(KCPW News) The Foundation for Integrated Resource Management (FIRM) is again requesting $500,000 from the state of Utah to fund its legal and policy work.
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During a legislative appropriations meeting on Tuesday, Box Elder County Commissioner and FIRM Board Chair Stan Summers said the organization could take some credit for a number of recent changes related to public lands policy in the West.
“If you look at the things that have happened in the last year…from taking care of the monuments, to grazing, to [the Waters of the United States Rule], to BLM 2.0, everything has been happening at an astounding rate,” he said.
The Waters of the United States Rule was put into place during the Obama Administration, and extended Clean Water Act protections to smaller rivers and streams. It has since been blocked by the Trump administration’s EPA. BLM 2.0 is another Obama-era rule that would have required more public input into federal land management decisions. It was repealed by the Republican-led congress.
FIRM’s Request in the meeting of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday wasn’t well received by Democrats in attendance. Taylorsville Rep. Karen Kwan pointed out that the $500,000 request represents 91% of FIRM’s operating budget, while Sen. Jim Dabakis questioned the notion of the state funding nonprofits engaged in advocacy work.
“If we want to take public money it ought to go through the process,” Dabakis said. “We ought not to cozy it over with a lot of these NGOs, a lot of these groups, that are actually advocates for specific political positions; it seems to me that’s basically repugnant to the system” he said.
But for Orem Republican Rep Keven Stratton, the state’s position on issues related to public lands and natural resources policy is clear, and funding organizations helping to further the state’s aims, sensible.
“We have over 50 solid pieces of legislation that clearly state what the intent of the legislature is…on these issues related to what this organization would be engaged in,” he said.
If the legislature does end up funding the request, FIRM says among its top priorities for its next fiscal year is the creation of a public lands policy institute at Southern Utah University.
The subcommittee will make a recommendation on FIRM’s request in the coming days or weeks. It would next have to clear the legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee.
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