Testimony given by Matthew Anderson on March 6, 2017, in support of HB 407 (Utah Public Land Management Act Amendments) before the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Standing Committee of the Utah Legislature.
Good morning, senators. My name is Matt Anderson and I am a policy analyst for the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.
Public lands are an integral part of who we are and our way of life here in Utah. No one has a more vested interest than Utahns in protecting our public lands. It’s for this reason that the state is looking to transfer millions of acres of federally controlled land to the state’s care. Last year, the Legislature implemented a first-of-its-kind plan for transferred federal lands by passing the Utah Land Management Act. This legislation ensures a multiple-use management model that will meet the needs of rural Utahns, conservationists, and outdoor recreationists. Such a lofty goal requires that our public lands are kept open and accessible.
The amendments being discussed today strengthen our state’s commitment to keep public lands in public hands. HB 407 amends the Utah Land Management Act by, among other things, requiring a vote of two-thirds of the Legislature for any sale of public land, stating that it is preferable to exchange rather than sell public lands, and asserts that the state should acquire private lands to match sold acreage. These amendments provide more protections against the disposal of public lands than current federal law.
Utah has a long and storied history of principled land management policies and promoting the health and accessibility of our public lands. HB 407 should be part of this legacy.