Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Courtesy of Shane Farver Shadows encroach on Chesler Park in Canyonlands National Park last March.
Bishop seeks grand bargain on public lands

First Published Apr 15 2013 01:02 pm • Last Updated Apr 15 2013 11:16 pm

Washington » Tired of the gridlock over how to manage federal lands, Rep. Rob Bishop is attempting to bring together all sides of the issue to find common ground to either preserve or drill.

The Utah Republican is one of Congress’ top cheerleaders for oil and gas development and a dogged critic of environmentalists — but he says it’s time to tone down the rhetoric and seize on a change at the Interior Department to get beyond the bitter feud in the public-lands debate.

At a glance

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Bishop has invited energy companies, green groups, local officials and other interested parties to submit their plans for what they want to get done and hopes to craft legislation to bring up later this year.

"There is some land that needs to be preserved and there’s nothing wrong with that," Bishop said in an interview recently. "There’s also land that needs to be developed, and there’s no reason why the two can’t coexist."

Bishop’s office has held more than 100 individual meetings with environmentalists, oil and gas officials, county leaders and other interested parties to gauge input on a grand bargain of sorts aimed at ending the back-and-forth sparring about what to do with millions of acres awaiting a designation.

"I think we know that we’re not going to agree on everything. In fact, we may not agree on many things," says Paul Spitler, director of wilderness campaigns with The Wilderness Society, who has met with Bishop about the proposed collaboration. "But there are some areas we will agree."

With the exception of a few small parcels, there hasn’t been agreement on how to divvy up federal lands in Utah since then-Sen. Bob Bennett pushed through his Washington County Lands Bill in 2009 that sought the same type of compromise solution. Similar efforts have stalled or are still in the early stages in a few other Utah counties.

About 12.7 million acres in Utah are already set aside for national parks or monuments, conservation areas, wilderness or wilderness study areas as well as wild and scenic river corridors and Forest Service roadless areas. About 4.3 million acres are currently leased for oil and gas exploration by the Bureau of Land Management, meaning about 36 percent of the state is off-limits to development while 12 percent is for oil and gas drilling, according to Bishop’s office.

Deadlock » Congress is equally deadlocked on wilderness. The past congressional session was the only one in modern times during which not a single acre in the United States was set aside. President Barack Obama, however, circumvented Congress last month to declare five new national monuments that had been awaiting designations.


story continues below
story continues below

Bishop, who heads a House subcommittee over federal lands, says he wants to widen the effort, looking regionally in Utah for potential compromises and not just county by county. His first target, he says, is eastern Utah, and he hopes to unveil legislation this summer to start the process.

Unlike Bennett’s legislation — which was tacked onto another bill in the waning hours of a congressional session — Bishop wants to run his bill through the regular process, including a full committee hearing and floor debate.

"I want to bring some conclusion to the issues we’re dealing with there," Bishop says, noting that, as a former teacher, he wants to bring more revenue in for Utah students from school trust lands and energy company royalties.

The timing is right, the congressman adds, since new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has taken office and signaled an interest in working with local officials to tackle land concerns.

"If we can do it now, while we have a new Interior secretary coming in, [and] before everyone gets too locked down in their habits or biases, I think this is an opportunity to finally get something done," Bishop says. "There’s a window of opportunity now, which if we were to wait too much longer would probably get closed."

Fresh start » Jewell, the former head of Recreational Equipment Inc., whose first full day in office was Monday, said during her Senate confirmation hearing that she is committed to public input and working with communities on issues "so that it’s not a surprise" when an action is taken.

"I think people in our states [who] are on the ground by these spectacular places or important places know that better than anybody else around the country," she said.

In his letter to various groups seeking compromise, Bishop said the history of public lands in Utah is "long on episodes of contention and conflict and short on examples of compromise and consensus."

"Much of the debate has centered on a false choice between multiple use or land conservation," Bishop wrote in the letter obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. "I reject this either-or proposition."

The prospect of a deal, or series of deals, has generated some optimism that perhaps for the first time the parties can sit down and settle some of the long-standing land disputes.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Login to the Electronic Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.