Whose Land is it Anyway? : A Discussion on Utah’s Public Lands

This week’s Pizza and Politics gave students the opportunity to share their thoughts on the management, usage and future of Utah’s public lands.

Public lands are lands within the public domain owned and maintained by the federal government and subject to sale. Utah ranks 2nd in terms of percentage of land owned by the federal government with close to 65 percent federally owned. Nevada ranks 1st with close to 90 percent.

Students were asked if they thought the state should have a role in running national parks or monuments. One student thought that the role of manager should fall to the entity making money off of the land. Another student felt that the federal government should remain in control of the parks due to massive costs that the states could simply not handle, however they did feel that decentralizing the day-to-day management was necessary for getting the best conservation for the areas.

The next question brought up the Antiquities Act and the powers it gives the president.

The Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906, allows for the president to establish national monuments in order to protect culturally significant and historical places and artifacts.

The act is what allowed President Clinton to declare the  Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 as well as the declaration of the Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in late 2016. Millions of acres in Southeastern Utah make up both of these moments.

Some students felt that there had been no instances of abuse regarding the President’s usage of the act to declare monuments. Others however felt that every use of the act had been an abuse because of the size of area declared. The act does specifically say that only the smallest acreage necessary to protect cultural items should be declared.

Most students agreed that in order for the best decision to be made regarding the management of lands and the declaration of national monuments there had to be better communication between local and state government and the federal government, as well as federal agencies.

To participate in the discussion, attend Pizza & Politics every Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center.

Story by
Lily Shurtleff for SUU News