When I ran for Senate, I pledged to fight for rural Utahns in Washington. Over the last several months, 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.
Many rural communities in Utah don’t have adequate access to broadband, Internet and cellular communications, putting them at an economic disadvantage. I’m pushing for solutions that will enhance broadband access in rural areas, including legislation that improves broadband for rural schools and expediting fiber deployment projects. 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.
With two-thirds of Utah held as public land, it is my priority 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.
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. I’ve introduced the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act of 2019, legislation that would settle a decades-long negotiation among the Navajo Nation, federal government, and the State of Utah over water rights for Utah Navajos. This legislation would provide additional water for the Navajo Nation and for the people of Utah in a way that is good for everybody, while providing needed infrastructure to the Navajo Nation for nearly half of the 5,000 citizens there that don’t have running water.
The Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Bill included a provision I advocated for to provide $20 million in funding for the Central Utah Project, which provides water from the Colorado River for irrigation, municipal, recreational, and industrial use.
For the last nineteen 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. I co-sponsored 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 BLM to help remove excess horses from rangelands. The Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Bill included $101.5 million in funding to help BLM achieve the ideal management level of wild horses and burros.
Working with Senator Bennet (D-CO) and Representative John Curtis, I introduced 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. In the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Bill, I supported $175 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, which will improve wildfire management and prevention in local communities, and an additional $2.25 billion for wildfire suppression activities.