In the March 26 “View” (In defense of development) Curtis Wells presents a skewed view of history.
Utah was never part of King George’s colonies. Spain owned the land until 1821. Mexico owned the land until 1848 when the United States appropriated it following a war of expansion.
Public lands in the west became private property primarily through the Homestead Act of 1862. Homesteading ended in 1976. During that time, about two million homestead claims were filed and about 780,000 claims became private property. Despite the effort to allow ownership of private land, 60 percent of the homestead claims failed. Politics did not keep the public lands in public ownership, reality did.
There was never a mechanism to transfer public lands to the states other than the parcels given to the states at statehood. When Utah became a state, it made an agreement that it “shall not be entitled to any further or other grants of land for any purpose than as expressly provided in this act…” How can this plain statement be so boldly ignored in Utah?
The issue of local sovereignty was settled for the first time in Utah, when my ancestors and local politicians accepted amnesty, not sovereignty, in 1858. In the following decade, the bloodiest war in U.S. history further decided the issue of local sovereignty.
The United States passed the Wilderness Act in 1964. The act expresses a grand concept for the future: “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” – Even before that Congress established that the establishment of wilderness is “consistent with the purposes and provisions” of the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act.
Mr. Wells accuses someone of abusing The Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act has been challenged in the courts, but the courts have never found the act was abused.
National monuments have not resulted in economic losses. It is simply a lie to say that wilderness, parks or monuments hurt communities.
Unfortunately, the United States remains dependent on fossil fuels. We ignore the costs and damages to our air, our health and our climate from our dependence on coal and oil.
John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” Figuring out how to interact with the world is difficult.
Wayne Y. Hoskisson