E&E Publishing takes an in-depth look at Jonathan Johnson’s uphill bid to unseat popular Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, focusing particularly on Johnson’s desire to transfer most of Utah’s public lands from federal to state control.
Johnson, who launched his challenge to Herbert in September, has been attacking the Republican executive from the party’s right wing, arguing the governor has been ineffective on issues like education and curtailing the state’s reliance on federal appropriations.
“We may say the same things, but he’s said the same things for eight years with very little of it getting done,” Johnson said earlier this month in a mock debate with Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis on Fox News affiliate KZNU radio. Dabakis is not seeking the governor’s office.
In his uphill bid against Herbert — the governor won his first full term in 2012 with 68 percent of the vote — Johnson has spent significant time discussing his desire to transfer much of Utah’s federal public lands to state control.
“I think it really puts Utah in a bind that we have two-thirds of our land owned by the federal government,” Johnson said in the mock debate. He went on to praise the National Park Service, adding that his criticisms are aimed at the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Over the decades that the federal government has managed these lands, the health of these lands has gotten worse, the access to these lands has gotten worse, and the productivity of these lands has gotten worse,” Johnson said. “They really manage them as if they are a museum: don’t touch, just look, don’t go in them, don’t use them.”
Johnson added: “I think we need state management of them, state ownership of them, not so that we’re selling them off and we have private ranches … but so all Utahans can enjoy them. And I think we manage them not like a museum but like a garden.”