Tennessee Congressman Pushes Utah-Colorado Land Swap

Tennessee Congressman Pushes Utah-Colorado Land Swap

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Tennessee congressman is pushing a federal land swap in Utah and Colorado that would enable one of his constituents to consolidate his holdings.

The deal would trade 3,400 acres of public land in eastern Utah near the man's new log cabin for his private land in Colorado.

Bureau of Land Management officials oppose the proposal, but Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., is sponsoring the trade legislation in behalf of Bill Rodgers, a sports motivational consultant and owner of a Knoxville car dealership, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Rodgers would trade 2,800 acres of ranch land he owns in Moffat County, Colo., for 3,400 acres of land on Diamond Mountain in Utah's Daggett and Uintah counties near Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, about 25 miles northeast of Vernal.

A similar bill died in the House Resources Committee last year after BLM officials opposed it, contending federal taxpayers would be stuck with too much of the tab and not see enough benefit.

Rodgers contends his Colorado property would appraise for higher value than the Utah land and has agreed to pay any difference if the Utah acreage is worth more than the Colorado property.

He claims the public would benefit because he's arranged for the Utah Division of Wildlife to place all his land in a conservation easement to prevent future development.

"We're not trying to rip anybody off. We're trying to make it better for everyone," he said Monday in a telephone interview from Vernal, where he was to meet today with state wildlife officials to discuss the easement plans.

BLM officials do not want to lose the Utah public land, which is popular with off-roaders and hunters, and they do not want the Colorado land.

They said the Colorado land contains several small reservoirs that "will obligate the government to conduct inspections and if necessary, bring such dams into compliance with dam safety regulations."

"Both the Utah and Colorado field offices are not keen on this trade, but Mr. Rodgers has been persisting to consolidate his current Utah holding into a much larger ranch for himself," said Peter Kempenich of the BLM Field Office in Vernal.

Rodgers said he finished building a new log home last year on the Hoy Mountain Ranch he and three partners own adjacent to the Utah public land he wants to acquire.

If he gets title to the public land -- 1,600 acres are in Daggett County and 1,800 are in Uintah County -- he said he would close public access to the property for liability reasons, although ranchers could continue to graze cattle on the land.

Last year, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, co-sponsored the Rodgers land exchange measure along with Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., before it died in committee.

The new bill has no sponsors besides Duncan, although Cannon's staff said last week he is considering signing on again as a co-sponsor.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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