This is my first article for my Media Writing class at BYU in Provo, UT!
Salt Lake City— A dispute about Utah land is making the news. Again.
This time it’s not between the Mormons and everybody else; this time it’s a fight on the constitutional and ethical transfer of land.
Utah’s Transfer of Public Land Act is under public scrutiny. An analysis written by Constitutional Scholar Carrie Ann Donnell claimed that the act is a lawful way for the state to reclaim land from the federal government while other groups call the act dishonest.
The federal government owns two-thirds of Utah’s land, which serves as an inconvenience for Utah and other Western states according to Rep. Ken Ivory, R- West Jordan.
Ivory announced a deadline on Dec. 31, 2014 for the federal government to terminate control over the land in Utah. He claimed that owning more of Utah’s land would enhance educational funding for the state.
Conversely, groups such as Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said the fight is costly and reckless.
“The Legislature’s own attorneys acknowledge that the Transfer of Public Lands Act is almost surely unconstitutional,” said the legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Stephen Bloch. “This is both bad law and bad policy.”
Donnell doesn’t agree and asserted, “There was never an intent for the territories to give up all their lands to the federal government, and there was never an intent for the federal government to hold that land indefinitely.”
Donnell said the land was given to the government on the premise that the land would be returned to the state eventually.
She added that the land should have been sold to absolve the debt left from the Revolutionary War and to fund a new government.
“The main takeaway is that the Transfer of Public Lands Act that I reviewed is perfectly constitutional,” Donnell explained. “Proponents should not be deterred from moving forward because of the fears or threats around it. Legally, it would survive any challenge in court.”
The Sutherland Institute’s Center for Self Government in the West commissioned Donnell’s analysis. The center’s director Carl Graham said, “We’re just hoping to add to the public information on the debate. We want people to go into this debate informed and get over the hump that ‘this is just crazy talk.’ It is not just crazy talk.”
He added that other states in the West are following Utah’s actions. He predicted between five and seven other states will form similar laws.