You are on page 1of 5

American Lands Council 2013 Questionnaire Attorney General Candidates Transfer of Public Lands Responses by Sean Reyes

Q1: How do you as a candidate propose to aid in solving some of the major economic problems we face as a State? For example:
Utah is $2.6 billion below average in per-pupil funding for education (source); and Nearly 40% of Utahs total state revenue the single largest line item of Utahs revenue comes from a federal government that is fiscally dysfunctional (source and source);

Let me say as a preamble that I think this public lands debate gets unfairly framed (in favor of those advocating federal control) as a zero sum game; to wit, that if the State of Utah should somehow gain control over public lands and its own destiny, that its citizens are too myopic to care about preservation in the least and would rape and pillage the natural treasures of our State. I reject that notion and think there can absolutely be a balance under State control of preservation, conservation, cultivation, recreation AND economic development such that we can fairly generate revenue for education and economic sustainability and still honor a stewardship to protecting this land we love to call home. In other words, we can satisfy twin aims without being dictated to by the Federal Government. Under state control, I would welcome partnerships with the federal government and county governments to achieve the twin goals, with the key distinction that the State would have the ultimate decision-making power, if not in all cases, at least over much more than it has currently. I also believe we can close the education gap with taxing and use of the public lands as they were intended at Statehood.

Q2: Were you aware that there are trillions of dollars of economic resources in Utah locked up in federally controlled lands that could be the solution to our economic challenges? For
example: There is more than $150 trillion in mineral values (source); and


Yes.

More recoverable oil in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming than the rest of the world combined (source) locked up in the federally controlled lands.

Q3: Were you aware that the federal government promised, as part of our agreement of statehood (our Enabling Act), to transfer title to the public lands in Utah but never did?
(source).
Yes.

Q4: Were you aware that the statehood promises to transfer title to the public lands are the same for all newly created states both east and west of Colorado?
(Links: UT v. ND Enabling Act, Examples of other Eastern States Enabling Acts)
Yes. See my Answer below.

Q5: Despite the fact that statehood promises to transfer title to the public lands are the same, the federal government still controls nearly 70% of the lands in Utah, and more than 50% of the lands in the western states, but less than 5% of the lands on average in states east of Colorado. (Links: Federalist Society Legal Analysis, Executive of Legal Analysis).

Do you think this is legally justified? Please explain why or why not? Also, please explain what is the difference in the federal governments disposal of the public lands for states east and west of Colorado?
No. I dont think it is fair. Clearly the Founders of our Republic did not intend to create a feudal system wherein the federal government so predominates control over states. That was clear also to the founders of our State, who in the Utah Enabling Act (EA), expected lands to revert as they had with other states in a short time. The policy of the federal government at that time and for many years thereafter was that public lands were intended for disposition to private interests and private owners. A legal analysis under contract terms and the general principle of giving effect to all provisions therein lends legal credibility to the interpretation that the State Founders expected that the federal government shall dispose of the public lands and that the state should benefit therefrom. It is clear from reading Sections 3 and 9 of the EA in context together, that the State was relying as consideration for the bargain (Statehood), on a cut of proceeds from disposition. The notion that the federal government need not dispose flies in the face of the most logical and legally defensible interpretation of the EA and the federal land policy of the time. So, both the plain reading of the text and the context of the EA lend justification to return of control to the state. As to difference, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Really, timing is everything in many cases. So it was here. The federal public lands policy really always favored disposition and that was the prevailing sentiment when Utah as a territory essentially made its deal with the federal government. However, sometime after statehood, the public lands policy began to change and Utah and other younger states fell on the wrong side of a more preservationist bent in policy. But for the efforts of Senator Benton of Missouri, many more states would be in Utahs predicament. With the exception of a couple states that really pushed the issue, there became less and less political will to return lands to state control from the federal governments side. This lasted all the way into the mid-20th Century, when more and more local interests tired of federal control and interference into ranching and other uses local interests better understood the rich economic stakes at play over control of public lands. This, of course, culminated in the unrest

years of the 60s and 70s and eventually to FLPMA, which became a huge hindrance to state claims on public lands.

Q6: States like IL, IN, MO, AR, LA, AL, MS, and FL were as much as 90% federally controlled land for decades. Their statehood enabling act promises to transfer title to the public lands are in most cases the same as Utahs, yet they succeeded in compelling Congress to transfer title to their lands and today have less than 5% public lands! (Links: : U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton (D-Mo), Missouri Resolution, Congressional Public Lands Committee Report).

Is there a reason why the federal government should not have to honor the same statehood promise to transfer title to our public lands that it already kept with Hawaii and all states east of Colorado? What does Utah need to do to make the federal government transfer title to our public lands like it already did with states like HI, IL, MO, LA, AL, AR, etc.? Please
be specific. I believe Congress should honor the promise to return lands to Utah control for the benefit of the citizens of the State while still maintaining access, recreation, cultivation and preservation of certain areas under state control for all citizens of the Union to enjoy. I know I dont have all the answers and I dont know if I even have the right answers but I do believe it will take a strong and mounting coalition of interests to finally wake up Congress and our sister states East of Colorado to the plight of our situation. I think a lawsuit, in support of HB 148, may be an effective tool to educate and win certain points but my long term view is that there will need to be a legislative solution in Congress to ultimately accomplish the goal of more state control. Q7: Five States have already passed legislation following Utahs lead on the Transfer of Public Lands Act (HB148 2012) Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming (summary). Earlier in 2013, South Carolina passed a Resolution supporting the transfer of public lands to western states. This matter is now being raised in meetings of national organizations like Heritage Foundation, State Policy Network, Council of State Governments, State Budget Solutions, National Farm Bureau, National Association of Counties, etc., and in various national publications (Some examples here, here, and here).

Please explain why you have (i) the courage it will take defy the status quo and (ii) the ability to educate and build the coalitions it will take to persuade Congress that transferring the public lands is in the national interest, and Please explain what other states, groups, or individuals you would be able to rally to support the transfer of public lands effort?
I have the courage to support these issues because I believe they are inherently right. I also have the judgment, borne out of good legal training, giant cases against the federal government and, hopefully, the knowledge, wisdom and resources of lawyers in the office, counties and other states to know when and how best to put is in a situation to win. I have sat down with knowledgeable individuals in this area like Commissioner Bill Redd and Representative Ken Ivory to discuss these challenges before us. I have spoken to the Governors previous counsel about legal pathways to build a case for this effort. I have reached out and studied white papers and

documents from Tenth Amendment think tanks and other scholars on the subject. Whatever we do has to be well funded, well organized, well positioned, well executed and professional at every level. We owe that to our state. My priority as AG would be to rebuild an office to the point that we would have a realistic chance for success. I cant put a timetable on that process currently but it would not hinder me from starting to put into place pieces in support of these issues. For example, we would continue to push forward with RS 2477 cases. We may also pick some favorable fact situations to bring suit or negotiate state control or easements (for example where federal lands block access to SITLA lands specifically dedicated to Utah education). These situations prevent reasonable development of SITLA lands and underscore the problems with such widespread federal control. I have been a coalition builder my entire life. I have rallied disparate groups to a common goal building on common ground and finding ways where possible to have all participants come away with value (or a win). I have done it on a statewide basis and a national basis. We will need to do so with this effort. Reaching out to educate the private sector and business community will be an area where I am strong. I also have a lot of allies and supporters in rural areas that will be critical to this effort. Outside of the state, I have met with various organizations and think tanks and will commit to be a voice for this issue among the NAAG (National Association of Attorneys General) and RAGA (Republican Attorney Generals Association) and will reach out to other organizations like the Heritage Foundation, National Association of Counties and League of Towns and Cities to try to maximize collective resources. As stated before, I have studied this issue, researched it, reached out and had discourse with others on the other side of the issue to try and educate them. I have been vocally supportive of the legislature in passing and of the Governor in his signing of HB 148 despite tremendous media pressure against the bill. We were at the signing hoping it would act as a rallying point for similarly situated states. Many other states, but not all, have followed the lead of our Governor and our state and I am committed to that vision.

Q8: How specifically can I (we) help you secure the transfer of our public lands to our state? Explain.
Please sit down with me right away should I be fortunate enough to be called upon to serve. As I have with others in the past, I want to hear the best ideas from those most impacted by the states inability to tax or use lands that could benefit all of our children and citizens. This will take a collective effort to educate and then assert our rights as a State regarding Public lands and I suspect it will be a long process. It will take courage and wisdom. We will need to pool resourcescounty and state, public and private to do things properly, transparently and soundly. The AGs office has limited funds and will be going through organizational changes to streamline and shrink government during my time in the office. I dont think the AGs office should be a lobbying office but can shine a light on this vital issue with the lense of the legal issues and implications.

Q9: If elected to this office, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, what priority will you give to compelling Congress to honor the same statehood promise to transfer title to our public lands to Utah? _______
I would say a 8+ or 9 because my number one focus is restoring the office, its reputation, its personnel, its training and resources to be a top flight legal office top to bottom capable of taking on a priority issue like public lands. When I get the office into that kind of shape, the

number could go higher. While I am re-establishing the office, there are steps we can take like continuing to fight RS 2477 cases, fighting for easements to access SITLA lands, building coalitions with Western Attorneys General and Governors among other groups. For more information please contact the American Lands Council at 801.ALC.6622, info@AmericanLandsCouncil.org or visit the website: www.AmericanLandsCouncil.org.
The American Lands Council is a 501(c)(4) pending, non-profit organization. Members of the American Lands Council include 17 Utah counties, and dozens of other counties, state representatives, organizations, businesses, and individuals throughout Utah, other western states, and the nation. The mission of the American Lands Council is to secure and defend local control of land access, land use, and land ownership.