SALT LAKE CITY — A massive new public lands bill introduced Wednesday by two Utah politicians would create a new national monument, a national conservation area and hundreds of thousands of wilderness acres in central Utah.
The bill would protect the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and land north and south of the San Rafael Swell. The bill also proposes several new wilderness areas near the San Rafael Swell and northeast Emery County, and would grow Goblin Valley State Park by nearly 10,000 acres.
The bill could also transfer nearly 100,000 acres to the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, which manages parcels of state-owned lands throughout Utah as part of a trust to support institutions in the state, including public schools.
So what is a public lands bill, and what does it do?
In the U.S., cities, counties, states and the federal government all manage land referred to as public lands. Most public lands in the country are owned by the federal government. In Utah, the federal government owns approximately 64 percent of Utah.
Federally-owned land in the state is managed by agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and others.
In general, Congress must legislate the creation or acquisition of new public lands. In some cases, the president may designate new national monuments without congressional authorization if the monument is on federally-owned land.
Utah has 13 areas designated as national monuments that were created by past presidents, though President Donald Trump recently changed the designations of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument.
A public lands bill can designate federal land for specific uses, including national parks, monuments, forests, wildlife refuges, conservation areas, historic sites and more. Utah currently has five national parks and eight national monuments. Here is an explanation of the differences between national monuments and parks.
The new public lands bill in Utah, known as the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, comes after a shakeup last year when President Trump signed an executive order reducing Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.
The bill would redesignate land to create a new national monument, a national conservation area and wilderness acres, but also hand some of the land over to the state’s Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to use as it sees fit.
“This bill is a win for everybody. It balances the needs of funding for Utah’s schools and conserving some of our nation’s most pristine land and resources,” Rep. John Curtis, R-Uah, said in an emailed statement. “This is truly a local solution championed by the locals closest to the land.”
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