This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
Rep. Rob Bishop's draft Public Lands Initiative is, in his words, a compromise between conservation and development, but critics call it a giveaway to extractive industries.
In other words, it fits Bishop's MO.
The bill, which affects seven eastern Utah counties, is partly an attempt to stave off a possible Bears Ears national monument designation by President Barack Obama by purporting to protect wilderness areas, thereby making such an executive action unnecessary.
Critics say the measure expands certain protected areas that wouldn't be feasible for oil drilling or mining anyway, while opening up millions of sensitive areas to development. It also gives counties access to roads across environmentally protected areas that the counties have failed to get through the courts.
It also doesn't protect proposed wilderness areas from air pollution caused by nearby drilling.
But, to Bishop, he is greatly expanding areas for conservation and recreation, so it's a compromise.
We've heard this kind of hide-the-pea rhetoric from the Utah Republican before when he pandered to oil, gas and coal interests.
Bishop, who heads the House Natural Resources Committee, derided efforts to place the sage grouse on the endangered species list, which would restrict certain developments within the bird's Western habitat.
When the Obama administration received accolades from Western officials for not listing the sage grouse as endangered, but rather setting up criteria so the bird is protected on federal lands, Bishop still griped, calling it a cynical ploy that carried the same effect as an endangered-species listing.
During a hearing before his committee last year, Bishop confronted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, arguing that power plants in Florida should be spared from federal regulations that would slash carbon emissions that could force large-scale closures of coal plants.
His concern: The warm discharge canal from large power plants attract the manatee, which find comfort near the smokestacks, Bishop noted. So save the manatee by easing regulations on his favorite endangered species: coal, oil and gas developers.
The Utahn's sleight-of-hand rhetoric also was on display when he made the unilateral decision as chairman that a bill to extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund would not be allowed out of his committee for consideration by the full House.
The fund, which comes from rent the oil and gas businesses pay to drill on public lands, is used to protect, among other things, resources in national parks.
Bishop's decision to stop the bill, which enjoyed wide bipartisan support, from even having a vote, frees the oil and gas industry from paying into a fund that helps preserve the federal lands impacted by their work.
But his reasons weren't to appease industry, he said. The system had become untenable, and he just wanted to rework it, including using some of the money to train oil and gas workers so they can be better stewards of the land.