SALT LAKE CITY -- Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz presented a long-awaited plan for federally managed public lands which they call a compromise, though environmentalists, Utah Democrats, and some Indian tribes say the oil and gas industries get everything they want while the environment suffers.
“This is a long time in the making, but we’ve been trying to talk to as many people as possible and really listen,” said Bishop, who is Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
The Utah Public Lands Initiative, or PLI, sets aside 2.3 million acres of wilderness and 1.8 million acres of conservation areas. Wilderness is a high-level protection barring all motorized and wheeled travel, along with road building and economic development.
Conservation areas allow more mixed use, including motorized travel.
The plan would also expand Arches National Monument and Goblin Valley State Park, and it would create Utah’s first state forest in Carbon County’s Price Canyon.
“This is a true effort to bring together disparate groups,” Chaffetz said.
David Garbett, Staff Attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, says the status quo protects land and air quality better.
“I would describe this as an energy development bill, that takes wilderness protection back a step in the state of Utah and furthers the state’s land grab efforts,” Garbett said.