Ken Ivory, a Republican state representative from Utah, has been roaming the West with an alluring pitch to cattle ranchers, farmers and conservatives upset with how Washington controls the wide-open public spaces out here: This land is your land, he says, and not the federal government’s.
Ivory, a bespectacled business lawyer from suburban Salt Lake City, does not fit the profile of a sun-scoured sagebrush rebel. But he is part of a growing Republican-led movement pushing the federal government to hand over to the states millions of acres of Western public lands — as well as their rich stores of coal, timber and grazing grass.
“It’s like having your hands on the lever of a modern-day Louisiana Purchase,” said Ivory, who founded the American Lands Council and until recently was its president. The Utah-based group is funded mostly by donations from county governments but has received support from Americans for Prosperity, backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The idea, which would radically reshape the West, is one that resonates with the armed group of ranchers and anti-government activists who seized control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon more than a week ago.