Utah public-land issues debated over dinner


“Imagine what the West would be like if we didn't have a Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, if we didn't have a Bryce, if we didn't have a Zion, didn't have a Grand Canyon. … They make us whole as a nation," he said.

Those national parks, the country's national monuments, Shea said, do not belong just to residents of Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming or Utah but to the "citizens of the United States."

Noel countered that he by no means advocates shedding all of the public lands in Utah. But what the Obama administration has done of late has been "overkill," he said. "It is going way beyond the pale in terms of these environmental regulations."

Chris Montague, director of conservation programs for the Utah chapter of The Nature Conservancy, said such divergent views demonstrated in Tuesday's debate between Shea and Noel are reflective of the problem on a larger scale, where philosophical shifts have widespread impacts.

"It seems when one persuasion of this political battle wins election, then policy on public lands dances to that tune," Montague said. "Does that really serve the public interest, this whipsaw effect?"