Rep. Rob Bishop told the Legislature on Thursday that he likes the “message bills” that some Utah legislators are trying to send to Washington about public lands.
The five-term congressman says those measures are needed to help Easterners realize how federal control of most Utah lands makes funding education difficult.
“I am endorsing it, I wish you well with it, I want you to keep going at it,” said Bishop, R-Utah and head of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.
Republicans in the Legislature have proposed numerous bills to wrest away control of millions of federal acres. While the bills would likely draw protracted court battles, supporters believe it could bring billions of dollars to the state.
“I really don’t care what it is, pass it,” Bishop said of such efforts. “All I need is one arrow to get over the wall and hit its mark and we are OK. So as many as you shoot, fine.”
He showed maps of how little private land exists in Utah, compared to several Eastern states. He said many Easterners say that is interesting, but do not understand that it means Utah is limited on how it can use or tax lands to raise money for schools.
He said those message bills may drive home the issue’s importance. “We are on verge of new paradigm shift,” he said.
Bishop added that many in the East think public-land issues involve only national parks “with a pretty tree by a lake” and do not understand it also includes vast rangelands where oil, gas and other resources are often tied up unnecessarily by federal rules.