WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) with Congressmen John Curtis (R-UT) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) today condemned legislation introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) that would undercut the Emery County Public Land Management Act that was agreed to as part of the Natural Resources Management Act, the public lands package signed into law earlier this year.
The Emery County Public Land Management Act was an agreement and compromise made prior to passage between conservationists, recreationists, mineral developers, ranchers, and elected officials that resolved a decades-long controversy over federal land designations in Emery County. It designates nearly one million acres in Emery County for multiple use including recreation, conservation, development, and grazing.
“The final lands package was based on a good faith agreement to bring certainty to thousands of acres of land in Emery County and ensure those lands would remain accessible to Utahns,” Senator Romney said. “The ink is barely dry on the lands package, and Senator Durbin and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) are already reneging on that agreement by pushing this land grab. Emery County would not have agreed to the lands bill if commissioners had known they would be sold out, and they will hold Senator Durbin and SUWA accountable for this action, which severely undermines the potential for future such land agreements.”
“Senator Durbin’s bill will have a chilling effect on good faith efforts to solve these difficult public land issues,” Representative Curtis said. “The bill feeds the narrative that some care more about profit from donor fundraising than preservation of the majestic landscapes of Utah they claim to care so much about. Unfortunately, Senator Durbin has refused to take a meeting with me or even get on the phone regarding this issue, proving his real intentions to raise money off of Utah wilderness as opposed to working collaboratively for the good of the land.”
“There he goes again. For over 20 years, Dick Durbin has introduced a wilderness bill to buy support of groups like SUWA,” Representative Bishop said. “It never passes because it is a nonsensical bill designed only to con money from gullible donors. Part of this bill is already law. When informed of this error, Durbin, et al., said they didn’t care. This is, again, only a propaganda bill. Utah is tired of being used for callous political purposes by eastern lawmakers who don’t know what the hell they are doing. Enough already.”
“I’m very disappointed to see Senator Durbin introduce a bill which ignores the good faith efforts of Utahns across the political spectrum,” Governor Herbert said. “The right way to create public lands policy is at the local level, where people are immediately impacted by those policies and are in the best position to develop productive compromises. That’s how the Emery County Public Lands Management Act came to fruition. Efforts by out-of-state Senators to create divisiveness and harm a good faith, common-sense collaboration by local residents are offensive and counterproductive. For those outside Utah who love our state’s beautiful lands, I welcome and encourage their help in working with, not against, state and local leaders to improve public lands management in Utah.”
“Emery County officials are disappointed, but not surprised, that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) supports legislation to designate an additional hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness in Emery County. In taking this action, SUWA blatantly disregards the good-faith collaboration by so many stakeholders who labored for years to come to an agreement regarding wilderness designation in Emery County. Unfortunately, it is characteristic of SUWA’s decision makers to thumb their nose at legislators, staffers, state and county officials and the myriad stakeholders who invested so much both professionally and personally to bring the Emery County Land Management Act (as part of the Dingell Act) to fruition,” said the Emery County Commissioners and Public Lands Council.