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UT Gov. Says Public Lands Lawsuit Would Be Reckless

Gov. Gary Herbert says it would be reckless to file a longshot lawsuit now to seize control of public lands from the federal government, defending his actions against criticism from GOP challenger Jonathon Johnson.

The issue of federal lands that account for two-thirds of Utah took center stage during a debate Monday in Salt Lake City between Herbert and Johnson.

Johnson, chairman of the board at, said he would bring the lawsuit if he becomes governor. He called it a crucial issue for rural Utah and criticized Herbert for not authorizing a lawsuit that could cost as much as $14 million.

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Herbert countered that it's a complex issue and that that he has been advised him not to sue until a Republican is President.

Herbert signed a law in 2012 demanding the federal government hand over the lands to Utah by the end of 2014. When that deadline quietly passed, Utah legislators began weighing a possible lawsuit.