Utah gears up for lands fight as deadline passes

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell poses for photographers during the Western Governor's Association meeting, in Park City, on June 28, 2013. A deadline Utah set for the federal government to hand over 31 million acres of public land quietly passed this week with no such transfer.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah legislators are voting to have consultants draft a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's control of federal lands that make up two-thirds of the state.

A Republican-dominated commission made the decision Wednesday after a consulting team said its research concludes the Constitution doesn't give the U.S. government power to control federal lands within state borders.

The consulting teams of lawyers estimate a lawsuit could cost $14 million.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, who will make a final decision on the lawsuit, didn't immediately have comment.

Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups strongly oppose the plan. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said it's a waste of time for Utah to debate taking over the land.

Utah passed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government hand over the lands by the end of 2014, but the deadline passed with no such transfer.