Imagine you’ve lived in a beautiful, spacious, ten-room home for a long time. However, from the outset you were allowed to inhabit only three of the ten rooms. As part of your lease/purchase contract, you were assured that you would eventually control the entire house. In the meantime, you are allowed to visit the other rooms, not to live there; you can't stay there or put any of your stuff there. These rooms include beautiful pieces of art and artifacts, refrigerators stocked with food, tool closets, a recreation room, and a library and computer room used by your children to do schoolwork.
A distant landlord controls your use of these rooms. He’s given you a long list of complicated and ever-changing rules and restrictions. Sometimes he returns your calls—but not often. He’s polite; he says he’ll consider your point of view. On rare occasions, he liberalizes his restrictions. More often he just randomly restricts access to the refrigerators and closets. Worst of all, your children’s access to the library and computer room is limited and uncertain. You complain that his new rules don’t make sense, put undue burdens on your family, and inhibit your children’s ability to learn and excel in school. But you’re ultimately subject to your landlord’s whim.
You’re told you can’t inhabit the other seven rooms in your house, in part, because the artifacts and tools are unique and precious. They are too precious to be entrusted to you, and that's why the landlord hasn't turned them over.
Ironically, your neighbor got the same size house, around the same time as you, under the same terms. In the beginning his family was also limited to just a few rooms, but over time, as the initial agreement indicated, the previous owner allowed the family to expand into the additional rooms and turned everything over to them. The neighbor now owns the rooms outright and has the full use of them, subject only to the promise to maintain certain treasures and artifacts as he received them.
Tired of your polite appeals being ignored and out of patience, you finally tell the landlord it’s past time for you to get access to the remaining seven rooms in your house and you plan to move into the seven rooms by the end of the year, because that was your original agreement.
Like all analogies, this one is imperfect. But I believe it captures the essence of Utah’s current fight to claim control over what should be Utah’s land. For 116 years, we’ve been reduced to only 30 percent of our land, making it tough to support our education system which relies on property tax. Federal and Native American lands, which occupy 70 percent of our state, are not taxable. For example, Wayne County has only four percent privately-owned land to help fund schools. Compare that to eastern states which have little or no public lands and highly funded schools.
It’s time for Utah to move into the rest of its house.