SALT LAKE CITY -- In his first remarks since a state commission voted to back a lawsuit against the federal government for control of all public lands in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert seemed reluctant to pick a court fight.
"No, I don't want to go to court," the governor said in a brief interview Friday with FOX 13. "I'm hopeful we can negotiate rational outcomes."
The Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands voted Wednesday to encourage Gov. Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to pursue a lawsuit against the federal government. A legal team hired by the commission said any lawsuit could cost as much as $14 million in taxpayer dollars.
Nearly two thirds of the state is federally-owned land. Some lawmakers, fed up with years of conflicts over roads, wildlife, ranching and energy development, have backed the lawsuit that would seek to have the land given to Utah to manage.
Speaking to FOX 13, the governor said he understood the frustration over the public lands problems.
"There clearly is some differences in what's happened in the west when it comes to public lands, as opposed to what's happened east of the Rockies," Herbert said. "All you need to do is look at a map. There's inequities there."
Still, the governor said he favored other methods of gaining control of federal lands before resorting to litigation. Herbert said he supported some public lands legislation being worked on by Utah congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz.
"I think that's a better way to do it," he said. "But certainly litigation is a part of the possibilities we have to resolve differences of opinion."
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, whose office would represent the state in court, would have the final say. His office said Friday it was in the process of reviewing the commission's recommendation and a report prepared by its legal team on possible legal grounds.