Top 5 reasons why Ken Ivory’s quest for state control of federal land is fool’s gold

Image: Steve Griffin | Salt Lake Tribune file photo

Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory is passionate about returning federal lands to state control and he has been traveling around the Western United States trying to convince local leaders to rally to his cause. But like a snake oil salesman of old, the public should be wary.  Ivory runs a nonprofit called the American Lands Council (ALC) and he claims that returning federal lands to state control will benefit each state economically and allow local governments to tackle problems like forest fire prevention in a more nimble way. However, his claims are exaggerated and demonstrably false.

The Campaign for Accountability (CFA) recently filed complaints in Montana, Utah, and Arizona because Ivory has used his position in state government and his widely disputed claims to solicit funds for ALC, more than half of which wind up in his pockets and those of his wife.  As our complaints spell out, this seems like fraud to us and we have asked the attorneys general in the three states to investigate his conduct.

In case you are unfamiliar with the issue, the federal government manages 300 million acres in the West. Similar to a movement in the 1970’s known at the “sagebrush rebellion,” Ken Ivory supporters would like state governments to get there hands on these lands.

Opponents worry that giving states full ownership of and control over these lands could result in the lands being sold off and opened up to development.

Here are the top five reasons why Ken Ivory is flat wrong on this issue and why we need to stand up and protect federal land for future generations.

  1. Ken Ivory’s proposed legislation is unconstitutional: According to the Utah Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, the policy solution Rep. Ivory promotes has “a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” 
  2. Ivory is backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): Ivory was named state legislator of the year by ALEC in 2014. Ivory’s land transfer bill went before an ALEC committee and is now listed as model legislation for other states to use — and they have with frequency.
  3. Ivory is using the ALC for his own enrichment: Rep. Ivory serves as ALC’s president while his wife, Becky, serves as communications director.  The group’s tax forms show it raised $209,177 in 2013, primarily through contributions made by county governments.  More than 50 percent of the organization’s most recent budget was spent enriching Rep. Ivory and his wife.
  4. Land transfer will not result in an economic boon for the states: In fact, according to economic analysis, Utah would “have to substantially increase energy production to cover the costs of managing the lands and to protect the revenue stream counties currently enjoy from federal royalties…”
  5. People in the west trust the federal government to administer the lands: Polls show that people living in the west would like to maintain the status quo when it comes to federally-managed land. In 2014, a bipartisan poll surveyed Montana voters and found, among other things, that 70% people do not want private development of public lands  “if it would limit the public’s enjoyment or access.”