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A nation on the verge of a civil debate?

As a member of a UtahPolicy.com panel I was invited to respond to a question which framed many of the challenges we face as a nation and if there were reasons to be optimistic about America’s future.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

It is true that we are in the midst of some difficult days and trying times as a nation. Yet I remain convinced that our best days as a country are still ahead of us. Why the optimism? It has little to do with glasses being half full or even rose-colored. It has everything to do with the American people and the uniquely American principles that have fueled and fostered the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

I have traveled the country, and the core principles, values and ideas of freedom, free enterprise, education, empowered citizens, civil society and opportunity still ring true to Americans from every walk of life. These are not liberal or conservative ideas – they are simply American. I have seen these ideas manifest in big cities and rural communities; I have heard these principle echo from podiums in convention centers to the pulpits of churches; and I have felt the stirring strains of our American voice as these values were spoken softly to children in inner-city schools and in humble homes. American principles have made and moved our nation.

There are some political elites, media outlets and well-connected interests who want the American people to believe that we are just too fractured and divided as a nation to use our principles and ideas to address any of the big issues of our time. Health care, immigration, religious liberty, LGBT rights and more are all just too contentious to deal with – they say. Unfortunately this ensures that nothing changes, the status quo prevails, and they continue to control the power, money and influence.

I reject the idea that we are on the verge of a civil war. I believe we are actually on the verge of a civil debate. And oddly, this year’s raucous presidential cycle may just be the catalyst for such a national conversation to take place. America is always at its best when we are a nation of big ideas and honest, open, respectful debate. The kinds of conversations that were central to the emergence of a new nation will be the cornerstone of a new American century.

Why do I believe this is possible? Because I live in Utah – where, despite our problems and differences – we prove it can be done.

You can read my response and those of other Utah thought leaders at UtahPolicy.com.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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What’s really behind the pursuit of happiness

When justifying our own selfish or self-indulgent behavior, many Americans readily recite the Declaration of Independence’s most famous passage regarding our right to pursue happiness. Few of us recognize the true meaning or intent of the “pursuit of happiness” phrase Thomas Jefferson so carefully and purposefully placed into the heart and soul of the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson had learned from great thinkers and leaders like Aristotle, Cicero and John Locke that the pursuit of happiness was not a casual phrase or even a simple right – they all viewed this pursuit as the highest calling men and women could seek. “Happiness is the aim of life,” Jefferson stated, “but virtue is the foundation of happiness.” To Jefferson the meaning of the pursuit of happiness phrase went so much deeper than just fleeting emotional feelings or personal pleasure. Dr. Darrin McMahon, in his book Happiness: A History, tied together the way Jefferson and other early Americans approached and pursued happiness. Connecting the dots from these great leaders’ personal beliefs and public statements, he concluded that their vision of the pursuit of happiness could only be achieved through virtue, discipline and service.

Think about that. Virtue, discipline and service – hardly the words which spring to our minds when we think of pursuing happiness. I can’t say I have ever seen the media, movie producers or magazine publishers show people pursuing happiness by portraying them engaged in virtuous activities, rigorous discipline or unselfish service. Usually it is just the opposite.

Dr. McMahon further noted, “[E]arly Americans agreed that by pursuing the happiness of others, they helped to ensure their own.” I would add that while Americans are often portrayed as self-absorbed narcissists, it is also safe to say that Americans are among the most giving people on the planet – regularly the first to give, the first to arrive on the scene of a natural disaster, the first to raise awareness of a tragedy or injustice. I am convinced that many Americans have experienced for themselves that the happiness that comes from helping others is every bit as exciting as any virtual reality game and more satisfying than a shopping spree.

John Stewart Mill observed, “Happiness is not the same thing as contentment, but involves the pursuit of nobler feelings, higher pleasures, and higher things” – things like virtue, discipline and service.

Thomas Jefferson knew exactly what he was doing and what he was saying when he set the standard by declaring that everyone had the unalienable right, opportunity, and even the obligation to pursue happiness in this great land of America. We encourage you to enjoy and renew your pursuit of happiness today.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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Put Common Core clamor aside: Let’s talk about educational standards

Education, which represents two-thirds of our state budget and is vital to our future, continues to be front and center in Utah’s political and policy debates. It is worthy of our attention and our best efforts to engage in serious, meaningful dialogue. I am convinced that a marketplace of educational options and a culture that respects the unique, individual learning needs of students is critical.

In order to cut through the clamor of political rhetoric, I have invited Christine Cooke, Sutherland Institute’s education policy analyst, to share a few key insights on this issue of educational standards:

Christine: No matter who you’re voting for in this year’s gubernatorial race, Utah’s policy dialogue should move beyond the deeply pitted “anti-Common Core” and “defending Utah Core” rhetoric.

By way of background, the Common Core are state-level standards in language arts and mathematics. The standards were created in 2009 by the National Governors Association (NGO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Since then federal government has heavily incentivized states to adopt the Common Core through Race to the Top grants and waivers from the heavy penalties of the No Child Left Behind initiative. In total, 46 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards; Utah adopted them in 2010. Because of the federal mechanism used to spread the standards nationwide, many Utahns have been concerned about their effect on local control of education.

The fact is, we all want the finest education to be accessible to our kids — quality standards, meaningful curriculum, rich opportunities. But to do so, our conversation needs to progress from problems to solutions. We should have a meaningful discussion about academic standards in general. Utah has some of the most passionate and committed parents in the nation and a slew of intelligent policymakers and analysts. Here are some questions we can ask to get the conversation started.

  • What is the purpose of standards? Is it to hold policymakers accountable for education? Is it to challenge students to higher levels of performance?
  • What effect have our standards had on curriculum, teachers and students? Do they constrain districts to a certain curriculum? What effect do we hope they have on curriculum, teachers and students?
  • The state constitution gives the State Board of Education “general control and supervision of the public education system”; traditionally the board creates standards while districts create curriculum. What level of government (State Board of Education or districts) should create academic standards, and why?
  • What ought to be the content in our standards, and what rubric are we using to ensure that content is rigorous and reflective of Utah educational values?
  • How can parents and the public get involved in the creation or modification of standards?

For too long the education policy bandwidth has been taken up on the question of whether a candidate, policymaker or neighbor was for or against the controversial Common Core. But that’s too easy. We shouldn’t let our policymakers or ourselves off the hook. Let’s have a real conversation about standards. Then let’s do something bold, and create for Utah the best academic standards in the best way.

Boyd: Thanks, Christine. We look forward to driving meaningful dialogue on education for Utah and Utah’s future.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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Who should find solutions: Everybody, Anybody, Somebody or Nobody?

What the world needs most today is a lot less shoulder-shrugging and a lot more shoulder-squaring.

Pointing fingers, placing blame and deciding who is at fault has become the norm in businesses, associations, communities, states and nations. This leads to the “It isn’t my job” or “That isn’t my responsibility” syndrome. Unfortunately this leads to poor service, poor performance and poor outcomes for everyone.

We live in a world bent on pointing fingers and placing blame anytime anything goes wrong. It is tempting to want to follow that path, but true leaders and true citizens know where the buck stops and who is ultimately responsible for failure or success.

Henry Ford declared, “Don’t find fault! Find me a solution!” An environment of fault-finding usually leads to more shoulder-shrugging, and few people who are willing to square their shoulders, take responsibility and do what needs to be done.

There is a classic story which sums up what happens with a shoulder-shrugging approach in our communities. It is the story about four citizens whose names just happen to be: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done in the community – helping to educate and train the young people on their vital role as citizens. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. And while Anybody could have done it, Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because really it was Everybody’s job, yet Everybody thought Somebody would do it. But, of course, Nobody asked Anybody.

Everybody thought a meeting would help. Somebody couldn’t make it and suggested that Anybody could come up with a plan to execute in two weeks. Two weeks later when Everybody checked in, Nobody had done anything with Anybody so Somebody recommended they meet again in two more weeks.

Well, Anybody could have done it, Somebody would have done it, Everybody should have done it, but in the end Nobody did it.

So, when rising generation didn’t learn their civic duty and failed to work and serve in the community as they should Everybody blamed Everybody and Anybody for the problem, Nobody got back to work on a solution that Anybody could have come up with. And in the end the community failed and the community was ultimately given to Somebody else!

What kind of culture are we creating in our communities and state? Do we have a lot of shoulder-shrugging and finger-pointing to Somebody, Anybody, Everybody and Nobody? Or are we creating a culture of shoulder-squaring where personal responsibility and getting things right is all that really matters?

For resources on how to square your shoulders and engage as responsible citizens visit SutherlandInstitute.org.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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When the cat’s away, the mice will play

While Rod Arquette is away from his microphone, a great slate of local and national guests will join Sutherland’s Boyd Matheson on KNRS Talk Radio. Boyd will guest host The Rod Arquette Show on 105.9 FM from 4-7 p.m. on May 2, 3 and 4. Tune in for some deep dialogue on the country’s most pressing issues.

Here are a few highlights from the guest list:

  • Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute; check out Brooks’ latest TedTalk to get a taste of what is to come.
  • Ben Sasse, U.S. senator from Nebraska; listen to what Sen. Sasse had to say while speaking to MSNBC.
  • Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College.
  • Jim DeMint, president of The Heritage Foundation and former U.S. senator from South Carolina.
  • David Bobb, president of Bill of Rights Institute and author of Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue.
  • Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs and author of The Great Debate; he is also the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor to National Review and The Weekly Standard.
  • Stephen Hayes, columnist for The Weekly Standard and New York Times best-selling author; Hayes regularly appears on Fox News.
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Rise above temptations of verbal combat

Public policy, presidential politics, local campaigns heating up and burning social issues have all combined to raise the temperature of public rhetoric, and upend rational thinking. We would be wise to remember the old axiom, “Speak in anger and you will deliver the greatest speech you will ever live to … regret.”

Many have come to believe that silence is weakness, that calmness is cowardly and that you must engage in a tit-for-tat exchange of point and counterpoint, claim and counterclaim to compete and survive in the 21st century. In all our personal interactions, whether in the public square or within our personal circles, we must focus on desired outcomes instead of emotional outbursts and come to people with questions instead of accusations.

The airwaves and social media sites today are filled with pundits, experts and even those we call “friends” who constantly badger or bombastically blow up anyone who might disagree with their point of view. While this might be entertaining banter, it has produced a horrible pattern for dealing with people and relationships.

Usually it is the preservation of ego that keeps us engaged in verbal combat. We have come to believe that having the last word wins the day. We must remember that the solution to any problem begins when someone says, “Let’s talk about it,” or asks, “What do you think?” – and then is willing to listen.

Whether speaking to someone live or going back-and-forth in email, texts or tweets, you must ask yourself if the messages you are about to speak or send are going to move the conversation, and more importantly, the relationship, forward or whether they will simply fuel more anger. Winning a verbal battle at the expense of losing a war for a relationship is never wise.

The way you communicate with those you disagree with speaks volumes about who you are as a person. Petty, personal attacks never produce positive results and often keep us a safe distance from real dialogue and meaningful solutions.

All this is not to suggest in any way that we should retreat from public debate or become obsessed with political correctness. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and we can communicate in ways that elevate ideas and promote the best intentions of everyone.

Beware of your emotions and your ego, especially in the highly volatile arenas of public policy and interpersonal communication. Silence can be strength, a kind word can carry a conversation, stepping away can be the best step forward. Words have weight and their impact is immense — so choose them wisely. When it comes to the war of words, text tirades or social media rants, whenever in doubt — don’t!

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

 

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Voters need to ask themselves – not candidates – a few questions

In major election years it is important to realize that as voters we don’t get what we pay for. We actually end up paying for what we get and generally get what we deserve. With such high stakes in 2016, voters should not be pulled by the latest polling or swayed by political spin. Instead, voters should ask tough questions and demand real answers. But not of the candidates. Voters should ask themselves these five questions.

Question One: How is this candidate positioned to show real courage? Another way to think of it would be to ask whether or not this candidate would be OK not winning election or re-election based on taking a firm position on an issue that was unpopular. The challenges of our time are going to require elected officials with real courage.

Question Two: When you listen to this candidate where does it lead your thoughts? When you listen to the candidate do you find yourself thinking just about the candidate and their story or do you find yourself thinking about your life, family or future? Do your thoughts go toward feelings of fear, frustration and conflict, or toward positive solutions and possibilities? A candidate whose words lead your thinking to negative places or solely into the candidate’s world is not the one to lead you, the state or nation toward a better, brighter future.

Question Three: What is this candidate for? You know what the candidate is against – starting with their competitors for the nomination and the opposing party. While the candidate has to be willing to fight against the kind of government they don’t want, they must also be able to articulate the kind of government they do want. Do they have an agenda they can point to, expressed in principles and policies, that describes what kind of government they intend to foster?

Question Four: Does the candidate talk in generalities or in specifics? In business the rule is always: when you talk about things in generalities you very rarely succeed, but when you talk about them in the specific you very rarely fail. The same applies to politics. One-liners and bumper-sticker slogans are nice, but they don’t produce real results. Beware of the candidate who uses sweeping generalities in their responses. Also anger should never be confused with an actual agenda, and we should also remember that hope, as important as it is, is simply not a strategy. Candidates should be talking about specific policies, strategies and tactics – there is no substitute for real, concrete and detailed solutions.

Question Five: Is the candidate more concerned about making friends or keeping promises? Many Americans complain about the conflict in politics. I can tell you from experience that conflict is not the problem in government – collusion is the problem. You do not get nearly $19 trillion in debt through conflict. It comes from way too many elected officials being way too eager to get along, go along and make deals that are good for them, not necessarily good for their constituents. If you want a friend in office, remember that real friends tell you the truth, even when it is hard; they tell you what needs to be done to solve your problems without sugarcoating it; and demonstrate to you by their actions that they will stand with you no matter what.

As we all prepare to cast important votes during 2016, remember we are going to pay for what we get in elected officials, so taking some time to ask ourselves a few questions about candidates is going to be time well spent. Debates are interesting, forums can be fun, commercials can provide comic relief, and even a chat with a candidate can provide some clarity – but nothing is more important than the answers to the questions we ask ourselves. If as voters we do not find ourselves this election cycle, we will never find people who can lead us where we hope to go as a community and as a country.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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Listening for the ‘certain trumpet’

In ancient battles noise and commotion were commonplace, and dealing with it was often a determining factor in the success of an army. Smart military leaders recognized how vital it was to be able to communicate with their army above the clamor and clatter of war. Hence the “certain trumpet.” It was by the sound of that known and clearly recognizable “certain trumpet” that the soldiers understood whether to advance or retreat or stand strong and hold. The sound of the certain trumpet and the effectiveness of the trumpeter were mission-critical for achieving victory. On the other hand, crashing cymbals could be used for a startling and eardrum-rattling sound to cause confusion, disrupt the cadence of an advance or create a distraction.

It is true that our political arena has become a noisy and often nasty battlefield where the loud and obnoxious often do quite well. Much of the disconnect between citizens and political leaders is due to the fact that society in general has also become a very noisy place, and leaders from both parties have failed to step forward with any type of clarion call. Many voters, across the political spectrum, feel betrayed by their party. Their leaders have failed to articulate the certain principles and policies they want the people of the country to follow. No vision, no policy agenda, wishy-washy politically correct language, and tone-deafness to the issues real Americans face have created confusion to the point that many citizens don’t know if they should retreat, advance or just not care. Lack of leadership has caused uncertainty and hesitation – or as it is recorded in the Bible, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

Some who are in power and others wanting to exert influence in the battle for the hearts and minds of the people recognize that they are better able to maintain the status quo and manipulate the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of the American people in the midst of the din and racket of a noisy nation. They are all too happy to ensure the sounds of political discord drone on and that the clamor of the chattering class in the media continues. It is much harder for the American people to discern the principles and policies which ignited this nation and fostered the greatest civilization the world has ever known when the decibels of divisions are cranked up to eleven.

Yet throughout our history as a free nation, we have seen what happens to citizens when a real leader speaks the truth with a certain trumpet. We have seen hardworking men and women of all ages hear and recognize and respond to the sound of that certain trumpet – some hearing it for the first time, others hearing it for the first time in a long time. The sound of American principles rings true – stirring the hearts and minds of good people everywhere with a desire to do good, to lift a neighbor, to create a community and build a better nation. We have witnessed what happens to a group of people when they are led by the sound of a certain trumpet – they become focused, committed and determined to accomplish their purpose. Movements move to the sound of the certain trumpets of timeless principles and timely policies.

The American people have endured enough noise. Nothing in the current political noise elevates listeners or leads people to quiet moments of introspection where they can hear the certain trumpet of truth.

This is the challenge for leaders at every level of government, business and community – become that certain trumpet. Leadership is NOT about trying to match the media in decibels – instead leaders must slow down, quiet down and create space for citizens to discern proven principles and policies. Real leaders recognize that bombast and bravado only provide more cymbal crashes that exhaust and frustrate voters as they strain to hear the certain trumpet they are seeking. The American people are ready to listen; they want to be led; and they are waiting for leaders to play the certain sound of principles and policies that ring true.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here.

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Why the silence on education?

Have you noticed what’s missing from this presidential election cycle? It’s not social media wars, parody, physical assaults, or other drama. It’s a substantial discussion of education.

In January one Slate writer wrote, “None of the [2016 presidential] candidates are talking about education. Like, at all.” The head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools noted, “Candidates on both sides of the aisle have said distressingly little about K-12 education.”

The observation seems to be a fair characterization. Education doesn’t seem to be the biggest issue this election cycle. As of late January only one direct question had been asked about education during the Republican and Democratic debates.

So why have we heard so little on the topic of education from the candidates who may lead our country? And is this a problem?

According to an article written by American Enterprise Institute, 21 public interest polls taken throughout 2015 found that only 7 percent of respondents believe education to be the nation’s most important problem—this statistic came in February of 2015 and was the highest point that year for ranking education as the top issue. Additionally, the number of respondents believing education to be the most important issue fell as the 2015 calendar year progressed.

Perhaps a waning interest in education is part of a bigger trend. In 2000 education was the public’s top concern, according to Gallup. This year, the poll found that it ranks 13th. It’s possible that the shift just reflects current events. Right now, the top four issues attracting public attention in Gallup’s December 2015 poll were terrorism, dissatisfaction with government, the economy, and guns. Another possibility in the article written by the American Enterprise Institute is that the prominence of education in an election cycle has little to do with public interest and is usually candidate-driven for a campaign-related purpose. The article explains that conservatives use education to show that they are compassionate, and liberals use it to show they are responsible.

There’s also the Every Student Succeeds Act—a massive education bill intended to overhaul the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. It was enacted just this past December, which may have pacified a desire to create sweeping education policy.

The more important question remains: Does it matter that we’ve heard so little on education policy from our candidates? Or is it a relief for those who believe that education is first and foremost a state and local — but primarily a parental — responsibility?

On the one hand, education is an extremely important issue that deserves attention. Many have concerns about plummeting student outcomes. Others nationwide have serious complaints about Common Core. This past fall excessive testing took the spotlight, with President Obama calling for a testing cap. Still others worry about freedom of speech on college campuses where trigger warnings have become more common. Any of these might prompt more discussion. For those who want to cut back federal intervention in education, hearing about a plan to do so might be of interest to them.

In truth, college affordability has gained a fair bit of attention. Crushing student loan debt is a serious problem that people from both sides of the aisle recognize — though tuition-free college certainly brings disagreements.

Yet, on the other hand, hearing fewer campaign promises with their federal programs, incentives, and requirements could seem like a win. History of federal intervention in this area has led to a great dissatisfaction with top down initiatives. For instance, there’s No Child Left Behind, with its impossible proficiency goals, unwieldy penalties, and the resulting waivers that led to the widespread adoption of the controversial Common Core. Even when accountability and transparency are the goal, federally mandated tests or merit pay have earned the disdain of many within the education community.

Utah’s recently finished legislative session dealt extensively with education issues like preschool, all-day kindergarten, student data privacy, compulsory education, testing, digital learning tools, and reducing federal intervention. Perhaps the state level is the right place to have these conversations. But while there may be good reasons for the lack of national attention and low poll numbers, we should be sure to give education the attention it deserves.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Christine Cooke. Thanks for listening.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here

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A breath of fresh air for Utah’s public lands

Our public lands have taken a number of punches over the last six months or so. We’ve seen an armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the Obama administration freezing new coal leases on federal lands, and the EPA triggering an environmental disaster that turned the Animus River orange from toxic heavy metals. With so many environmental, economic and violent disasters it’s easy to become discouraged about where the management of public lands is headed.

Like a breath of fresh air, the 2016 legislative session should fill Utahns with a renewed sense of hope and optimism when it comes to our public lands. Three bills in particular demonstrate our Legislature’s dedication to transferring federal lands to local care and management, keeping those lands in the hands of the public, and ensuring that Utahns have a voice in future land designations.

In 2012 the Legislature passed a bill calling on the federal government to relinquish title to some 20 million acres of public lands to the state on or before December 31, 2014. Over a year later these lands have not been transferred, and the state of Utah now has standing to sue. Passed this session, HB 287 provides a mechanism to financially support litigation efforts through taxes and private donations. The legislation creates a home for the $4.5 million which has already been earmarked for the court fight. It is the sovereign right of a state to own and manage the lands found within its borders. HB 287 and the litigation efforts it supports are one way of making this a reality.

The Utah Public Land Management Act implements a plan for transferred federal lands. Highlighted among its provisions is its affirmation to firmly keep these lands in the hands of the public. The Act declares that “it is the policy of the state that public land be retained in state ownership.” The language of the legislation is echoed by its author and chief sponsor, Rep. Mike Noel. “I honestly don’t think that people understand my motivations. I consider public lands a sacred place to visit,” Noel said in the Deseret News. “I would be going against the very wishes of my children to sell of all these public lands.” Although the legislation does not entirely preclude the sale of transferred land, it is only under rare and isolated circumstances that former federal lands can be sold. Public hearings, environmental and economic studies, and approval by the director and board of the Division of Land Management are all needed for land to change hands. Any tract of land over 200 acres (less than a third of a square mile) requires approval by the House, Senate, and governor. When you consider that the Legislature only meets for 45 days a year and is presented with over 1,000 bills per session, the likelihood of a sale’s approval is slim to none. These are very high hurdles for land sales to go over and shows the intent of our state Legislature to keep our lands public.

The last day of the session, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution opposing future uses of the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments without our state’s approval. This is largely in response to the Obama administration’s possible designation of four monuments in the state this year- one of which would be over 1.9 million acres in size. National monuments have a profoundly negative impact on the communities they neighbor. Just 20 years after the designation of Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah, Garfield County has been forced to declare an economic and scholastic state of emergency. Access has been blocked, cattle pushed off the range, and mineral resources sequestered in the ground. Any monument designation should require local input, and this resolution sends a message to Washington that we want a say in what is done with our public lands.

States are the “laboratories of democracy,” and public land policy is no exception. Our state legislature has produced good policy which sets a precedent for other states and the federal government to follow. They should be commended for their efforts.

This is Matt Anderson with the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.

This post is an edited transcript of the Sutherland Soapbox, a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations. The podcast can be found below.

Receive this broadcast each week directly to your iTunes by clicking here