Utah land grab “institute” used false data about recreation on Utah state lands

Washington state data used to represent Utah.

Occasionally land grab groups produce reports intended to show how state management of lands is superior to management of our national public lands by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, etc.

About a week ago one such group in Utah, the Sutherland Institute, issued a report that claimed their data showed Utah’s state parks were managed both more efficiently and were more popular than the national parks of the West.

They used some very odd indicators of popularity and efficiency. For example, for popularity they calculated “state park visits per acre.” They found that per acre Utah’s small and smallish state parks got more visitors per acre than most national parks. This kind of measurement makes the vast backcountry of the national parks count negatively in the measure. Instead of Yellowstone Park’s overcrowded roads, what counts to the Sutherland Institute is that the wilderness backcountry has no traffic jams, and so an inefficient use of the land. By the metric they use, crowded and tiny city parks would be the best managed recreation land of all.

Rather than argue about their methodology, however, the Center for Western Priorities looked at their raw data and found Sutherland had mixed up the recreation figures for states. For example, Oregon’s visitation data was wrongly given to New Mexico, Utah’s data went to Oregon, Washington’s data was put in the Utah column, and so on. In other words, they used totally erroneous data to create measures that would be very doubtful even with excellent data. So we have worthless study that will still probably be used to lift their claims that our national parks should be given to the states.

See the takedown by the Center for Western Priorities. “Busted: Right-wing “environmental research” group uses falsified data to justify state land grab.”



, , , ,




  1. Tom Bradley Avatar
    Tom Bradley

    Thanks Ralph – we appreciate your vigilance on this!

  2. Valerie M Avatar
    Valerie M

    We need to get this information to the Salt Lake Tribune! I appreciate you researching this phony data

  3. Nancy Avatar

    “[Utah] State Rep. Ken Ivory was paid $135,000 last year for his work as president of the American Lands Council — a group dedicated to winning state ownership of federal lands — and his wife was paid another $18,000, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

    (And as more and more cash-strapped rural counties buy into the scheme, Mr. Ivory’s rewards have also grown)

    Ivory’s salary shot up by $40,000; the state representative estimated he spends about 60 hours a week working on issues for the American Lands Council”



  4. Kyle Avatar

    Thanks for posting Ralph. Such “misrepresentation of the truth” is hardly surprising given the folks involved. Could any reputable outfit really make such a mistake? Similar people recently posted blatantly false fliers in and around the Navajo nation about Bear’s Ears.

    This pattern is all too familiar in energy policy (it’s generating millions of dollars and thousands of jobs) or regulations (it’s going to cost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs). These people will stop at nothing to push their foul plans for our public lands.

    “Studies” such as this excreted by the Sutherland are so disreputable that they undercut the entire legitimacy of the argument, rightly so, and raise fundamental questions about anything the organization might produce.

    Thanks again Ralph – we all need to maintain vigilance and push back where/whenever possible.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan