This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Utahns will finally get to see the fruits of Rep. Rob Bishop's three-year Public Lands Initiative next week in Salt Lake City.
On Wednesday morning, Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, will unveil his draft legislation affecting 18 million acres of public land in seven eastern Utah counties, according to an announcement released Friday.
The initiative has been billed as a "grand bargain" designed to resolve long-running disputes over uses of Utah's public lands. The goal is to designate landscapes for conservation and others for mineral development, in hopes of putting an end to these fights and lift much of the uncertainty that surrounds the future of Cedar Mesa, Greater Canyonlands, San Rafael Swell, Book Cliffs and other areas where scenic vistas overlap with rich mineral deposits.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, whose Utah district covers much of the land in question, and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert will be present at the event at the Capitol to help explain the bill's contents.
In a string of meetings, Bishop's staff brought dozens of stakeholders, including sportsmen, industry representatives and environmentalists, together to craft county-by-county proposals. The congressman made it clear all sides would have to give up ground in the process and that his eventual bill would be sure to contain elements that would upset some interest groups.
One of the initiative's main goals was to forestall President Barack Obama's use of the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument in Utah before he leaves office in a year. Many believe he is poised to designate one in San Juan County, where thousands of ancient American Indian sites are at risk from looting and ATV use.
Bishop had hoped to release draft legislation months ago, but the process took longer than expected. Now he has less than a year to marshal the political consensus needed to get a complex lands bill through Congress.
Seven eastern Utah counties last year submitted plans, but Bishop made no promises to incorporate these proposals verbatim into his bill.
San Juan County's proposal generated the most controversy after leaders declined to consider input from out-of-county residents, even though many nearby American Indian tribes consider public lands located in the county to be their sacred ancestral homelands. An intertribal coalition, which is proposing a 1.9-million-acre conservation area around Cedar Mesa and named for Bears Ears Buttes, cut off talks with Bishop last month, complaining that its representatives were denied a chance to participate in the process.