Bishop's proposal for Utah lands undermines collaborative efforts

The Public Lands Initiative failed to protect sacred lands in Utah, including Bears Ears. 

Photo by Josh Ewing

An effort to protect public lands in Utah hit a wall recently, despite years of conversations, collaboration and input from a diverse set of people who care about our national public lands.

As we noted in a press statement in late January, Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz released a long-awaited Public Lands Initiative (PLI) for eastern Utah. Their plan was met with great opposition and very little support for what could have resolved long-standing public land disagreements while advancing conservation, recreation and economic development.

Over the past three years, The Wilderness Society and a broad set of stakeholders, including a number of county leaders, found significant areas of agreement on how to protect and better manage public land in southeastern Utah. But Rep. Bishop’s draft lands initiative takes a dramatic turn away from this collaborative approach and ignores the progress we made.

Instead, the draft legislation includes harmful language that undermines the Wilderness Act, National Conservation Lands and special management areas. The initiative would also hand over vast tracts of public land to the State of Utah, creates sweeping energy zones, and contains numerous other unacceptable provisions.

Based on many factors, the PLI has little chance of succeeding. Lands in southeastern Utah will remain at risk, including lands sacred to nearly a half dozen Native tribes. Working hand-in-hand with Tribes, county officials and those who value Utah’s amazing red rock country and the economies they support, we will continue searching for new and creative ways to protect these and other deserving public lands in Utah.


Read our full summary of the proposal, including our concerns, as well as our letter to Congressmen Bishop and Chaffetz.