Bishop’s “grand bargain,” unveiled today, is an epic fail: Wilderness without protection; designated “energy zone” sacrifice areas; never-ending grazing rights; and water conservation funds banned from use on Wilderness or Conservation areas.
– By Amy Brunvand
In 2013 Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Ut-1) announced plans for what he called a “Grand Bargain for Public Lands” to bring stakeholders together in a collaborative process to help solve public land controversies in Utah. Unfortunately, the Draft Public Lands Initiative Act (PLI) unveiled on January 20 is less of a grand bargain than a public lands catastrophe that would undermine conservation and recreation and create loopholes for oil and gas development and ranching.
Among the poison pills in Bishops PLI are a new definition of “wilderness” without actual wilderness protection, designation of huge “energy zone” sacrifice areas, a guarantee that grazing rights will never be reduced regardless of drought or the condition of the range, and a ban on spending Land and Water Conservation Funds in Widerness or Conservation areas.
Bishop wants to simply hand over tens of thousands of acres of federal land for state and county pet projects and to let Utah counties build paved roads wherever they like by simply claiming an RS2477 “road” (aka “hoax highway”).
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance points out that the PLI was a sham from the start since “the congressional delegation has only sought input from rural areas representing 5% of Utah’s population and .05% (or 1/20th of 1%) of the nation’s population. The delegation never even held PLI hearings along the Wasatch Front where most of Utah’s population is located and never sought input from the nation as a whole.”
Environmental groups working make a better plan for Utah’s public lands include Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, the Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.