BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Rep. John Curtis wants to prevent Wall Street from buying Utah land

Jan 19, 2024, 3:34 PM

Snow blankets Big Cottonwood Canyon on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)...

Snow blankets Big Cottonwood Canyon on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. John Curtis has introduced a bill in the U.S. House that would prevent Natural Asset Companies from buying and controlling public lands in Utah.

In an interview with KSL NewsRadio, Curtis said these companies are investments that would be publicly traded on the stock market. This means investors with money, domestically and internationally, could invest in a company that buys up public land. Once bought, it takes away power over that land from the people, the state and the federal government.

“It takes control away from everybody. Even the federal government would lose control, everyone would lose control of what happens on these lands. There’d be nothing to stop, let’s say a foreign entity, from buying into these,” Curtis said.  “Just a lot of nefarious things that could happen here that I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Curtis also said there is a worry that these companies could eventually own rights to precious resources like water on the lands they own. That thought alone made him think about Great Salt Lake as well as Utah’s farmers and ski resorts.

However, according to a release from Curtis’ office, the rule the SEC put in place that would allow NACs to own rights to some natural resources was abruptly pulled, after strong opposition, namely from Curtis and Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks.

“The proposed creation of Natural Asset Companies is one of the greatest threats to rural communities in the history of our country,” Oaks said in a statement on the state treasurer’s website.

The New York Stock Exchange also backed out of the proposal to create NACs in the first place. So, they are not currently buying up land in Utah or anywhere else.

‘Nip this in the bud’

Curtis said his bill is meant to prevent NACs from buying Utah land before, if, and when they can do so.

“We don’t need this interference or this ability to come in and trump the other uses of this land,” Curtis said. 

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Rep. John Curtis wants to prevent Wall Street from buying Utah land