This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
[Video: Rob Bishop's Greatest Hits, from Roll Call.]
It's rather like reading that the congressional delegation from Florida had joined the Just Say No to Orange Juice Caucus. Or that senators from Michigan were part of a lobby opposed to making cars.
According to an analysis put out the other day by the Center For American Progress, four of the six members of Congress from Utah are members of the Congressional Anti-Parks Caucus, a group with a purpose so nefarious that even its members don't know that it exists.
Which it doesn't, really, because the folks at CAP made it up.
It's a title they gave to their list of 20 members of Congress all Republicans, mostly from the West who have distinguished themselves by working to undermine Theodore Roosevelt's legacy, the National Park system, conservation funds, the Antiquities Act and the rest of a century of American efforts to protect public lands.
The caucus is led by Utah's Rep. Rob Bishop, who, from his perch as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, has been devoted to nothing so much as turning more public land over to states or private interests, even making sympathetic noises about the armed goofballs who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
Other members of the group, based on the analysis of votes for land-grabbing, road-paving and hole-digging bills, include Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, whose primary interests run more to protecting the makers of unregulated health supplements, didn't make the first team. He is one of nine that CAP calls the anti-parks supporting cast.
Notably absent from the list is the only other member of Utah's congressional delegation, Rep. Mia Love. And she is very much the exception that proves the rule.
Members of the Anti-Parks Caucus, according to the CAP analysis, share one or more of a handful of traits. Those include coming from a state or a district where the only electoral competition they face comes from the tea party right, or from a place where they have no credible competition at all.
Chaffetz, Bishop and Stewart rise from districts so thoroughly gerrymandered that they need not hew to the overwhelming public sentiment in favor of preserving public lands. Or, frankly, give a flying fig what anybody thinks.
Lee, having bushwhacked then-Sen. Bob Bennett from the right, has to be on the alert for the same thing happening to him. Hatch is in the same boat.
Only Love is in a district where it is even conceivable that she might drift too far right and suffer for it.
Her 2014 margin of victory over Democrat Doug Owens was sufficiently narrow that not only is Owens taking another run at her this year, but the national Democratic Party, and their big donors, also think it worth their while to help him.
It is a difference that along with her freshman status explains Love's absence from a list of those who stand against what Utah is quite literally made of.
She has to care, at least a little, what people think.
Bishop, of course, tried to kill the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. With Chaffetz, he has rolled out a so-called Public Lands Initiative that would, were it not for the fact that it was dead on arrival, ignore needs for preserving sensitive lands and territory sacred to Native Americans from the region. Lee and Stewart are big on attempts to pave, drill and run pipelines.
For a small state such as Utah to make up nearly a quarter of a list of anti-parks congressbeings is a dubious achievement indeed.
A more representative delegation might have enough sway in Congress to get Uncle Sam to be a better landlord. To spend more on park upkeep and security. To come across with a lot more in direct payments to make local governments whole for the revenue they miss out on because so much of the land is exempt from state and local taxes.
But these jokers are easily dismissed by the grown-ups in Washington as being enemies of their own state, and so lack the clout that our parks and public lands really need.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, thinks he appreciates Utah more because he's lived in some really ugly places.