Is Bishop’s Land Initiative a “Grand Bargain” or Not?

Hurrah Pass San Juan County Utah
Hurrah Pass San Juan County Utah

The State of Utah along with several Utah Counties, citizen groups, and Congressmen Bishop, Chaffetz, and Stewart’s staff have put a lot of time and effort into the Bishop’s Land (Bill) Intuitive.   They did this with the hope of bring Utah’s public lands issues to a consensus of all stakeholders.  This was referred to as the “Grand Bargain” in an article in the Deseret News on Jan. 13, 2014.

Bishop expressed his views on the initiative:

I have observed and participated in the debate over the management of public lands for more than two decades. For the first time, I am seeing the paradigm shift toward a more reasonable, balanced use of public lands in Utah. There appears to be a growing consensus amongst county and state leaders, conservation groups, industry, non-governmental organizations, and the public, that Utah is ready to move away from the standard gridlock of the past and toward a sensible resolution.
It was reported in the Salt Lake Tribune back on October 6, 2013 that rural Utah needs this initiative to get out from under the federal governments control.  The article was referring to the government shutdown of all the national parks that took place earlier in the year.
Now is the time for rural Utah to band together to protect our lands, economies and way of life from the instability and mismanagement of Washington, D.C. Now is the time to push for greater local control, local ownership and local management of public lands in eastern Utah…………
A variety of local and state land agencies could handle greater management responsibilities. The Utah State Park System is nationally recognized for its scenic landscapes and outdoor recreation opportunities.  Just recently, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park was named the country’s seventh best “Hidden” state park by USA Today.  The Utah Grazing Improvement Program comprises top rangeland resource professionals and implements scientifically supported grazing policies on both state and federal land.  In Grand County, the Sand Flats Recreation Area is home to the world-famous Slick Rock Trail. This county-managed recreation area is open and fully operational during the government shutdown, despite the federal government’s ownership of the land.

With such a push for a Utah lands initiative has anyone stopped to think about how it will interact with the current Environmental Protection Laws that are already on the books?  These Environmental Protection Laws seem to have an affect on most environmental issues.   So will they effect the lands initiative and if so what can be done?

Let’s take a quick look take a look at three such laws.

THE ANTIQUITIES ACT

In 1996 President Clinton used the Antiquities Act to designate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument protecting 1,880,461 acres.   Right now environmentalists want President Obama to use the Antiquities Act to designate the “Greater Canyonlands” which would affect 1.8 million acres in southeastern Utah and most of San Juan County.

[SUWA] Big news coming out of Washington today!  This week, 14 senators, led by Senator Dick Durbin, sent a letter to President Obama encouraging him to use the Antiquities Act to designate Greater Canyonlands a National Monument. These senators recognize that Greater Canyonlands is a national treasure that remains unprotected.

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

The United States Fish & Wildlife (USFW) and environmental groups have used the Endangered Species Act to restrict and prohibit multi use or any use of an area.  We have seen this here in Utah with issues like the Gunnison Sage Grouse, Greater Sage Grouse, Prairie Dog, and many others.   The other day the endangered Utah Winkler Pincushion Cactus made the news.

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This week, WWP and Cottonwood Environmental Law Center sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for its failure to finalize a Recovery Plan for the Winkler Pincushion Cactus, a cute but highly imperiled native endemic to Utah. Endangered Species Act protection, such as recovery plans, work when fully applied. It’s about time the Winkler pincushion from impacts like livestock grazing in its limited habitat.

CLEAN WATER ACT

Just recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been in the news after proposing a new rule under the Clean Water Act that would give them control of all current and future water ways.

All ephemeral and intermittent streams, and the wetlands that are connected or next to them, will be subject to federal oversight under the proposed rule.

This would mean every red rock canyon, ditch, wash, gully, and drainage in Utah would be under the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers control no matter if it was on private land, government land or part of a lands initiative.

Maybe you are thinking that when the Bishop’s Land Initiative becomes law it will prevent Environmental Protection Laws from interfering with the land initiative.   Well think again!

The EPA lost a ruling by the Supreme Court which said that the EPA exceeded their authority with an expansive definition of “navigable waterways.”  Despite that the EPA proposed the above rule giving them control over of all water ways under the Clean Water Act.

After all, the EPA admits that this rule is a response to their recent losses in the Supreme Court, where the justices ruled that the EPA exceeded their authority with an expansive definition of “navigable waterways.”  If the EPA were to have their way, a dry wash in the middle of the deserts of Utah would be considered a navigable waterway.

Earlier this year the EPA made a land grab  for some Wyoming State Land which included the City of Riverton Wyoming with the intent of giving it to the Native Americans Tribe in the area.  This decision was made by the EPA not congress, or any state official in Wyoming.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s insatiable lust for power has now gone beyond being the pen and the phone for President Obama’s climate change, bypassing both the Constitution and the Congress in enacting rules and regulations that the American people and their representatives did not enact or even support.

The following few court cases demonstrate other ways environmental laws have been used throughout the nation by the government and environmental groups.

Belle Co., L.L.C., et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ecological Rights Foundation V. PG&E

Vermont Environmental Court Decisions 2013

Utah v. Environmental Protection Agency 

US Supreme Court Rules for Idaho Family Over EPA

As demonstrated above the Environmental Protection Laws seem to supersede all other laws.  It stands to reason that with such laws on the books it’s not going to matter if all the stakeholders in Utah agree on a lands initiative or not because the initiative can just be ignored by using a environmental protection law to circumvent it.

As long as the environmental laws are on the books the “Grand Bargain” will not be worth the paper it is written on.   The Bishop land initiative needs to overturn the legacy of environmental protection laws.  Without these laws being overturned rural Utah will never get out from under environmentalism and the federal governments control.

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