Senator Orrin Hatch recently introduced three Utah public lands bills for quick action in the United States Senate. All three bills passed in the 108th Congress, and Hatch hopes they will be reported out of the Senate Energy Committee in the near future.
Hatch's first bill would recognize Utah's pioneer heritage by giving federal designation to alternate routes used by the Mormon pioneers, the Pony Express, California and Oregon National trails.
"These trails are the highways of our history," said Hatch. "This legislation will help to preserve the stories of the early pioneers who settled in Utah and throughout the West."
Since the enactment of the National Trails System Act in 1968, public support has grown for broadening the law to include alternate routes branching off the main trails. Hatch's proposal would allow the National Park Service to update the Pony Express, the Oregon, the California, and the Mormon National Historic Trails to include variant routes taken by the early pioneers of the West. Tens of thousands of pioneers embarked on their journey from a number of different locations. These trail variations are examples of the great ingenuity and adaptability of the of the pioneers in dealing with inclement weather, lack of water, terrain, and other threats.
"These variant routes taken by the pioneers tell important stories that would otherwise slip through the cracks under a strict interpretation of the National Trail Systems Act," Hatch added.
Hatch's second bill would transfer Minersville State Park ownership to Beaver County, helping alleviate the financial burden the current owner, the State of Utah, faces in maintaining the park.
"This park now features more than $1 million worth of park facilities, and I believe the intensive, day to day management of this park can be best accomplished by local officials," Hatch said. "If "Beaver County acquires the property, it will continue to make this park an excellent recreational refuge, a superb fishery, and a great place to visit."
For more than 40 years the State of Utah managed the area known as Minersville State Park. Faced with closing the park due to budget shortfalls, the State agreed in 2002 to transfer park management to Beaver County. However, the Bureau of Land Management noted that the property itself had not been acquired through the Recreation and Public Purposes Act process, which would restrict Beaver County's park management plan. Hatch's legislation would remove those restrictions by transferring the park ownership to Beaver County.
Hatch's third bill would provide a dramatically better regulatory framework for extracting natural gas from Utah's tar sands without impacting relevant environmental laws and regulations. Historically, extracting natural gas from tar sands has required a dual application requiring both a permit for gas extraction and mineral extraction. Hatch's bill would allow a company only going after the gas to forgo the permit for mineral extraction. "My bill is a common sense approach to increasing the nation's natural gas supply," Hatch said. "Our nation's economic advisors agree that the natural gas shortage harms the economy, and this bill will open the development of Utah's abundant natural gas and oil resources without circumventing existing environmental safeguards."