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Watkins bill 'condemns' federal order on Utah wild lands policy

Sun Advocate reporter

Rep. Christine Watkins wants fellow legislators and the governor to pass a strongly-worded resolution opposing the Interior Department's pre-Christmas decision on Utah wild lands management. The resolution also urges the department to keep open the process of involving local governments in land use policy making.

The Price Democrat introduced HCR 14, which "condemns the closed process used in issuing Secretarial Order Number 3310."

That order by Secretary Ken Salazar essentially declared that wilderness study areas will be managed as if they were already wilderness. The order, issued by Salazar on Dec. 22, took the governor and other state and county officials by surprise.

Those who oppose the order have said it amounts to a land grab by the Interior Department because it locks up land that hasn't been designated wilderness by Congress.

The resolution notes the success of the Washington County Land Act passed by Congress in 2009. As part of Public Law 111-11, the Land Act designated areas for wilderness and other conservation uses, releasing the rest for future development. The negotiations for that legislation involved many interests "to resolve conflicts and reduce uncertainty in the management of public lands."

Now that San Juan, Emery, Beaver and Piute counties are already involved in complex land use discussions of their own, the resolution urges that these discussions continue with the Interior Department to allow economic development while protecting "appropriate public lands."

The bill moved to the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Committee on Tuesday.

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