Friday, October 30, 2015

Western states asking counties to lead the charge to get federal land transferred to state control

Western states that have failed to have federal land transferred to state control and are reluctant to spend state money on federal land management are trying a more local approach, Rebecca Beitsch reports for Stateline. States such as Colorado and Utah are "arming counties with money and expertise to help them convince federal officials to hew more closely to residents’ interests."

This year in Colorado, state lawmakers "approved $1 million in grants for counties that want to influence federal land use decisions," Beitsch writes. "County leaders can use the money to hire consultants to evaluate data, provide scientific research or attend Bureau of Land Management coordination meetings. The law authorizing the grants also requires state agencies to provide additional expertise and assistance to counties when they ask for it."

Utah this year "passed a law requiring every county in the state to develop a resource management plan," Beitsch writes. "State Senate Republican Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, who sponsored the legislation, said the new requirement not only helps create a statewide plan but it also prepares counties to deal with the federal government and argue that federal plans should be consistent with theirs."

In 2012 the state passed a law "calling on the federal government to transfer to the state all public land that is not designated as a national park or wilderness area or owned by Native American tribes—about 30 million acres in total," Beitsch writes. "State Rep. Ken Ivory, a Republican, said because the federal government did not comply with the 2012 law, the state has set aside $4 million for a lawsuit challenging federal control of the land and is assembling a legal team." (Stateline map: For an interactive version, click here)

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