Utah, BLM agree to land trade

Posted at 12:29 PM, May 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 23:35:29-04

Governor Gary Herbert signed a contract Thursday in which the State of Utah agreed to a land trade with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Thursday.

"This is the proverbial win win of preserving lands that ought to be preserved and developing lands that ought to be developed through a land exchange," Herbert said.

The terms of the deal give the state 35 thousand acres of land in Uintah and Grand Counties.

The State Institutional and Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) plans to lease the land for mineral development.

"I expect tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to come from these properties over the course of time," said Kevin Carter, the director of SITLA.

In exchange for the lease-able parcels, the BLM is getting parcels of trust land including two arches near Arches National Park, Corona and Morning Glory arches.

"We're talking about some very special lands, very iconic lands," said BLM Director for Utah, Juan Palma.

The swap has been in the works for more than 4 years, since the state legislature passed legislation empowering the Governor to negotiate such a deal in 2009.

There is skepticism to the right and left of the governor, though no outright organized opposition to the deal.

On the right, representative Ken Ivory of West Jordan told Fox 13 he isn't against the deal, but he thinks the negotiations point to a larger problem.

"You can't build a strong house on a bad foundation," Ivory said, referring to the Federal control of lands in western states.

On the other side, Sierra Club land policy specialist Tim Wagner is pleased to see the BLM control sensitive lands around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, but he says the state is misguided in it's energy development policy.

"In the face of what we know is happening with climate change," Wagner said, "It's time that Utah's leaders step up to the plate and accept responsibility for this and protect future generations."