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Working together for balance on public lands

Published September 14, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Casey snider, Leland j. Hogan

and kathleen sgamma

For too long, debates over the management and control of public lands have devolved into a polarized and entrenched argument between extremes that serves no one well. For that reason, we welcome Congressman Rob Bishop's recent efforts to break up this logjam, and to bring interested parties together in an effort to find common ground.

We are sportsmen, farmers, ranchers, and energy producers. Our members — like all citizens of this state — value these lands and rely on them for a variety of important uses. Public lands provide essential opportunities for recreation and tourism, forage for livestock and game, water for fish and farms and growing urban areas, as well as vital energy resources to power a growing economy.

These uses, in turn, generate jobs, sustain local economies, and preserve a quality of life for all who call Utah home.

Given the importance of these uses, we are tired of the long and drawn out war over public lands in the West and the cloud of uncertainty that war has created. Sportsmen need to know what areas will be maintained and even enhanced for fish and wildlife.

Ranchers need to know that feed, access, and water will be available for their livestock operations. Energy companies need to know where and when they can tap resources — oil, gas, coal, solar, wind, and hydropower — so they can make sound investments and provide reliable, domestic energy that we all use and need. The recent political and legal climate has served none of these interests particularly well.

The wide variety of uses sustained by our public lands and the large amount of land that remains undeveloped are a testament to the balance that can be achieved on public lands. We maintain a strong conservation ethic and a proven ability to solve tough problems — qualities that reflect our pioneer heritage. In short, we have the tools we need to strike the right balance when it comes to conservation on the one hand and wise use on the other.

Congressman Bishop is taking the right steps to do that and deserves our thanks and our support in this effort. He recently kicked off a process by which we will work with the Utah delegation in an open, collaborative, and locally driven effort, regardless of the specific interest we represent.

At his invitation, we have already started to sit down together, side by side with Utah's elected officials and rural communities, to create a broad-based conservation and development plan for these lands that can provide greater certainty and greater resource values for ourselves and for future generations

We don't know where this process will end up or even if it will prove successful, but one thing's for sure: We cannot solve these tough problems unless we roll up our sleeves and get to work.

We applaud the congressman's leadership on this issue and his efforts to bring everyone together to find a permanent solution that meets the needs of all concerned. We look forward to working with him.

Casey Snider is Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited; Leland J. Hogan is president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation; and Kathleen Sgamma is vice president of the Western Energy Alliance.