U.S. Congressman Rep. Rob Bishop told the Utah Legislature Friday he hopes to be named as chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources to help protect Utah's lands for the next session of Congress.
"With a state that has 70 percent of its land under absentee landlord management from Washington, if I would be able to be that chairman, there are a lot of great things I think we could work with you on to further this issue and further what happens with the land in the state of Utah," Bishop said.
Bishop commended lawmakers for a strong stance on public lands in recent years and criticized the federal government for its lands policy.
"You've shown not only that the state of Utah cares about public lands, but the state of Utah has the ability to use those lands and protect those lands better than the federal government can do," Bishop said.
Bishop cited last year's government shutdown, saying the money the state spent to keep national parks open during the shutdown has not been returned to the state and is currently unaccounted for.
"My goal this year is to make them give it back," Bishop said. "There is no reason for them to have it. It will certainly discourage any efforts for states to help out in the future if we continue with that silly policy."
Bishop said he will introduce a bill in March that would tighten limitations on the Antiquities Act, which gives the president power to restrict use of public lands. He also said if he becomes chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, he will be in "a position in which we can start exerting some influence with the Senate back in Washington."
The congressman also complimented the state for its commitment to the military, citing the state's support of Hill Air Force Base, which is in Bishop's congressional district.
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, who will run for U.S. Congress later this year in a different district, asked Bishop what efforts he is making to better serve the military, specifically for health care coverage in VA hospitals.
Bishop said efforts up to this point are not enough, and criticized the Obama administration for cutting federal support to the military.