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Legal Analysis Suggests Utah's Push To Take Public Land Is Shaky

A new legal analysis from a group of Western attorneys general, including those of Nevada, Arizona and Utah casts doubt on many of the arguments Utah has put forward in its push to gain control of millions of acres of federal land.

The report, based on two years of work, doesn’t address every argument Utah has floated, but it points out decisions by the Supreme Court and other federal courts that could put Utah on shaky ground if it sues the U.S. government for control. The analysis was drafted by lawyers from seven Republican attorneys general, three Democrats and one independent.

It was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

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The Conference of Western Attorneys General, made up of the top law officers in 15 western states and three U.S. territories, voted 11-1 to approve the report at its annual meeting in Idaho this summer.

Critics said it’s one more sign that a lawsuit, which could cost up to $14 million, has little chance of succeeding.

The findings align with legal experts but contrast with the opinion of a team of outside lawyers hired by Utah who concluded last year that the state has some legitimate arguments to make and recommended Utah sue. Utah lawmakers have so far agreed to pay the team up to $2 million for their work.