One of the most divisive questions facing residents of Utah is how to manage our spectacular public lands. More than two-thirds of the state's deserts and mountains are, for better or worse, controlled by the federal government.

Last year, the Utah Legislature passed a bill challenging that status and has begun efforts to negotiate or legally wrest that land away from the federal government. Proponents of state ownership say they would develop more of it to fund the state's needs, particularly education.

Utah's lands initiative has become grist for debates and the subject of national analysis. Some lawmakers say it defines what the world thinks of Utah and the people who live there.

This so-called land grab is nothing new. It's been a goal of the Sagebrush Rebellion in the last century and the more recent Tea Party movement. Some see it as nothing short of a last chance for state's rights as envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Their opposition sees it as an environmentally catastrophic threat to a unique landscape cherished by the nation and the world.

Recently, powerful opposition to state takeover of public lands emerged from a group of business owners who make an economic argument for preservation. The outdoor recreation industry warns that increased drilling, mining and real estate development will destroy the long-term and sustainable economic treasure of Utah's wildlands.

Utah's ongoing land war is being watched throughout the West and nationally. And last summer, new battle lines were drawn.

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