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Affordable housing on Utah’s federal lands? Lee proposes trio of bills

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Sen. Mike Lee stated the federal govt maintains its “stranglehold on the West,” a grip he desires to extinguish with a trio of public lands bills he detailed on Friday.

In an impassioned speech on the Sutherland Institute, the GOP senator in comparison these days’s generation of land keep watch over to feudal England through which the designation of “royal forests” for searching resulted within the ejection of peculiar other people from the land.

“What do you think happened to those people when their backyards were turned into playgrounds for the faraway elites?” he requested.

With just about part the land within the West — greater than 600 million acres underneath federal land control — Lee objectives to start out the eviction procedure in opposite.

He stated he plans to go away present monuments and nationwide parks intact, however desires a brand new “Homestead Act” to disencumber “ordinary land just sitting there” for different public functions, akin to reasonably priced housing, colleges, clinical clinics and analysis.

His proposal was once blasted by way of environmental critics.

“This is yet another assault on America’s natural heritage from Sen. Lee,” stated Paul Spitler, director of desert coverage with the Wilderness Society.

“The equivalent would be to just put these lands up for sale to the highest bidder.”

But Lee stated a present regulation on the books, the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, permits the internal secretary to switch federal lands to state and native governments and nonprofit teams for positive leisure and public makes use of.

It could be an excellent template for brand new law, he added.

“A new Homestead Act could expand the law to allow states, local governments and individuals to petition the government for affordable housing, or education, or health care or research,” he stated. “Utah’s housing prices continue to skyrocket, leaving affordable housing out of reach for far too many. Meanwhile, millions of acres of land sit untouched.”

He stated this type of switch for the ones functions would imply signficant alternative for the states and its citizens.

“Just imagine what opening this land up would do for young entrepreneurs, or to attract existing businesses to create new jobs. How many schools, churches, hospitals, medical research centers, innovation hubs and affordable homes could we build even on just a fraction of this land?” Lee stated.

Lee desires that to use to all Western states with heavy concentrations of federal land possession, in addition to his proposal to “take back” federal lands to go back them to the states.

“We all agree on the problem. We all know the impact federal lands have on everyday Utahns. And we all know the solution is to actually transfer these lands to the people,” he stated.


Utah’s housing costs proceed to skyrocket, leaving reasonably priced housing out of achieve for a ways too many. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of acres of land take a seat untouched.

–Sen. Mike Lee


The senator additionally desires to run law to restrict the use of the U.S. president’s authority to designate new monuments or extend present monuments within the state of Utah — modeling restrictions he says are already in position in states like Wyoming or Alaska. In this proposal, presidential use of the Antiquities Act could be prohibited except there are state and congressional resolutions that prefer the transfer.

Spitler stated Lee’s “trifecta” of proposals flies within the face of the American public’s sentiment.

“The American public overwhelmingly supports public lands. They have made abundantly clear that public lands belong in public hands. … When you look at Utah and the spectacular lands that exist there, the entire identity of the state is built around its public lands.”

Lee, who’s on the shortlist of doable nominees to switch retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, is constant together with his plans on law for the following consultation of Congress regardless of any uncertainty. President Donald Trump has stated he’ll make his select July nine.

Affordable housing on Utah's federal lands? Lee proposes trio of bills

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