The “cattle battle” between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management may be over - for now. But it appears that the battle between Western states and the federal government over who should own the land in those states is just beginning.
As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, more than 50 political leaders from nine states met for the first time on Friday to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.
“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”
The “Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands” - which was attended by lawmakers from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington - was already scheduled before the tense standoff between Bundy and the BLM over cattle grazing on federal land gained national attention.
Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart summed it up:
“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem.”
Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed at the state level have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfires than have lands managed by federal agencies.
“It’s time the states in the West come of age. We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”
While five of the nine states have cost-benefit studies underway to determine whether it would be advantageous for them to take control of federally-owned lands within their borders, Utah is ahead of the curve, demanding that Congress turn over land to the state.
“Utah has been way ahead on this,” said Montana state Senator Jennifer Fielder. As for the other 8 states? Fielder says, “the urgency is now.”
And so it begins - not ends. Should the federal government relinquish ownership of land rights to the states?