Mead joins four other western govs in public land strategizing

Apr 27, 2012 The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and governors of four other western states were meeting Friday in Salt Lake City to find common ground on issues ranging from federal land control and energy development to immigration.

Although the governors in attendance are mostly Republican -- Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado is the only Democrat -- their political leanings are trumped by their shared regional concerns, said Utah aGov. Gary Herbert.

The other governors are governors Butch Otter of Idaho and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

"The western states need to bind together and unite their voices," Herbert said. "We have a uniqueness that other people don't understand."

The all-day gathering, which Herbert dubbed as the Rocky Mountain Roundtable, will focus on the management of public lands by the federal government.

All of the states have large swaths under federal control, whether it's national forest, national parks or acreage owned by Bureau of Land Management.

"We have a bi-partisan frustration with our public lands," Herbert said.

A Utah law signed by Herbert this year requires the federal government to relinquish its ownership of land in the state by 2014, despite warnings from legislative attorneys that the law was likely unconstitutional.

A similar bill passed the Arizona Legislature and next goes to Gov. Jan Brewer for a signature or veto.

Those legal options are important, Herbert said. But success of the western states hinges on winning the political fight in Washington, D.C.

Other issues will be brought to the table as governors see fit, Herbert said. Those could include development restrictions imposed by the Endangered Species Act, water rights and immigration enforcement.

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