Press Release Jan 20, 2016

National Parks Conservation Association views Utah Public Lands Initiative as a Missed Opportunity

Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz released their draft legislation known as the Utah Public Lands Initiative. NPCA’s goals include protecting and conserving the larger shared landscape, while allowing for recreational opportunities, appropriate development, and robust economies. Unfortunately, the current draft does not meet such objectives.

Salt Lake City, UT - Today, Representatives Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz released their draft legislation known as the Utah Public Lands Initiative. National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been a stakeholder in this process since its beginning, encouraging an open, transparent process for determining land designations. NPCA’s goal for this legislation is to protect and conserve the unique ecological value of the larger shared landscape, while allowing for a variety of recreational opportunities, appropriate development, and a robust local and state economy. NPCA finds that this current draft does not meet those objectives.

“This draft legislation is a missed opportunity to protect and preserve some of America’s greatest national parks and their surrounding conservation lands,” said David Nimkin, Senior Southwest Regional Director based in Utah. “Canyonlands National Park should be expanded to its completion, which was proposed decades ago to protect the basin and its many natural and cultural resources. Instead, this bill would subject these lands to development and foreclose their ever being added to the park.”

Initial analysis by NPCA indicates this draft legislation would:

  • Expand Arches National Park to protect the important views that so many Americans cherish when they hike to Delicate Arch. This will eliminate NPCA’s long held concern about oil and gas development on the border of the park. Unfortunately, at the same time, the proposed bill could hamper future protection around Arches by potentially limiting the Interior Department’s ability to make designations to protect natural and cultural resources.

  • Designate wilderness in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument, but through that designation, would usurp the authority of the National Park Service to fully manage their resources, such as determining appropriate levels of livestock grazing in Dinosaur National Monument. The bill would also eliminate the option of the National Park Service to purchase private inholdings from willing sellers at fair market value.

  • Nullify years of cooperative efforts between land managers and local stakeholders to establish a balance between energy development, recreation, and conservation on public lands. Of particular concern is the abolishment of Master Leasing Plans, an important tool that fosters collaborative land use decisions near national parks, including Arches, Canyonlands, Dinosaur, and Capitol Reef.

  • Designate numerous National Conservation Areas in name only. Such National Conservation Areas, many of which contain wilderness quality lands, would now be subject to limited clean air classifications and wilderness designations. Several areas would be open to oil and gas development, and travel management would take a significant step backward to a bygone era of flawed Resource Management Plans validating excessive off-road vehicle use. Further, as proposed, the management councils of select conservation areas would not adequately or equitably represent the stakeholders of the regions affected.

  • Include a shocking giveaway that substantiates hundreds maybe thousands of cowpaths, overgrown two-tracks and old mining routes as roads in seven counties. This would encourage off-road vehicle use on federal lands where it doesn’t currently happen. These controversial, permanent rights-of-way flout current laws and policies governing RS2477 claims.

“NPCA is committed to pursuing all opportunities to achieve the protection this amazing, dynamic landscape deserves and remains hopeful there will be an open, transparent process to rectifying our considerable concerns with this draft of the bill,” said Nimkin.

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National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice for our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.