Utah lands bill misses the mark and fails to include consensus ideas

Jul 14, 2016

Bears Ears region of Utah. 

Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
Wilderness Society opposes this bill and encourages the Obama Administration to protect Bears Ears via Antiquities Act.

The Utah Public Lands Initiative Act (PLI) introduced today by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop fails to recognize the areas of agreement reached between conservation groups, the state of Utah, counties, and other stakeholders that many places containing unsurpassed beauty, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat are deserving of permanent protection for future generations. This includes places like the Bears Ears region in San Juan County. The bill could have focused on these areas of agreement—which include lands designated for conservation and expanded economic development— to make the PLI more viable; as currently crafted, it does not.

Even if the bill were balanced and had broad agreement, three years of missed deadlines and only 34 days left for regular business in Congress have positioned the PLI bill poorly for enactment.

The following statement is from Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society:

“Throughout the Public Lands Initiative process, The Wilderness Society and other conservation organizations have participated in good faith by working with a diverse set of stakeholders, proposing solutions, and identifying substantial common ground, including by helping to forge collaborative agreements with Summit and Daggett Counties.  Unfortunately, instead of honoring and building on areas of consensus, the bill includes controversial proposals that lack broad support and would damage public lands in Utah that are prized for their scenic, cultural, recreational, scientific and wildlife values.

We remain committed to working collaboratively for permanent protection of deserving public lands in Utah, and believe there are opportunities to achieve this. However, the bill from Chairman Bishop falls far short of this goal. The PLI not only fails to provide adequate protections for deserving public lands in Utah, it also failed to include key stakeholders, including Native American Tribes.

The Bears Ears region needs urgent protection.  With ongoing looting and vandalism, we encourage President Obama to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to promptly establish the Bears Ears National Monument.”

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The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.    

Contacts:

Scott Miller, Southwest Regional Director, scott_miller@tws.org (303) 468-1961

Kate Mackay, Director – Wildlands Communications, kate_mackay@tws.org; (602) 571-2603