SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Governor Gary Herbert is scheduled to host the first Rocky Mountain Roundtable Friday, April 27, a meeting of western governors designed to focus on regional issues. The number one topic of the meeting is expected to be Utah’s lawsuit to acquire federal land within the state.
The issue has been heating up in recent days with the appearance of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar before the National Press Club, where he called for realistic solutions to the energy situation, including energy development in the West. He told the Salt Lake Tribune before his appearance that he thinks Utah leaders are using the suit to appease conservatives, and that the move is “political rhetoric” and is all for show during an election year.
The suit centers on legislation passed during the 2012 session demanding the federal government turn over ownership of federal land within the state by 2014.
Even Herbert concedes that the suit to acquire the lands is “a long shot” but hopes he can pull together a coalition of western governors in order to demand federal concessions. Herbert maintains federal ownership locks up federal lands that could be developed, bringing jobs and revenue. Opposition groups believe state ownership will lead to private ownership and misuse of the land, as well as making it unavailable to the public.
Governors from Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Colorado will discuss issues that affect western states, while the heads of Arizona, New Mexico and Montana are unavailable to participate. Salazar will be visiting the Beehive State in the coming weeks to announce two new gas fields bringing nearly 5,000 additional wells to eastern Utah.
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Source: KUTV News, Salt Lake Tribune, Associated Press