Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, called Monday about Sunday's column, and we had a nice talk.
He and I are enjoying the rare miracle of agreeing with each other.
I've never cared for Mike's stands on nuclear plants, federal wilderness designations, climate change or much of anything else, but we both think the Legislature is taking a chance suing the federal government to get Utah's federal land.
Our agreement ends there, but since I had my say Sunday he gets his today.
The Utah Legislature wants control of the two-thirds of Utah that is federally owned public land. Lawmakers cite a "promise" the feds made to give Utah control of that land, and claim that promise was reneged on, so we have to sue.
Utah's Constitution renounces "forever" any claim to that land, so I asked Mike what promise the lawmakers were talking about.
He said it wasn't a promise, per se, but lawmakers are noting that in 1896, when Utah became a state, the Homestead Act was still in force, federal land was being sold off all over, and Utah's should have been too.
The Utah Enabling Act, a precursor to statehood, does talk about getting proceeds from land the feds "shall" sell, but it doesn't say when the land "shall" be sold. Ever?
That's up to the feds, but Mike said "it was never anticipated that two-thirds of the land would still be in federal ownership" in 2012.
Noel supports getting the land for a variety of reasons.
I noted the federal government loses $123 million a year on grazing fees, but Noel said "20 years ago, grazing was paying for all of the costs -- it was returning money," but then the federal government brought in archeologists, geologists, environmental inspectors and what-not to manage the land.
"You've got more people that are living off the grazing revenue."
Ranchers install salt licks and watering spots and perform other necessary jobs on their own nickel. Those improvements are "very beneficial to the wildlife. The ranchers are the ones that are supporting the wildlife populations in those areas."
Noel ranches about 15 miles outside of Kanab. He enjoys the wildlife that inhabit his ranch. He insists he treasures the undeveloped open space around his home.
"I love the fact that I can go get in my car, get out on public property. What I don't like is some federal law enforcement person telling me what I can and cannot do."
Maybe he's sore because where he lives is pretty federal intensive. "If you've ever had problems with the IRS, think about living in a county that is 97 percent federally owned."
So he objects to camping restrictions, travel limits, having to build his campfire on a pan "on sand in 15 million acres of land," and so on.
"They are poor managers and poor stewards of the land. There are many people that come into these agencies that have no idea of Western values."
Utahns, he insists, have more sense.
The "Grand to Grand Ultra," a 160-mile foot race from the Grand Canyon North rim to a point south of Panguitch is a good example.
The race is named for the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase National Monument, but while it goes around Zion National Park and ends on the summit of the Pink Cliffs of the Grand Staircase, it dodges west of the actual Grand Staircase National Monument.
Why? Federal rules.
"You can't run a race in there (the monument). Does that make any sense? It doesn't make any sense at all."