(KCPW News) State lawmakers received an update today on the progress of a study required by House Bill 148, a law passed this year calling for the federal government to relinquish control of its public lands to Utah by the end of 2014. Attorney Vince Rampton, who’s the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor this election year, told the committee the legislation is a violation of the constitution’s supremacy clause, as well as the state’s eminent domain code.
“I’m not quarreling with the idea that federal lands could be better managed, state lands could be better managed, trust lands could be better managed, all lands could be better managed. That’s not a question,” said Rampton. “The question is how we go about it in the best way. I believe the best way is not to declare war on the federal government, draw a line in the sand, and say by the end of 2014 you hand these back or you get sued.”
Rampton called on lawmakers to continue to take a “rational and measured approach” with their counterparts in Congress. However, some lawmakers, including Republican Representative Mike Noel, took exception to Rampton saying the federal agencies that control public lands take their responsibilities seriously.
“The wildfires that are occurring right now throughout the west are a direct result of their ineptness and inability to harvest timber, to reduce fuel sources, and to stop the encroachment of the bark beetle in our areas,” said Noel. “I think the people in the state of Utah have as much common sense, as much ability to manage these public lands as any Washington bureaucrat.”
Noel also accused federal agencies of being beholden to environmental groups. Legislative attorneys have warned lawmakers that HB 148 is likely to be found unconstitutional.
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