The State of Utah has spent decades trying to get its hands on our public lands. It has wasted millions in taxpayer money fighting lost legal battles. In 2016, the state legislature allocated more than $14 million more in this lost legal fight and it refuses to stop. Let’s hope that Congress is smart enough to realize that the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop is nothing more than another way for the state and a few stakeholders to take control of our public lands. These are not Utah’s lands. They belong to all of America. Contrary to what Bishop would have you believe, this process has been about stalling and ignoring community, county and native recommendations, priorities and concerns, and all about wresting control. All the while saying publicly that everyone is being heard and that everyone is behind the PLI.
Well, not everyone wants to sell our public lands to the highest bidder for dirty energy and a bank full of dollars. Not every eastern Utah county is in favor of the PLI. Grand County, Daggett and native tribes are not supporting it as it is written. What about the rest of the state or nation? Did they get a vote on their public lands?
The PLI is nothing but the extraction industry’s fantasy for turning eastern Utah into the next Bakken oil fields, or Alberta tar sands. The PLI ignores that for years Grand County has said over and over that it does not want to pay for any part of a highway or the maintenance on a highway through the Book Cliffs. Make no mistake about it. They have made it abundantly clear that this will be a county road. The last estimate for yearly maintenance for a highway through the Book Cliffs would cost every Grand County citizen at the very minimum about $600 per person per year. This was for a basic road with very little grade, not like a highway through Hay or East canyons, which are both very steep. So the cost would realistically be far greater. How many families of four can afford $2,400 a year or more? Bishop thinks if he calls it a National Parks Highway, people won’t see it for what it is. Would you like to share that road with hundreds of speeding tanker trucks flying down the road carrying our climate’s future and pay for it too? With our climate crisis today, we need to stay strong in our resolve to move forward out of dirty energy and continue to say no to the PLI’s hydrocarbon highway that will only benefit the industry.
I believe the PLI is also a diversionary tactic to stall the Obama administration into not designating another national monument in Utah. We can only hope that the administration will indeed step in and do so because we certainly cannot count on Utah officials to protect much of anything if there is a dollar amount attached to it.