By Julie Johansen
In an exclusive interview with ETV News on Wednesday, Senator Mitt Romney explained that he and Congressman Rob Bishop have condemned legislation by Sen. Durbin (D-IL) that betrays an agreement to designate nearly 1 million acres in Emery County for multiple use. This was part of the Natural Resources Management Act public lands package signed into law earlier this year.
“Senators in the East shouldn’t be telling people in the West what to do with our land,” Sen. Romney said. “If wilderness is so important to Senator Durbin, he doesn’t need to go all the way to Utah to designate it. Our bill would designate the 289,000 acres of national forest in Illinois as wilderness so he can save himself a trip across the country and enjoy the wilderness in his own backyard.”
Senator Romney and Congressman Bishop introduced the Shawnee Wilderness Area Designation Act of 2019 legislation on Wednesday.
“One good deed deserves another. One bad bill demands another,” Congressman Bishop said on Wednesday. “This week, Senator Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill to lock-up more than 8.2 million acres of land in Utah. Today, Utah members introduced a bill to designate 289,000 acres of wilderness in Illinois. The acreage should be larger, but only 1.1% of Illinois is federally owned compared to more than 65% in Utah. The new designation may not make sense for Illinois, but neither does Durbin’s arbitrary bill. I look forward to both of them going nowhere.”
The Emery County Public Lands Management Act was an agreement between conservationists, recreationists, mineral developers, ranchers and elected officials that resolved decades of controversy over federal land in Emery County. It designates nearly 1 million acres of land in Emery County for multiple use.
Now, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is backing away from the agreement and is behind Durbin’s call for legislation to withdraw that protection. Once again, the Red Rock Wilderness Act is rearing its head. This legislation has been presented multiple times since 1989.
Senator Romney and Congressman Bishop declare they are serious about protecting land in Utah and that they also have Congressman John Curtis’ backing.