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Bennett introduces federal legislation to fund education, protect public lands

Last week, Sen. Bob Bennett introduced legislation seeking to consolidate state school trust and public lands, resulting in more funding for Utah's school children and increased protection of critical areas along the Colorado River corridor in Uintah and Grand counties.

Bennett introduced similar legislation in the 109th Congress, but time constraints at the end of the session prohibited passage of the bill.

Sen. Orrin Hatch cosponsored the measure last year and has signed on in 2007.

The Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act of 2007, will be referred to the United States Senate's committee on energy and natural resources for further consideration.

"This legislation will ensure the protection of critical lands along the Colorado River corridor in southeastern Utah and will help provide important funding for Utah's school children," said Bennett.

"In Utah, we treasure our children's education. A key component of our education system is the 3.5 million acres of school trust lands scattered throughout the state," he continued.

Bennett said the legislation is another chapter in the state's history of consolidating state lands for the financial well-being of the state's education system.

The senator noted that Utah's School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration manages some of the most spectacular lands in America, located along the Colorado River in southeastern Utah. He said the legislation will ensure many of the more scenic areas of southeastern Utah will be traded into federal ownership for the benefit of future generations.

"At the same time, the school children of Utah will receive mineral and development lands that are not environmentally-sensitive, and where responsible development makes sense," explained Bennett.

In a hearing held before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 24, 2006, the Department of the Interior expressed their support for the bill and said that the land exchange will resolve management issues, improve public access, and facilitate greater resource protection.

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