Obama Ends Utah Visit without Land Grab, Targets Alaska Instead

Utah conservatives breathe a sigh of relief after Pres. Obama completes his first visit to the Beehive State without turning vast chunks of the southeastern Utah into a new national monument.

Reports The Washington Times:

Mr. Obama traveled to Utah late last week just as Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, a leading opponent of the president’s campaign to declare huge swaths of Western lands off-limits to development, is preparing to unveil a new proposal that would give the state more control over the land-use process.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, took advantage of a 30-minute motorcade ride with Mr. Obama on Thursday night to lobby the president on the state’s public lands initiative, which would give Utah a larger role in defining lands for federal protection and for oil and gas development. A spokesman for the governor said it would be “helpful” if Mr. Obama comes out in support of the proposal.

A White House spokesman said Friday he didn’t know the outcome of Mr. Obama’s discussion with the governor. In his State of the Union address in 2014, Mr. Obama vowed to use more of his authority “to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

Within hours of departing Utah on Friday, Mr. Obama thrilled environmental groups by announcing that he was finalizing plans to expand protected areas of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, calling on Congress to block about 12 million more acres of the energy-rich tract from oil and natural gas drilling.