Utah GOP lawmakers praise public lands report

The federal government controls slightly more than 63 percent of the land in Utah. A taxpayer-funded study is underway on the economics of the state managing that land instead. Photo courtesy Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican lawmakers on a state public lands panel are praising a new report that says Utah could afford to manage about 30 million federally-controlled acres if the state somehow got control over that land.

Lawmakers on Wednesday reviewed the nearly 800-page report, which is part of Utah’s push to gain control of land in federal hands.

University economists say Utah could afford the endeavor through oil and gas leases issued on the land and if prices for those commodities remain high.

Critics say it’s unrealistic all of that will fall into place.

Utah passed a 2012 law demanding the land by 2015, but there’s no indication federal government plans to hand it over.

Lawmakers are preparing for a potential lawsuit to push the issue in court within the next year or so.

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