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Fifth Annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference

A Healthier Rural West: Critical Issues…Innovative Solutions

Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 23-25, 2017

Panel 4: What’s the Public in Public Lands?

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Public lands are a brooding, ever-present omen in the West. Their historic origin goes back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s fascination with the recent French development of precisely measuring land by metes and bounds instead of tree stumps and wandering streams. With their creation of the Cadastral Survey they and other subsequent political leaders began to carve out boundary lines, first for states, then counties, cities and towns. Vast areas, particularly in the West, were left unclaimed, and thus became public lands. Now, in the 21st century, some states like Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming have half of their landmass owned and managed by the federal government. Throughout the 20th century, sagebrush rebels rallied state's rights advocates to call for returning federal public lands to the states. But after two centuries of federal public support of these lands, is it fair to return them wholesale to the states they lie in?

Held March 24, 2017 at the School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, NM


Speakers Click name to cue video

  •   Moderator: Patrick Shea, Presentationcue video bio  
  •   Anthony Rampton, Utah Attorney General’s Office, Public Lands Section cue video bio  
  •   Jenna Whitlock, Retired, Bureau of Land Management cue video bio  
  •   John Freemuth, Boise State University cue video bio  

Panel Recap

The federal government owns 28 percent of U.S. land. Utah Assistant Attorney General Anthony Rampton said the major reason for disagreements between rural citizens and government officials regarding public lands is that debates are driven by ideology and not solving problems. The panel recommended improved communication between government agencies and citizens.

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Panel 3: Housing


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« A Healthier Rural Westerner

Health Equity »



Rural West Conference Volume

Bridging the Distance

Common Issues of the Rural West

Edited by David B. Danbom
Foreword by David M. Kennedy

Published in cooperation with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University
The University of Utah Press has published Bridging the Distance, a book by the Rural West Initiative of the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Edited by the distinguished historian David B. Danbom and with a foreword by Center co-founding director David M. Kennedy, the book explores the Rural West across four dimensions: Community, Land, Economics – and defining the Rural West itself. The book is the result of work presented at the first Conference on the Rural West, which took place in Ogden, Utah, in October 2012.