Utah's veteran Republican member of the U.S. House, Rob Bishop, seems to be, as Native Americans said of government negotiators in the 19th century, talking out of both sides of his mouth.
Bishop is doing the right thing in taking up the cause of former Sen. Bob Bennett to work with opposing sides in the perennial debate over public land use in Utah. Bishop said this week he wants to tone down the rhetoric much of it his coming from proponents of fossil-fuel development and environmentalist groups to help craft a sort of grand bargain.
He has invited conservation groups, energy companies, state and local government officials and anyone else who has an interest in preserving or using public lands to submit plans to him that he would use to craft legislation.
And Bishop's staff has already held meetings with some of the same groups and individuals.
He admits that the two sides will find many issues to disagree on, but said there are some areas of agreement that can be pursued, some lands that should be protected and some where development should be allowed, even encouraged.
We hope the congressman is sincere about ending the deadlock fairly. But there are indications of Bishop's core beliefs and ideology that give us pause.
For one thing, even as he was pledging his commitment to preservation of some wilderness-quality lands, Bishop led a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Tuesday on a series of bills that would prevent a president from using the Antiquities Act to name monuments in certain states without Congress' consent, or would add other restrictions to the authority the act gives the chief executive. Representatives from Idaho, Montana and Nevada want to join Utah in the deal.
Bishop made no mention in the subcommittee hearing of the compromise negotiations he had talked about just days earlier.
Bishop has also been the point man urging Congress to sell 30 acres of federal land in the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City to facilitate SkiLink, a Canadian company's plan to expand its Canyons ski resort in Summit County to connect with Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Bishop acknowledges of the importance of local government input in the debate over public-land use outside the Wasatch Front, but in pushing congressional action for SkiLink, he has ignored Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City's efforts to involve the public in developing a local plan for the Wasatch canyons.
A certain level of trust is needed before any grand bargain can be achieved.
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