In a discussion of “privatization,” Brian Hawthorne suggested here that, “It might be worthwhile discussing our perceived distinctions between what Utah’s HB 148 contemplates vs the “small tract sales” made pursuant to the SNPLMA.” That would require some knowledge of what both of these things are.
This summary of Utah’s H.B. 148 is from a review by an attorney from the conservative Federalist Society.
Recent legislation passed in the State of Utah has demanded that the federal government extinguish title to certain public lands that the federal government currently holds. The State of Utah claims that the federal government made promises to it (at statehood when the federal government obtained the lands) that the federal ownership would be of limited duration and that the bulk of those lands would be timely disposed of by the federal government into private ownership or otherwise returned to the State.
On March 23, 2012, Governor Gary Herbert of the State of Utah signed into Utah law the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” (“TPLA”) also commonly referred to House Bill 148 (“H.B. 148”). This legislation demands that the federal government “extinguish” its title to an estimated more than 20 million (or by some reports even more than 30 million ) acres of federal public lands in the State of Utah by December 31, 2014. It also calls for the transfer of such acreage to the State and establishes procedures for the development of a management regime for this increased state portfolio of land holdings resulting from the transfer.
HB 148 requires, among other things, the federal government to transfer title of federal public lands in Utah to the state before January 1, 2015. These public lands include lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service.
- They include, among others, sensitive sites such as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and all national wildlife refuges in the state.
- This would also include the overwhelming majority of remarkable red rock lands surrounding Moab, the San Rafael Swell, and Grand Gulch.
- The Legislature has indicated that some of these lands would be sold outright to the highest bidder while others would be kept in state ownership but opened to oil and gas drilling, off-road vehicle use and extractive industries.
- The bill does not require the transfer of national parks, wilderness areas, or certain national monuments and national historic sites.
Here is a summary of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (from this OIG Report).
Las Vegas, one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, is landlocked by federal lands. Over the past decade, the population has increased by more than 60,000 people per year. To accommodate this rapid growth and expedite the disposal of federal land, Congress enacted SNPLMA in 1998 (Public Law 105-263, 31 USC 6901). SNPLMA allows BLM to sell federal land (about 27,000 acres) primarily through public auctions, establish a special U.S. Treasury interest-bearing account, and use the resulting receipts for educational and environmental purposes and capital improvements. In addition, SNPLMA directed BLM to transfer ownership of about 5,200 acres of land in the McCarran Airport Cooperative Management Area (CMA) to Clark County to help the County enforce regulations concerning airport noise within the CMA. BLM is entitled to 85 percent of any receipts from the sale, lease, or other conveyance of CMA lands.
I’m afraid I don’t see much similarity. The justifications are at opposite ends of the scale from a localized problem to a disagreement about overall management policies. The difference in the affected area is huge. There are benefits returning to the American public from the Las Vegas land sale proceeds. Perhaps it’s a slippery slope (next Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Missoula …?), but H.B. 148 represents the bottom of that slope.