Romney discusses resources, export markets and immigration
By Suzanne Dean
NEPHI—Mitt Romney, former Republican nominee for president and now a candidate for U.S. Senate, said he would favor Utah taking ownership of federal lands within its borders.
But in an interview while on the campaign trail that covered many rural issues, Romney said until a land transfer happens, there should be a lot more local input in the way the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service manage public land.
“I would like to see the state get a pilot project to manage certain forests and let the Department of Interior see that we can do a better job at managing our forests than they do,” Romney said.
Romney said the influence of the “extreme environmental lobby” is reflected in the antipathy to logging in the national forests. The result is excess growth and the risk of wildfire.
An example, he said, is the Brian Head fire, “which creates huge destruction, and then we have runoff of mud, which goes into Panguitch Lake, which dirties the lake, which kills the fish. The Forest Service acts like it’s being responsible to the environment, when in fact, it’s hurting the environment by not having responsible forestry management.”
Romney said one of the main ways government could help family farmers is by opening up more export markets. That’s why, he said, he is concerned about the Trump administration’s tariff proposals.
“I’m not one who is enthusiastic about trade wars. The opponent in a trade war will try to hit back where it hurts the most. It hurts us most in agriculture.”
In his interview with the Messenger, Romney made several points about immigration. First, he said children should not be separated from their parents, even if the parents come into the country illegal.
He noted that in January, President Trump had said he favored giving legal status to people covered by DACA. Romney said he supported that position. But he said he doesn’t favor giving DACA individuals a special path to citizenship. They should be required to get in line with all other applicants for citizenship.
But viewing immigration more broadly, Romney described the U.S. immigration system as a “mess.”
“It’s a very convoluted process to become a legal resident or citizen of our country. I would like to simplify it. I would move away from the chain migration approach, which is distant relatives all getting in.
“Instead I would make it a more merit-based system where you get points, for instance, for speaking English, for having skills that are necessary for our economy, perhaps for having savings so we know you are not going to become a burden on our taxpayer.”
Romney said he would like people to be able to apply for citizenship on the Internet. There could be a site listing everyone who has applied and showing where particular applicants are on the list. Applicants could go on-line, see where they stood, and move up the list in a “very transparent way.”
Finally, Romney said that on a policy basis, excluding tariffs, he’s pleased with the actions President Trump has taken so far. But he said he would speak out if the president or other leaders said things that were an affront to American values.
“If people in leadership say things that are racists, highly divisive, or anti-woman or anti-immigrant,…I’ll point that out,” he said. “As a former nominee of my party, I feel a responsibility to speak from time to time, and I’ve done that in the past and anticipate continuing to do that…”
Romney, 71, grew up in Michigan, served an LDS mission in France and got his bachelor’s degree at BYU. He got a law degree and an MBA at the same time at Harvard.
In 1999, state leaders called him in to clean up financial and ethical problems in the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee. He directed the committee through the 2002 Winter Olympics.
He served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. He sought the Republican nomination in 2008, but lost to Sen. John McCain. He won the GOP nomination in 2012, but lost the election to Barack Obama.
In February, 2018, after Orrin Hatch announced he would retire, Romney announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.