Western Attorneys General Push Back on States Taking Public Lands

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

Rep. Scott Tipton (R).

UPDATE: The Associated Press updates its own reporting with news that Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt was the lone dissenting vote among those at the Conference of Western Attorneys General.


We noted earlier today that Democrat Gail Schwartz is reportedly demonstrating quite a surge in her race to defeat incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) in CO-3 (Western Slope, Southern Colorado, Eastern Plains). Should Schwartz end up knocking off Tipton in November, it will likely have a lot to do with the issue of public lands and whether or not they should be controlled by Federal or State governments.

Tipton may have fatally wounded his re-election chances due to a couple of highly-publicized decisions on both public lands and oil and gas development — including credible accusations that Tipton essentially ran with legislation that was nearly a word-for-word copy of a proposal drafted by industry lobbyists. Tipton has generally supported the idea of taking public lands away from the Federal government and moving control to state agencies, but a recent decision by the Conference of Western Attorneys General could significantly hamper these arguments. From the Associated Press:

A new legal analysis from a group of Western attorneys general casts doubt on many of the arguments Utah has put forward in its push to gain control of millions of acres of federal land.

The report, based on two years of work , doesn’t address every argument Utah has floated, but it points out decisions by the Supreme Court and other federal courts that could put Utah on shaky ground if it sues the U.S. government for control. The analysis was drafted by lawyers from seven Republican attorneys general, three Democrats and one independent.

It was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The Conference of Western Attorneys General, made up of the top law officers in 15 western states and three U.S. territories, voted 11-1 to approve the report at their annual meeting in Idaho this summer.

Critics say it’s one more sign that a lawsuit, which could cost up to $14 million, has little chance of succeeding.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been on the record supporting efforts to make changes to how public lands are overseen and operated, though it is unclear whether she was the sole dissenting vote from The Conference of Western Attorneys General. Regardless, this is a pretty devastating opinion for proponents of state-based public land controls that could prove a significant problem for Tipton’s re-election efforts.

One Community Comment, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    The sole dissenting vote may have been Utah's A.G. Utah has been in silly season ever since Rob Bishop took over as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in D.C. Then there is that misguided bill introduced by Utah's two US senators to open up wilderness areas for mountain biking.

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