A bill passed by the Utah State Legislature in 2013 called for an analysis of the potential economic impacts of transferring certain federal lands to state ownership. This week, Summit County officials were asked to comment on a series of questions related to public lands.
HB142 required the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office to conduct the economic analysis for the Utah Bureau of Economic and Business Research. County officials received the list of questions on Tuesday and were asked to respond by the following Tuesday.
County Council member Kim Carson lead the Council's response effort to the list of questions, some of which she remarked were somewhat "one-sided." Some examples were:
What are the upside potentials for your county to transfer lands to the state?
What economic opportunities do you envision or anticipate as a result of the transfer?
How would the transfer affect your long-term land use plans?
The form also asked counties for specific data such as payments they receive from activities generated on federal lands, direct payments from federal land ownership and payment agreements for services provided on those lands.
It concluded with a 'Grievances' section which some Council members saw as one-sided. "Please describe the ideal outcome for your county of the proposed public land transfer" was one, as was "Describe situations where federal land ownership has been an impediment to your county.
At Wednesday's Council meeting, Carson encouraged the county to submit their comments.
"It is an opportunity for us to provide input and maybe a chance for us to provide a little bit different stance than they've heard so far," Carson said.
In an interview, Carson said she approaches the issue of the transfer of public lands "very cautiously" but understands the sentiments that Utah and its counties feel, especially with the loss of potential tax revenue for those counties with large swaths of federally owned land.
"I'm concerned that there will be a big push for development if the land is transferred [to the state]. I'm concerned about the environmental impacts," Carson said. "I don't know that just changing ownership of the land is going to change anything."
Council member Chris Robinson said on Wednesday that there is not as great of a push for natural resource development in Summit County since it contains no Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, only Forest Service and wilderness areas.
Carson said that, because of wildfire danger in the Uinta Mountains, Summit County has worked with the state, the federal government, the Forest Service and the State of Wyoming to allow the clearing and logging of deadfall in the forest.
Summit County officials were still working on finalizing their responses to the public lands questions and Carson said they plan on submitting them before the Tuesday deadline.