The Utah Republican applauded local citizens for working so hard on the public lands initiative. But he emphasized that the proposal can only succeed if all sides find common ground on still-divisive issues between now and this summer, when he plans to introduce the bill in Congress.
“Most people involved understand that they cannot get everything they want,” Bishop Communications Director Melissa Subbotin told The Times-Independent. “That is the nature of compromise and the unwillingness to make any concessions is what has resulted in the decades-long gridlock of the past.”
Subbotin acknowledged that past attempts to settle decades-long public lands management conflicts have never been easy. However, Bishop has said there appears to be a growing consensus among stakeholders that Utah is ready to move beyond past squabbles and work toward a “sensible resolution.”
Subbotin said her office has seen tremendous progress in other counties that are taking part in the public lands initiative. And Grand’s elected officials are also showing more flexibility toward future management of federal lands within the county’s borders, she said.
At the start of the process, Grand County Council members stood by the county’s 1999-era wilderness plan, which identified about 218,000 acres of land as suitable for wilderness.
Subbotin noted that all three alternatives recently developed by a three-person council committee include proposals to create a national recreation area, which would range in size from nearly 118,000 acres to more than 400,000 acres.
“All three of the alternatives represent big concessions on the part of Grand County,” she said.
Utah’s congressional delegation doesn’t necessarily agree with the committee’s recommendation to leave future decisions about energy and potash development on federal lands up to the BLM.
The agency’s Canyon Country District Office is developing a Master Leasing Plan that could lead to further reviews of new oil, gas and potash leases on some BLM lands in Grand and San Juan counties.
“We think it’s duplicative and could limit future energy exploration and production,” Subbotin said.