By Ray Petersen
Since my last post, the Emery County Land Management Act was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 363 to 62. All four Representatives from Utah voted in favor of S. 47, an omnibus package of about a hundred bills, including 10 locally driven bills, including Emery County’s.
Public Lands News reported the passage: The House Feb. 26 gave final Congressional approval to a massive omnibus public lands bill (S 47, made up of over 100 bills, including the Emery County bill) by a stunning 363-to-62 vote. That follows an equally stunning Senate vote of 92-to-8 on Feb. 12.
Those large margins indicate that if President Trump chose to follow the lead of chief bill critic Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and veto S 47, Congress would have the votes to override him.
As S 47 reached the House Floor, it was pretty much a lock because both House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) not only supported the measure, but also helped draft it.
Bishop’s vote was particularly important because he is philosophically close to Sen. Lee. “This bill establishes monuments the right way and reforms LWCF to the benefit of state and local governments and sportsmen,” said Bishop. “This legislation promotes the richness of Utah’s history, empowers school children and communicates a profound respect for local decision-making. While no legislation is ever perfect, I am perfectly content voting for this pro-Utah package.”
Support for the legislation, from national, state, and local leadership:
“After 20 years of outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders, I am excited to see the hard work of the Emery County Commissioners, Emery County Public Lands Council and other local leaders be nationally recognized,” said Curtis.“This legislation will bring long-term certainty to the area through various designations and expanding Goblin Valley State Park for better management. It will also generate millions of dollars to help Utah’s school children through school trust land exchanges. It is hard work to create such broad consensus among a diverse range of interests. Emery County should be applauded for this accomplishment, and it was a privilege to take their collaborative effort and help turn it into legislation that earned the approval of Congress. I believe the final product has wins for all stakeholders and will benefit Utahns for decades into the future.”
Included in the package was Congressman Chris Stewart’s bill that will provide millions in revenue directly benefiting Utah students. A similar package was included in the Emery bill.
The Confirming State Land Grants for Education Act (H.R. 418) would allow Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to acquire certain Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
“Advocating for Utah and our public education system is one of my highest priorities in Congress. This legislation allows SITLA to further its mission to provide critical funding for Utah schools. I thank my colleagues who voted in favor of supporting Utah and our young students,” said Rep. Chris Stewart.
“The number of Utah victories in this lands package will do more for the people of Utah than Congress has delivered in a long time… There are wins for America’s sportsmen, hunters and fishermen,” Bishop said. “This bill establishes monuments the right way and reforms LWCF to the benefit of state and local governments and sportsmen. This legislation promotes the richness of Utah’s history, empowers school children and communicates a profound respect for local decision-making. While no legislation is ever perfect, I am perfectly content voting for this pro-Utah package.”
“Utah’s public lands are a national treasure and a major driving force in our economy. Public lands decisions are best when we forge a local consensus and that’s exactly what happened with this package of bills,” said Rep. Ben McAdams.
“This legislation is the culmination of years of collaboration and cooperation between Utah county commissioners and local conservation groups, ranchers, recreationists and others,” said Senator Mitt Romney. “As a result, it includes important provisions that were crafted and driven at the local level instead of by Washington bureaucrats. I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Curtis and the many local partners, especially the Emery County Commissioners, who have fought for years to advance these priorities, and I’m pleased this bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to become law.”
“As the locally-elected Commission of Emery County, we are extremely pleased to see this decades-long effort gain the approval of Congress,” commissioners shared. “This bill will create new jobs and revenue for Emery County through a school land trust exchange, expand Goblin Valley State Park for better management and give several land conveyances to Emery County for various purposes. Additionally, this legislation brings needed certainty to Emery County by establishing clearly defined land-use designations and eliminating the need for a one-size-fits-all unilateral national monument designation in the future. The final product is a clear win for all Utahns, and especially residents of Emery County. We appreciate the efforts of Representative Curtis, Senator Romney and now retired Senator Hatch, to pursue this legislation, and help make it a bill worthy of the President’s signature. While it was not always easy, their constant communication with Emery County staff, and ourselves, made this collaborative effort possible.”
“I greatly appreciate Rep. Curtis’s leadership and willingness to work with Emery County’s leaders and interests across the political spectrum to craft a compromise. It’s a great example of the good that can happen when members of a community set aside their political differences and find solutions that benefit the county, the state and all our residents,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert. “There is much to celebrate in this bill, and I am especially excited for the opportunity to generate more than $100 million for Utah’s public school children.”
“We’re very encouraged about this bill because we feel like parties went about this the right way,” said Ron Gibson, Utah Farm Bureau Federation President. “This is how the public land debate should take place. From the ground up, listening to voices from those who live here and will feel the impacts, and then having Congress debate it. This effort is encouraging because it preserves sensitive areas while allowing continued access for appropriate grazing and other multiple-use activities in others. We commend Representative Curtis and those involved in Emery County who have worked on this issue for decades.”
“SITLA appreciates the efforts of our Utah congressional delegation on the Emery County Public Land Management bill,” said Dave Ure, Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration Director. “We believe that the federal land acquired by SITLA through this exchange will bring a significant amount of revenue to the school trust over the coming years, and facilitate a tremendous amount of economic activity in the state. At the same time, trust lands located within areas that the Emery County commission, and now US Congress, believes should be protected for conservation, recreation and public enjoyment are being transferred by SITLA to the BLM for such conservation management. This is truly a win-win for all parties involved.”
“The Emery County Public Lands Management Act is an example of stakeholder driven, bipartisan legislation that balances conservation and recreation access in a way that honors Emery County as well as America’s public lands system,” said Erik Murdock, Access Fund Policy Director. “Access Fund, America’s leading climbing advocacy organization, supports the bill because it aligns with our mission to protect climbing access and conserve the environment for future generations.”