Bishop, Chaffetz Unveil Public Lands Proposal

20150120 Bishop Public LandOn Wednesday morning at the Utah State Capitol, Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz unveiled their sweeping public lands bill.

Bishop said the Utah Public Lands Initiative has “something for everyone to like and something for everyone hate,” but the totality of the proposal is a net win for the state.
“This was a long time in the making,” said Bishop.
He outlined four goals behind the proposal:
  • To ensure conservation of the areas that deserve conservation
  • Make sure that there are new areas open for economic development
  • Guarantee recreation.
  • End the uncertainty surrounding the debate on public lands
Bishop emphasized the last point as the lynchpin to the whole plan.
“If we cannot have an end to the constant litigation and dogmatic battles, we cannot move forward,” he said.
Bishop pointed out the  Public Lands Initiative is one of the largest conservation bills in the history of the United States, the result of more than 1200 meetings with stakeholders and years of discussion.
Bishop did add a bit of levity, holding up a picture produced by a group opposed to the Public Lands Initiative, which shows Bishop in front of Delicate Arch with a “for sale” sign.
“I’ve read some of those blogs, and I’m amazed at my nefarious interests and motives,” he laughed. “My only complaint is they are using an old picture of me.”
The proposal covers seven counties and 18 million acres of federal land. Some of the plan’s highlights:
  • 4.3 million acres of federal land would be conserved.
  • 336,000 acres would be consolidated under SITLA to benefit Utah’s public education.
  • Expands Arches National Park by nearly 20,000 acres
  • Designates Jurassic National Monument at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry
  • Creates approximately 2.3 million acres of wilderness
On the state level, the proposal expands Goblin Valley State Park by close to 10,000 acres and forms the Price Canyon State Forest, Utah’s first state forest.
Rep. Chaffetz said he was glad the legislation provides a path to economic development. 
“This is not some message bill. It’s coming from a sincere place in our hearts. It’s an effort to bring groups together so we can stop fighting about this.”
Chaffetz also took a swipe at environmental groups who have already panned the proposal.
“Shame on those radical environmentalists who say this is DOA. We’ve gone far beyond something we thought we would ever be able to do.”
Bishop is hoping that they’ll come up with a final draft of the bill in a “matter of weeks,” but any final action depends on whether the Obama Administration is willing to play ball. Many in Utah are holding their breath, waiting for President Obama to declare unilaterally a new national monument through the Antiquities Act. 
If that happens, Bishop says that would scuttle his work.
“The President acting unilaterally does not work for Utah,” he said. ” We can do Congressionally what President Obama cannot do, and we will get more for Utah.”