Alternatives to a federal land takeover explored in new research from Stegner Center

March 2, 2016 — The Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources & the Environment at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law today released a research paper titled “Alternatives to the Transfer of Public Lands Act.” The paper discusses the causes of frustration that give rise to efforts to seize control of federally managed public lands, and alternatives to state threats to sue for control of these lands.

Professors Bob Keiter and John Ruple present five challenges that give rise to the frustrations driving efforts to take over federally managed public lands, including a landscape that is badly fragmented by multiple land managers, many of whom are badly underfunded and who manage at cross purposes. The authors then present seven alternatives to demanding title to the public domain that they believe are more likely to produce lasting and tangible land management improvements. These suggestions include ways to utilize existing federal laws to harmonize a badly fragmented landscape, and to improve state and federal management cooperation. They also include examples of successful federal-state collaboration in addressing land management challenges and suggest that much can be learned from these efforts.slider_stegner1_uynffb

Today’s paper is a follow-up to three earlier papers: A Legal Analysis of the Transfer of Public Lands Movement,” “The Transfer of Public Lands Movement: Taking the ‘Public’ Out of Public Lands,” and “When Winning Means Losing: Why a State Takeover of Public Lands May Leave States Without the Minerals They Covet.” In the first of these papers Professors Keiter and Ruple concluded that Utah has no legal basis to demand title to federal public lands. In the second paper, they concluded that even if states did succeed in taking over public lands, the public would have less input into land management, and all who utilize what are now public lands would see the cost of access and use increase substantially. In their third paper, they concluded that even if states did succeed in taking over public lands, federal law would bar transfer of mineral bearing lands and leave the state without the revenue need to manage the newly acquired lands.

University Distinguished Professor of Law Bob Keiter, Director of the Stegner Center, and John Ruple, Associate Professor of Law (Research), authored the paper. According to the authors: “While we have been critical of Utah’s efforts to seize control of the public lands, we appreciate the frustration that many feel over public land management. Our paper provides concrete examples of how to address the underlying causes of these frustrations — examples that have a higher likelihood of success and which would come at a lower cost to the state. We hope this paper starts a constructive conversation about how to begin addressing public land management challenges and secure a bright future for all who care about and depend upon our public lands.”

Questions should be directed to John Ruple, at 801-581-6545 or