra tax burden from every dollar of federal funding is 72 cents. To illustrate, a hypothetical 10 percent increase in federal grants to Utah ($560 million) would be associated with approximately $400 million more in spending from state and local government — an additional tax burden of about $140 per Utahn.

That’s slightly below the national average, but it is cause for genuine concern. It means Utah’s elected officials are being manipulated by the federal government into increasing the financial burden on Utah taxpayers in ways they wouldn’t do otherwise.

We encourage the public and policymakers to reread this op-ed and reject federal funding’s empty promises.

Cody, Wyoming, USA - View across the rugged undulating rugged landscape of Buffalo Bill State park showing the rocky mountains  near Cody, Wyoming, USA. As can be seen the sagebrush thrives in this landscape despite the aridity and the fact that this shot was taken in the height of summer.

10 FAQs on the transfer of public lands

10 FAQs and resources

The beginning of Utah’s 2017 legislative session should bring good news for Utah’s public lands. Rep. Keven Stratton (R-Orem) is introducing a resolution aimed at securing control of our public lands in the hands of those who know and love them the most – the people of Utah. For too long federal mismanagement of our public lands has devastated the environment, depressed local economies, underfunded public education, and blocked recreational access. Our public lands, our communities and our families deserve better.

For the last five years, Utah has pursued legislative efforts and explored legal avenues to transfer title to 31 million acres of U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands to the state in an attempt to remedy the consequences of federal management. (This effort does not include national parks, national wilderness, or the vast majority of Utah’s national monuments.)

HCR 1, Concurrent Resolution on Public Lands, moves toward making this a reality. Stratton’s resolution encourages the state to continue to pursue legislative means but stipulates that “in the absence of satisfactory legislative progress” by Dec. 1, 2017, the state will file a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court.

As this resolution gets more attention over the coming weeks, those opposed to local control of our public lands will undoubtedly try to blur the line between fact and fiction in an attempt to drum up opposition. To combat their unfounded rhetoric, the Coalition for Self-Government in the West has produced a document titled Transfer of Public Lands: 10 FAQs & Resources, designed to dispel the myths surrounding the movement to transfer public lands to willing Western states. We hope the public and legislators will look to this document and its accompanying resources to learn more about what the transfer will mean for the state of Utah and the benefits of local management.

Bears Ears National Monument designation

From Sutherland Policy Analyst Matt Anderson:

   “We call on the President-elect and Congress to rescind this national monument designation and allow local voices to be heard and incorporated into how the Bears Ears region will be protected. Furthermore, we call on these elected officials to amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional approval for future monument designations. 

   Pleas for the president to stay his hand from Utah’s entire congressional delegation, Governor Gary Herbert, the State Legislature, local Native American groups and all of San Juan County’s commissioners and city councils fell on deaf ears. Instead, the President’s legacy and the demands of extreme environmental and corporate interests are now reflected in how more than 1 million acres of San Juan County will be managed.”

From Sutherland President Boyd Matheson:

   “The fact that the president is designating the Bears Ears National Monument at 6 p.m. Eastern on the Wednesday of Christmas vacation — and from 3,000 miles away in Hawaii no less — shows complete disrespect for the people of San Juan County. The citizens of this nation make monuments to honor true statesmen. President Obama declaring a monument unto himself with the stroke of a pen is not only unstatesman-like, it is undemocratic. The people of America should expect more and the people of San Juan County deserve better.

Orlando, Florida, USA - October 28, 2016: President Barack Obama makes the case for Hillary Clinton to young voters at the University of Central Florida.

Sutherland Institute condemns imminent Bears Ears National Monument designation

According to multiple sources, President Barack Obama will designate 1.4 to 1.9 million acres in San Juan County as the Bears Ears National Monument next week.

Sutherland Institute condemns this blatant abuse of executive power and calls on Congress and President-elect Donald Trump to commit to rescind this national monument designation and allow local voices to be heard. 

Furthermore, we call on these elected officials to amend the Antiquities Act to require congressional approval for future monument designations. 

 Sutherland Institute, Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the entire Utah congressional delegation, along with San Juan County Navajos, recently held a press conference in Washington, D.C. San Juan County Navajo Susie Philemon said, “Native Americans have given up enough of their ancestral lands for national monuments. President Obama, we the local native residents of San Juan County, Utah, have managed to protect this enchanted place and will continue to do so. Please do not take this land from us. Please don’t break more promises … not again.

Sutherland Institute continues to encourage San Juan County residents to make their voices heard by sharing their stories via video and written posts on social media.

In Washington, Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson said, “Often overpowered by well-funded, out-of-state environmentalists and big corporate interests are the voices of the people who actually live in San Juan County.” He continued, “A wealthy man’s monument should never come at the expense of a working man’s dream.”

Matt Anderson, policy analyst at Sutherland Institute, said, “There are many ways to be careful stewards of the land. Our public lands can and ought to be used for multiple and often complementary uses. Rather than a monumental mess by executive order, real compromise – which includes state and local voices – is the way to ensure responsible land management. Utahns across the political spectrum and citizens across the country should support this approach.”

Anderson concluded, “Instead of principled and sensible management of their home, the people of San Juan County will be subjected to increased heavy-handed and ineffective federal regulations – putting archaeological sites at risk as never before, devastating the local economy, restricting traditional Native American practices, and jeopardizing the future of San Juan County. Our friends in San Juan County deserve better.”  

Mature Adult man working in the office

Op-ed: A new economic dialogue can emerge from our fiery election season

Originally published in the Deseret News.

After this bitter election season, America would do well to reflect on this ancient Chinese proverb: “Out of the hottest fire comes the strongest steel.” It is our low points that often create our greatest opportunities to move forward and become stronger. This is especially true in the area of jobs and the economy: Hard times refine businesses, family budgets and economics, making them stronger over the long term.

This is the opportunity we have before us. We can move beyond the divisiveness of this election season toward a new, elevated economic dialogue on economic issues in our communities — the kind of dialogue that produces practical solutions to real problems. This community-driven dialogue should be grounded in the American economic principles of earned success in the free market, and the values of work, education and family.

Among Americans who graduate from high school, obtain some form of full-time employment, wait until 21 to marry, and have children only after marrying, the poverty rate is only 2 percent, according to research published by the Brookings Institution. And nearly three-fourths of this group achieve middle-class status. In other words, the values of work, education and family are guideposts toward financial security.

When these values are combined with free market principles, they become an engine of economic prosperity. When the market is not tilted toward the politically connected by corrupted government regulatory and subsidy schemes, then hard-working and educated employees and entrepreneurs, motivated by those they love, are driven to tirelessly produce and innovate by the natural moral imperative of the free market: Financial and economic rewards go to those who serve the needs of others.

This dialogue will require political and thought leaders who offer something more than a sentiment of “tough luck” to the millions of working Americans who have spent decades contributing to their country, only to be left behind by their nation’s economy. They have watched as leaders have scrambled to bail out jobs in failing multibillion dollar corporations, banks and government-subsidized organizations, while they lost their access to the American Dream and were offered welfare programs and told their jobs were not coming back.

What does this dialogue mean for Americans?

For working Americans, it means policies that promise to return America’s traditional middle-income jobs — manufacturing, construction and natural resource development — to a level playing field nationally and internationally. It also means new, affordable pathways to stable employment that avoid the mountain of debt that comes with typical higher education. Utah’s system of “stackable” credentials and Sen. Mike Lee’s proposal to expand accreditation options are promising starts.

For those in poverty, it means welfare policies that offer the promise of a better life through the “success sequence”: graduate from high school, find full-time employment, get married (and stay married) and have children — in that order. It also means recognizing that solutions to poverty come from individuals and communities, not distant governments and bureaucratic rules.

Individuals in poverty have innate and unique economic talents and abilities, and they deserve freedom from nonsensical professional licensing regimes crafted by industry insiders with an interest in making a license expensive and difficult to obtain. Similarly, community-based organizations and institutions — private and public, religious and secular, nonprofit and for-profit — should be freed from one-size-fits-none welfare regulations and programs that prevent them from customizing welfare resources to the needs of real people in poverty. Because they are closest to the situations of those in poverty, community-based groups are better situated than distant governments and bureaucracies to know the sources and solutions to poverty.

By elevating the economic dialogue within our individual communities, we extend not only the promise of political and societal renewal to ourselves, but we extend hope of a better life to the millions who have lost or never had access to the American Dream. A polarizing election season can instead be remembered as the moment we chose to cast aside the Pyrrhic victories of status quo politics and rhetoric, and found strength through one of our hottest political fires.

A multi-ethnic group of elementary age children are sitting at their desk and are taking a test in class. One boy is smiling and looking at the camera.

Op-ed: After the election: A new education vision

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Human beings are magnificent. We ask, wonder, reason, reflect and change. We are created to learn. As Aristotle put it, “All men by nature desire to know.”

With a divisive election behind us, we have an opportunity to move toward substantive discussion and elevated dialogue about principles and policies in our communities, especially regarding how we approach education.

While real debate about how to improve public education was lost amid both sides’ extreme campaign rhetoric, Americans continued to live the realities of our education system. They experienced, and continue to experience, excessive testing, one-size-fits-all classrooms, a lack of alternative options, teachers leaving the profession after only a few years on the job, inequities in access to quality schools, low scores on national and international tests, and heavy-handed federal initiatives.

Behind these realities is one ultimate question: Is our education system designed to encourage the learning of children, each of whom has unique interests and learning needs? It’s telling that, perhaps in answer to this question, enthusiastic education reformers exist on both the right and the left sides of the political spectrum.

The promise of a renewed education dialogue rests on two main ideas: (1) education requires that we meet the unique needs of the child; and (2) education calls for the empowerment of parents, students and taxpayers to create learning paths as unique as each student.

Noam Chomsky said, “A public education system is based on the principle that you care whether the kid down the street gets an education.” But what type of education? America doesn’t need the destruction of public education, but its transformation. Every kid down every street should have the opportunity to learn in a way that unlocks his or her innate potential. Anything less is a misuse of public funds.

To make education work for the individual, states should pursue a flexible education spending policy that allows parents to use their child’s state funds to purchase a variety of academic options like tutoring, textbooks, curriculum, exams, tuition or therapies. It should first prioritize students from families that qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, children from families experiencing intergenerational poverty; special-education students; children who have been adopted or are in foster care; or students residing on Native American reservations.

States should pursue local control through tools like “assessment choice,” where districts choose tests that best fit the needs of their students and their demographic realities from a menu of approved assessments. Excessive testing, data privacy and the influence of assessments on instruction worry many parents. The level of government closest to the student’s family — where parents are empowered, not sidelined — should determine which tests students take.

Education policies should break arbitrary barriers to learning. Instead of first seeking to raise taxes, educators should empower students to progress at their individual pace — the philosophy behind “competency-based education.” It’s worth rethinking grade levels, the Carnegie Unit, the classroom, the role of technology and the relationship between funding and enrollment. Education leaders should be investing in the ideas of the future, rather than being content to remain invested in the ideas of the past.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil. It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do … he only holds the key to his own secret.” Respecting the pupil is our vision.

Achieving a transformation requires from everyone the best creative, intellectual and interpersonal efforts. Most importantly, it requires leaders and engaged citizens willing to stand up in their own communities and reject a politics of strident voices, character assassinations, cloakroom deals and corruption. We will need space for open conversation and elevated dialogue, the seedbed for great ideas.

All human beings are created with the ability to learn, the desire to grow, the potential to improve and a purpose to accomplish extraordinary things. Education policy and dialogue ought to reflect these truths. And if we each engage in an elevated dialogue about education within our communities, it will be possible.