A bill designed to put an end to the ongoing public lands battle in Utah advanced Wednesday.
SB 105 – Public Lands Act Amendments, which is sponsored by Senator Jim Dabakis (Democrat – Salt Lake City), was passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee with a 4-2 vote.
Under the bill the Utah Attorney General would be required to file a petition in federal court by June 30, 2016 demanding a determination of the ownership of public lands.
Dabakis explained that the purpose of the bill is simple. “It is to keep a squeeze on the Attorney General and on the state and on our vision so that we have some end-game on this endless battle we have with the feds.” Dabakis feels that the issue has gone on long enough and the matter needs to be resolved. “I think we’re in a state of paralysis in the state because we believe one thing and apparently the feds believe something else.”
Salt Lake City resident Reg Johnson applauded Senator Dabakis for trying to bring a resolution to the public lands debate. “It may take more generations than this generation to get through this public lands dispute, but on equal footing Utahns deserve to have access and control of the lands within our state.”
Senator Evan Vickers (Republican – Cedar City), who voted against the bill, supports the idea but has some misgivings. “My worry is that this isn’t the right way to do it. You’ve given the time frame. We don’t have the right court case yet. We’re not sure of that. Maybe we can do that in the time frame. Maybe that’s what we need to drive the impetus.”
If not now, then when? Dabakis asks. “We need to stir things up as far as getting an end to this process. Is this an end all? No. Would there be ways for the Attorney General in the next year and a half if we absolutely can’t come up with a case and it’s terrible to change it? Yes. Would it send a strong message that, you know, let’s get serious about this. Let’s end this generational morass that we’re in for a whole generation, particularly of our rural folks so they can move on with the broader issues here.”