Utah Could Profit by Taking Over Federal Public Lands

Grand CountySALT LAKE CITY — A study commissioned by the state and performed by economists from a trio of Utah universities says the transfer of federal lands to Utah control could be profitable and revenues would cover the costs of managing the lands. The 784-page report was mandated after the 2012 passage of the Transfer of Public Lands Act and was carried out by the University of Utah’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Utah State University and Weber State University.While conceding the transfer of 31.2 million acres of land managed by the federal government would pose a major shift in the “economic structure” of the state, the report goes on to say that the land transfer could actually be profitable for the state if oil and gas prices remain high and if Utah aggressively manages its mineral lease program. The study said the biggest infusion of money into Utah coffers would be the elimination of revenue royalty sharing with the federal government. Utah would go from getting 50 percent of the proceeds under the current mineral lease program to getting 100 percent of the proceeds.Environmentalists condemn the plan as an effort to throw open Utah’s public lands to industrial development without regard for federal environmental-protection laws. They figure the transfer would result in a sell-off of public lands.

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