Utah ranchers frustrated as ‘glamping’ replaces grazing

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Rural leaders in Utah who often chafe at how federal officials manage public lands are now also growing frustrated with state authorities who are increasing cancel grazing permits in favor of more-profitable land uses.

In one case, Garfield County passed an ordinance that would temporarily block a planned $200 million tent resort for high-end glamour camping, or “glamping,” on former grazing land, the Salt Lake Tribune reported .

The development would sit a few miles from Lake Powell, and could bring in thousands of new jobs as well as $26 million into the school lands trust, according to Kim Christy, deputy director at the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

The land previously brought in $140 a year from a grazing lease.

But for county leaders, the cancellation of that lease is part of a trend that threatens their way of life.

Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said just 3.5 percent of the land in the county is privately owned, so ranchers are dependent on grazing leases to feed their animals.

Pollock has been a leading voice in Utah’s fight to transfer federally owned public land to state hands, but he’s growing disenchanted with the state’s trust lands administration.

“SITLA has more lawyers than the federal government,” Pollock told the newspaper. “If you go up against SITLA, you are going to have some serious muscle come back on you. If something doesn’t happen, we are going to have a mess on our hands.”

But administrators say they have a responsibility to maximize revenue for education.

“With thousands of leases in nearly every county of the state, these types of disagreements over development will occur,” Christy said, “but we have made, and will continue to make, every effort to seek and implement reasonable resolutions to these types of conflicts.”

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