This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah House members voted Friday to explore creating a state park at the popular Little Sahara sand dunes which is on federal land now overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
HB95, which passed on a 69-1 vote and now goes to the Senate, would also create Utah's first wilderness area on state-managed lands.
That would be on 9,000 acres out of the nearly 56,000 acres at Little Sahara. It would be named in honor of the late U.S. Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, who died in an ATV accident at the sand dunes.
A similar bill cleared the House in 2016 but did not reach a full-Senate vote.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said that would help show that Utah will protect pristine lands it manages at a time when outdoor retailers are considering moving their twice-annual shows out of the state to protest what it says are state moves to develop or privatize public lands.
"I think this is a responsible step to show that Utah is ready, willing and able to manage our lands," he said. "It sends a strong message that lands that are pristine should be protected."
Eliason said the bill would start a study to determine whether Little Sahara would be a good addition to the state park system, and allow negotiations with federal officials to transfer or exchange the lands.
He said the state already supplements law enforcement at the busy recreation area, and has funded construction of restrooms and a helicopter pad there.
"The state is expending money in the area, but is not receiving any money" from entry fees, he said.
Eliason added that the state may even be able to reduce the current $18 per vehicle entry fee there. He said the entry fee at the similar Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is only $8 per vehicle.