Cody Stewart the Governor's Energy Advisor spoke in the recent Division of Oil, Gas and Mining collaborative meeting. He has been working with Congressman Bishop's Office on the public lands initiative. He referred to the report that came out recently from Cong. Bishop's staff which outlines where they are to date with the initiative and those involved. He said public lands disputes have been ongoing for the past 30-40 years. His father worked in natural resources 24 years ago and the same conversations are taking place now as then.
There's been a lot of distrust between environmentalists, energy producers, state and county representatives and the general public.
Cong. Bishop wants to come together and reach some resolution. Everything won't be solved, but for the past year and a half Cong. Bishop and staff along with Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Chris Stewart's offices have been involved in 400 meetings working on the public lands initiative. There are certain areas of Utah which should be protected.
Sen. Bennett was successful with the Washington County bill, but most attempts at legislation have failed. Cong. Bishop wishes to bring some resolution to the public lands issues in Utah. He seeks collaboration, and the process is open to all. Right now he has a sense of optimism about the process he has undertaken. There will be compromise and it is a challenge. The environmentalists have a hard time compromising. The governor has a hard time compromising, so gridlock results. If you're getting involved in this process, then you will need to compromise. You will need to look and consider things in a new light. The issues can be resolved, but not by looking at things in the old way. The issue can be resolved with more dynamics, more outlooks and different avenues. "We need to expand how we're looking at it," said Stewart.
The number one action item is the 350,000 acres that SITLA wants to trade out of the WSAs. This land is not productive and the parcels are scattered. "From my perspective, let's help get SITLA lands into blocks of land for development. In the Carbon/Emery areas there are locations that SITLA would like to block up."
Stewart said he believes these are positive developments for the public lands fight. This is the legacy project and he invited all to get involved. The Eastern Utah counties have been meeting and they are unique. They are the energy producers, but also very interested in tourism, grazing and economic development.
Rep. Bishop wants to hear everyone's concerns.
Stewart was asked how what Rep. Bishop is trying to do coincides with Emery County's public land management bill. Stewart said Emery County is 9/10ths of the way there, but as a single county they would have a harder time making the land exchanges work.
With the regional approach all of SITLAs lands can be looked at to see where land exchanges will work. In Stewart's opinion he's pessimistic of Emery County passing a stand alone bill. He thinks it will pass with a more regional approach. It does slow Emery County down.
It is the hope that the bill which offers a regional approach will forestall a San Rafael monument as well as Greater Canyonlands.
Emery County commissioner James Nelson said he hopes this bill would replace any ideas for monuments in our area. Emery County would like to keep the resources it has including grazing, ATV use and roads in general.
Stewart said SUWA has been involved with Rep. Bishop's process. There are more than 100 stakeholders listed as being involved in Rep. Bishop's process.
Stewart mentioned that back in Washington they don't think the Western States can manage their lands. "We do a great job. We need to show people that. We need to demonstrate that Utah has a great conservation ethic," said Stewart. Once that's been established Washington will be more receptive to a bill coming from Utah.