SALT LAKE CITY -- Orem-based state lawmaker Rep. Keven Stratton is looking to create a new tool to aid Utah in its quest to take its land back from the federal government.
On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee moved forward Stratton's legislation, H.B. 151, to the House floor which creates a Utah Commission for the Stewardship of its Public Lands.
"The task of this commission would be to be the forum to work closely with the stakeholders on this issue," Stratton said.
The new commission would consist of eight members -- three members from the Senate, at least one from each political party, and five members from the House, also with at least one being from a separate political party than the others. The House Speaker and the Senate President would select their respective bodies membership on the commission.
The bill calls for the commission to meet at least eight times per year to discuss how Utah may be able to obtain more control of the public lands located within the state. The committee may eventually make recommendations to the Legislature of the state Attorney General on what action may be taken to do achieve that goal. It may also make recommendations to Utah's federal elected officials on what could be done to aid the state in gaining control of the lands.
Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, praised the legislation as he explained currently the state is conducting a study on what can be done for Utah to obtain the lands and then manage them. He has wondered where the report would go once it is completed and said this commission would be the perfect fit for that report.
Stratton's bill is part of a package of bills moving this session that are looking to make the case that Utah and not the federal government should control its public lands. When the state was created the enabling language that created the state called for the federal government to obtain control of the public lands but with an understanding the state would be given control over the lands in the future. The state has yet to see that control of the lands returned to it.
Utah lawmakers believe if the state was allowed to control the lands that it would be able to make major financial increases by allowing development on certain designated public land areas.