Utah is claiming sovereignty over its land, which is about 60% owned by the federal government, and wants the federal government to return 20 million acres. Other western states are considering similar demands.
On Friday, Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a Republican, signed into law House Bill 148. It asks the federal government, which owns a majority of the land in the state, to give back more than 20 million acres. A similar measure, passed by the Arizona Senate last month, is awaiting further action in the Capitol in Phoenix. Bills patterned after Utah’s are being prepared for filing next year in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico, lawmakers involved in the effort said...Utah is also preparing lawsuits, for filing as early as next month, to reclaim thousands of sections of road that cross federal lands but that the state argues should properly be the province of the states and counties. “This is not your father’s sagebrush rebellion,” said State Representative Ken Ivory, a Republican and chief sponsor of the Utah bill, referring to the wave of antifederal protests that rippled through the West in the 1960s and ’70s. “There are very sound legal bases for doing this.”. The federal government, Mr. Ivory and other proponents said, reneged on Congressional promises going back to the 1800s, which held that Washington’s control of tens of millions of acres in the West in national forests, rangelands and parks was only temporary. That pledge, they say, was written into contractual obligations in the founding documents of many states, and was followed through in some places but not others.
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