Wasatch Environmental Update for August 30, 2015
By John Worlock, Member, Save Our Canyons Board of Directors
“Utah Public Lands Initiative – quo vadis?”
A few years back, Congressman Rob Bishop and two of his fellow Utah congressmen, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, launched the Utah Public Lands Initiative. For too long, they felt, the various parties interested in the optimum use of public lands have been working at cross purposes.
Let’s be clear from the outset that we are talking about federal public lands, the majority of the land within the State of Utah that is actually owned and controlled by the federal government.
Yes, there has been a lot of screaming and name-calling. Environmentalists and conservation-oriented folks have worked to keep the corporations involved in mineral and energy development from encroaching on their unique and precious outdoor spaces. They have tried to keep the motorized recreationists out of sensitive and archaeologically important areas. The focal points of their efforts have been the federal agencies, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.
Some three years ago, Rob Bishop got the idea that we might be able to divide up the territory of Utah into individual counties. Then within each county, the participants could get to know each other and come to a series of reasonable compromises. There would be some acreage set aside for conservation – even Wilderness, perhaps – and some for energy development and motorized recreation.
Please pardon us if we editorialize, but it seems to us that the authorities in some of the counties in eastern and southern Utah have begun to circle their wagons, wanting to exclude from their negotiations any voices from outside their boundaries. We suppose this attitude reflects the views of the Utah Legislature, that the federal ownership and control of their public lands is illegal. As soon as they rescue our land from federal control, they can do with it what they wish. Perhaps Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative has foundered on this rocky shore of Utah intransigence.
Meanwhile, we remind Congressmen Bishop, Chaffetz and Stewart and their senate counterparts that Mountain Accord awaits their attention. Political authorities and other voices in Salt Lake and Summit County have agreed, after long negotiations, on a plan for the future of the Central Wasatch. It is known as Mountain Accord.
Let’s use our legislative energy to make Mountain Accord a reality.