DENVER – In an American West that has a love-hate relationship with the federal government’s ownership of a checkerboard of parks, monuments, forest and desert in states from Washington to New Mexico, Utah stands out.
The state has gone well beyond any other in the region in trying to pry the federal government’s hands off land it sees as belonging to its residents.
In 2012, its Legislature passed a law demanding the federal government give 30 million acres (121,000 square kilometers) of the land it owns in Utah to the state government — a measure other Western states have balked at replicating, even deeply conservative ones like Idaho.
Earlier this year, a Utah congressman introduced a bill to sell more than 4,600 square miles (11,900 square kilometers) of Western federal land to private entities but pulled it after a backlash. And on Monday, President Donald Trump is expected to announce he’s significantly reducing the size of two national monuments in southern Utah, the first such act by a president in half a century.
“Utah’s certainly on the tip of the spear,” said state Rep. Mike Noel, who represents south-central Utah, where some residents have fought to shrink or eliminate Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since President Bill Clinton created it in 1996.
Polls have repeatedly shown Westerners cherish national monuments and other protected federal…