The Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office (PLPCO) is currently spearheading a study on the potential economic benefits of federal lands being transferred to the State of Utah.
The study was approved through HB 142 during the Legislature’s 2013 General Session, and it is meant to coincide with the deadline stated in 2012’s HB 148, which ordered the transfer of federal lands by December 2014. Many federal lands are exempt from the proposed transfer, but according to HB 148, national recreation areas, national forests, and regions surrounding national parks and wilderness areas would be solely state managed. The only federal exemptions are explicitly listed in the the bill here.
Kathleen Clarke, the director of PLPCO, has actively been promoting the study. She spoke at the Utah State Legislature’s May interim session, and has recently appeared on Jennifer Napier-Pearce’s Trib Talk in order to highlight the benefits of the state controlling these proposed lands.
There are surely large amounts of untapped resources in these federally controlled areas, and the Utah Department of Natural Resources, specifically the Division of Oil, Gas & Mining, could profit greatly from the expansion of state managed land.
But it is highly questionable whether or not the state can handle such a large responsibility while also conserving reasonable recreational and ecological requirements. Even if acquired national lands were not to be used for natural resource development, the DNR lacks the infrastructure and capacity to properly manage such sensitive and vast areas.