Okerlund Sees Opportunity for Public Lands Progress in Trump Administration

Ralph OkerlundSenate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund says he’s hopeful that many public lands issues in the West can be solved with Republican Donald Trump in the White House.

Okerlund (R-Monroe) was one of the earliest Utah supporters of Trump, declaring his backing for the eventual GOP nominee before the March caucus vote. Okerlund says Trump’s election presents a real opportunity for the West.

“We need to do something different,” he says. “This gives us an opportunity to do things we’ve been talking about for years.”

Those things could include anything from Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative to a lawsuit against to wrest control of public lands within Utah away from the federal government.

Okerlund is careful to point out he’s not part of the group pushing for taking control of public lands in Utah, but he does think it might be a good idea to allow Utah to manage those lands because the state would do a better job than the feds.

“I don’t think ownership (of federal lands) is possible, but we need to be included in that decision-making process,” says Okerlund. “We’re the ones who live in those areas; we should be allowed to manage them.”

Okerlund points to increased wildfires and conflicts with ranchers as signs of federal mismanagement.

Okerlund also says he hopes President-Elect Trump starts the conversation about public lands when he takes office, but he knows that’s probably not one of his top priorities.

“I know he’s got a list and he has to start at the top of that. But he’ll be in a position to make some very significant changes very quickly.”

Okerlund says he saw Trump’s shocking victory last week coming much earlier than everyone else did, mainly because of sentiment among his constituents.

“There was a real groundswell of support in my district. It’s a rural area and they really wanted the government to change for the better,” he said. “Now there’s a chance he can shake things up. I hope he does.”