Salt Lake City – Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert has signed two bills authorizing the state to use eminent domain to seize some of the federal government’s most valuable land.
Supporters hope the bills, which the Republican governor signed Saturday, will trigger a flood of similar legislation throughout the West and, eventually, a Supreme Court battle that they hope to win — against long odds.
More than 60% of Utah is owned by the U.S. government, and policymakers complain that federal ownership hinders their ability to generate tax revenue and adequately fund public schools. Governments use eminent domain to take private property for public use.
Initially, the state would target three areas, including the Kaiparowits plateau in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is home to large coal reserves. Eminent domain would also be used on parcels where Interior Secretary Ken Salazar scrapped 77 oil and gas leases last year.