When I ran for Senate, I pledged to fight for rural Utahns in Washington. Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked to push back against federal overreach on issues impacting our rural counties, advocated for greater local input in public land matters, and more.
Fast, reliable and affordable internet access is an essential resource in our modern world. Many rural communities in Utah don’t have adequate access to broadband, internet, and cellular communications, putting them at an economic disadvantage. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided $65 billion to expand broadband access nationwide, which will expand upon the great work being done at the state level to expand Utah’s broadband infrastructure to underserved communities. I also helped secure $23 million through USDA’s ReConnect program to improve broadband access in the Uinta Basin.
National Parks/Tourism Economy
Robust local input is crucial in matters related to Utah’s public lands and other provisions impacting rural communities. As the fourth most visited national park in the country, Zion National Park (ZNP) is a pillar of the local tourism economy—helping support jobs and generate revenue. I led the Utah Congressional Delegation in opposing a reservation system which the National Park Service has proposed for ZNP that would restrict visitor access and have negative impacts on the local economy.
As Utah’s population increases, I support expanding recreational opportunities for residents in our most urban areas. Currently, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail provides great outdoor recreational opportunities for Utahns, but several wilderness-designated areas along the trail are hampering its full use. Along with Representative Curtis (R-UT), I introduced the Bonneville Shoreline Trail Advancement Act to adjust the boundaries of the trail to ensure that construction can be fully completed and Utahns can enjoy its wide range of recreational opportunities for years to come.
Utah’s national monuments, specifically Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, have become political footballs between administrations. The Administration missed an opportunity to work with state, local, and tribal leaders, as well as the Utah congressional delegation, to find a permanent, legislative solution for the boundaries and management of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. We will not stop making sure Utahns’ voices are heard when it comes to our public lands.
With two-thirds of Utah held as public land, one of my highest priorities is to secure greater local and state involvement in decision-making and management of public lands. I support multiple use of our public lands and will work to prevent excessive land grabs by presidents and federal bureaucrats. The Antiquities Act and the Endangered Species Act should both be reformed to require state approvals and local involvement. The State of Utah should assume management responsibility for select public lands when economically feasible, initially on a pilot basis. Visit our “Public Lands” issue page for more information.
With two-thirds of Utah held as tax-exempt public land, the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program helps to fund local services including road and bridge maintenance, law enforcement, and emergency medical, in many of Utah’s rural counties. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) program provides funding for schools and infrastructure in rural counties throughout Utah. I helped secure reauthorization of and full funding for these programs in the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Bill, and introduced legislation to reauthorize the SRS program through September 2022.
For many years, there has been a great deal of conflict about who has the right to water that flows through Utah and the Navajo Nation as part of Utah. Advancing the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act has been a priority of mine since I came to the Senate in 2019. This legislation settles a decades-long negotiation among the Navajo Nation, federal government, and the State of Utah over water rights for Utah Navajos. The bill passed in 2020 and was fully funded with the passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—helping to bring running water to the 40% of Utah’s Navajo Nation who currently lack it.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also secured $50 million for the Central Utah Project, which provides water from the Colorado River for irrigation, municipal, recreation, and industrial use. I also fought to include a provision in the same bill to improve the quality of Utah’s water systems by allocating roughly $219 million to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and to the State Drinking Water Fund.
For the last 21 years, Utah has been in a severe drought, with Lake Powell currently at dangerously low levels. The Colorado River is critical to the survival, livelihood, and recreation of Utahns, and we must do everything we can to sustain it. In an effort to find a bipartisan approach to address the West’s historic drought, I teamed up with Senator Bennet (D-CO) for a tour of the Colorado River along with Colorado and Utah community leaders. I’ve also cosponsored the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act to ensure the wide-reaching Drought Contingency Plan forged between the seven Colorado River Basin States and Indian tribes can be implemented without delay.
Wild Horse and Burro Management
In an effort to help address the current overpopulation of wild horses and burros on federal lands, I fought for additional funding for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to help remove excess horses from rangelands. The Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Bill included $101.5 million to help BLM achieve the ideal management level of wild horses and burros.
In 2020 alone, 1,547 wildfires scorched more than 300,000 acres of Utah land and cost our communities hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. As the American West gets drier, the wildfires become a more significant threat to Utah. It is essential to our state’s future that these risks be addressed, which is the reason that Senator Kelly (D-AZ), Representative Curtis (R-UT), and I introduced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act. This legislation—which became law with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—establishes a committee of federal and non-federal stakeholders responsible for studying and recommending fire protection, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands. Furthermore, the bipartisan infrastructure bill secures necessary funding for Utah’s wildfire mitigation and recovery, including $300 million to fund the Emergency Watershed Program’s needs for post-fire recovery and wildfire relief.
I’ve also teamed up with Senator Bennet (D-CO) and Representative Curtis (R-UT) to introduce the MATCH Act, which includes targeted forest management reforms and needed regulatory streamlining to dramatically improve the health and resilience of our nation’s forests and rangelands. The goal is to provide federal land management agencies immediate tools to increase the pace, scale and cost efficiency of forest management projects without sacrificing environmental protections.