Whether your family moved here 100 years ago or you just moved here recently, everyone in Moab loves the land. This was absolutely clear at last week’s public hearing on the public land bill proposed by Congressman Bishop. In the midst of all this passion, some facts got left out of the story.
First, all the lands being discussed in the Bishop proposal are federal lands already. That means that they belong to all Americans. The bill that Congressman Bishop is writing will not change this. (There are other proposals dealing with possible state ownership but they are not part of this bill.)
Second, the purpose of the Bishop bill is to give citizens an opportunity to tell the federal government how we think these lands should be used in the future. Congressman Bishop is asking us what we want to do with the federal land in our county. Many of us want the land to stay the way it is, and this bill is a good way to do that.
So while everyone has an opinion, we live in a democracy and we need to make a plan that we can all live with. No person or group is going to get everything they want, but most people will get quite a bit if they take a moment to really understand how the bill could work:
Industry: The proposal recommends a consolidation of SITLA or state owned parcels. This will create a zone in Grand County that accommodates the development of oil and gas, potash and other industrial uses.
Off-Road Vehicles: The proposal could both OPEN some new roads and CLOSE some existing ones. The proposal includes designation of two areas as OHV Recreation Areas: White Wash/Dee Pass and the Utah Rims. These designations would keep open all current routes and allow for new route construction. There are about 65 miles of road closures being considered, four along the Green River and approximately 60 miles of class D roads on the eastern side of the county. In addition, there would be a seasonal closure of the Hey Joe Mine road.
Conservation: The proposal includes protection of certain sections of the county to conserve the natural landscape, protect wildlife and to protect the watershed. This includes making the wilderness study areas, designated decades ago, into wilderness, along with some additional wilderness and a small expansion of Arches National Park. All roads, except those mentioned above, will remain open and no water or grazing rights will be affected.
General Recreation: The proposal includes several recreation/conservation areas, the names of which are yet to be determined, but the purpose of these areas is to: 1) permanently protect and keep open all existing roads and trails and 2) to actively plan to meet the needs of both residents and visitors.
The bottom line is that there is room out there to meet everyone’s needs. This bill will help us figure out where we should do what, and that will benefit all of us.