Summit County leaders pass resolution supporting public lands and national monuments
County joins others in denouncing transfer of lands
Wednesday, Summit County Council members agreed to join Salt Lake City and Castle Valley in passing a resolution urging Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and state legislators to stop using taxpayers’ money to fund the transfer of control of public lands to the state.
The council unanimously approved the resolution, which recognizes the “value of federal public lands to Summit County’s economy, recreation, heritage and quality of life.” Nine people cheered and applauded the decision, including Becky Yih, a Kimball Junction-area resident and volunteer with the campaign “Keep Public Lands in Public Hands.”
“It’s a statement in favor of preserving the land as it is and listening to the native voices,” Yih said. “I think it will bolster efforts in other areas and might trigger other cities and counties to take the same stance.”
The resolution states that any loss of access to public lands would have “damaging consequences” for the county’s economy, residents and visitors. Additionally, the resolution stresses how the transfer of the county’s federal lands would undermine the county’s ongoing investment in its open space programs.
“I want to remind you that of all the communication you have received is in support of this resolution and opposed to the transfer of public lands to the state,” said Janna Young, director of intergovernmental affairs.
As part of the resolution, the county offered its support for the continued designation of the state’s national monuments, including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
“Summit County has a rich history of multiple use of public lands in support of an agricultural-and natural resource-based economy and more recently, a significant recreation-focused economy,” the resolution stated. “Since 1998, the travel and tourism sector has steadily held approximately half of the county’s total private employment and a significant portion of Summit County’s economic livelihood rests on having an active and desirable natural resources, recreation and tourism industry.”
Yih said she became involved in the public lands discussion in 2016 after several state legislators wrote a column for the Salt Lake Tribune explaining their reasons for wanting to return control of federal lands to the state.
“They didn’t say anything about recreation or the value of public lands. They said it is to develop commerce and that totally incensed me,” Yih said. “Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee don’t represent me. But, I think, by the Summit County Council being willing to stand up for this, they are representing me and the rest of us who value these lands.”
Yih further commended the County Council’s consideration of pulling out of U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) public lands initiative, which has been heavily criticized by the groups who oppose the transfer of public lands. County Council members have not decided whether they want to maintain the county’s involvement with the bill or pursue a separate piece of legislation, which will include Wednesday’s resolution.
“The county had already tried to work with Rob Bishop and just say, ‘OK we can give a little here if you’ll give a little,’ which he didn’t,” Yih said. “But by getting a group of entities to make a resolution similar to this, it at least lets the state know they will receive some pushback on the $14 million lawsuit and Public Lands Initiative.”
County Council member Kim Carson said councilors had received approximately 75 emails supporting the resolution prior to the meeting.
“I just want to thank you for your input and thank everyone who sent in comments,” Carson said.
To view the resolution, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/5697.