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Public Lands

In Utah, there are probably no more hotly disputed issues than how to manage our public lands and water resources.  Discussions about land use in Utah have usually taken on a polarized dynamic that has led to a great amount of emotional rhetoric, and very little progress.  Throughout his career, Congressman Matheson has advocated that public land policies must be home-grown and has sought to bring all stakeholders to the table, encouraging a collaborative effort to resolve gridlock and provide a legacy for future generations. 

Lands Bills

Public lands discussions in Utah too often become simplistic, two-dimensional dialogues about an all-or-none approach to land use.  In reality, there are many stakeholders in Utah with varied perspectives who deserve to be a part of public land conversations. Congressman Matheson believes if we want to make progress, a collaborative process that includes all stakeholders must be the way we engage in discussions.

Congressman Matheson, along with then-Senator Bob Bennett followed this process when they developed and passed the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act. After five years at the table with all interested parties, their bill incorporated many important changes that help balance protection of public lands with responsible growth in Washington County. And as a result of the public review process, numerous suggestions and recommendations initiated positive outcomes in the bill. Following on the heels of the historic Vision Dixie planning process, the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act showed that a bipartisan effort – with all interested parties – could resolve long-running, contentious public land issues in a way that protects the land, the economy, and the way of life in Utah. 

Since then, Congressman Matheson showed continued commitment to a stakeholder driven process through his Wasatch Wilderness and Watershed Protection Act based on years of local input and discussion. This legislation represents the first major Wasatch Front watershed protection effort since the Utah Wilderness Act of 1984.  Specifically, it designates 26,000 acres of sensitive watershed land in the Wasatch Canyons, which provide the majority of water supplied to the communities along the Wasatch front, as protected wilderness - striking a balance between preservation of wilderness and supporting accessibility for outdoor enthusiasts. 

State and Federal Land Exchanges.

Throughout Utah, parcels of state school trust lands are scattered—in checkerboard fashion—amid federal land, complicating each agency’s management objectives.  Congressman Matheson believes this process can be simplified with a common sense approach.  He has both introduced and passed bipartisan legislation exchanging land between the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM.Congressman Matheson has advocated that Utah be permitted to exchange school trust lands for roughly the same amount of BLM acres on an equal value basis and with sharedmineral lease revenue produced from the federal lands. Areas that have been designated for exchange include portions of Westwater Canyon, the nationally-recognized Kokopelli and Slickrock trails, multiple wilderness study areas and some of the largest natural rock arches in the U.S. It is important that any legislation be fair to the taxpayers, beneficial to Utah school children, mindful of hunting and other public access opportunities and a better configuration land for managers to protect habitat, watershed and recreational values.

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