Utah’s governor and the state director of the Bureau of Land Management have formalized a land exchange involving 60-thousand acres in southern and eastern Utah.
The land exchange has been in the works since 2009, when then-Senator Bob Bennett and Congressman Jim Matheson worked to pass a bill authorizing the deal. But it’s taken years to finalize the details.
The agreement was signed Thursday morning as part of Governor Gary Herbert’s Outdoor Recreation Summit. The governor hopes this will lead to more agreements and better cooperation with the federal government on land issues.
“As we see these successes occurring, that ought to be a pressure relief valve for people," Herbert told KUER, "because we can see some positive outcomes taking place and some success. And our local governments here, our local farmers and ranchers, our industry people should say, ‘Hey, this is a good thing.’ Our local environmental community should say, ‘Hey, this is a great thing.”
Tim Wagner with the Sierra Club says it is great that iconic landscapes such as Corona Arch and riparian areas along the Colorado River will be protected. But he says it’s not all good news.
Wagner says, “I don’t think it was a positive movement in that it allows us, the state of Utah, to develop more extremely dirty carbon-based energy like tar sands and oil shale.”
Under the agreement, the BLM will get 25-thousand acres, mainly in San Juan and Grand Counties. The state will get 35-thousand acres suitable for energy development, mainly in Uintah County.