Bill Introduced to designate new Wilderness and Wild & Scenic Rivers (UT)
By: Nathan Fey
Washington, DC – Today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative John Curtis (UT-3) introduced the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, a historic conservation bill protecting over one million acres in Utah’s Emery County.
For the past several months, American Whitewater and our partners have worked directly with Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis, and Emery County representatives on the legislation to protect public lands in Emery County, Utah for their conservation and outdoor recreation values. Introduction of the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 is a positive step toward important protections for national public lands in the county. We greatly appreciate the collaborative approach that Sen. Hatch and Rep. Curtis have implemented in the development of this legislation and their earnest efforts to engage the outdoor recreation community. We look forward to continuing to work to identify shared conservation and recreation priorities and to working constructively toward further improvements in the bill.
“On behalf of American Whitewater’s members and partners, I want to thank Sen Hatch and Rep. Curtis for introducing legislation to protect public lands and rivers in Emery County, Utah. The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 reflects the collaborative approach taken in its development and protects nearly 1 Million acres of public lands and 98 miles of rivers in the county for their conservation and outdoor recreation values, adds Nathan Fey, Director of Colorado River Stewardship Program for American Whitewater. “Adding these segments of the Green River to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System, and creating new Wilderness Areas for the San Rafael River and Muddy Creek, protect these high-value landscapes from any water development schemes and will help ensure that these waterways can be enjoyed in the future, just as they are today. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis to identify shared conservation and recreation priorities, and toward further improvements in the bill.”
To read the bill go here.
The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 would designate nearly 530,000 acres of new Wilderness and more than 336,000 acres of National Conservation Area, as well as add 54 miles of the Green River to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System and establish a new 2,500-acre National Monument (view map). We appreciate that the bill, while releasing 14,000 acres of Wilderness Study Area, would designate roughly 100,000 acres of non-WSA lands as Wilderness. We also greatly appreciate that the bill avoids precedent-setting changes to core conservation laws protecting our public lands and safeguards public lands from sell-off by including a reversion of transferred lands back to federal management if they are no longer used as state park.
In addition, American Whitewater helped Senate and House offices to ensure the bill will:
- Establish a “non-motorized recreation” seat on the advisory council charged with establishing a management plan and creating subsequent recreation management policies;
- Include high-value segments of Muddy Creek in the Muddy Creek Wilderness Area and the San Rafael River in the Mexican Mountain and Sids Mountain Wilderness Areas;
- Prohibit new irrigation or water pumping facilities, conveyances, reservoirs, or hydropower facilities in Wilderness; and
- Prohibit federal permitting of water resource facilities in Wilderness areas;
While we greatly appreciate the bill’s protections for much of the San Rafael Swell and surrounding lands and rivers, some important river canyons are left unprotected by the legislation, including 16 miles of recommended Wild and Scenic River bordering the Uinta and Ouray Reservation. This canyon has high recreational value, and, if added to the proposal, would dramatically improve the legislation from the standpoint of outdoor recreation.
“This historic bill balances the need for access and protection, providing a lasting solution to the longstanding management issues facing Emery County,” Senator Hatch said. “It’s the product of 23 years of effort and over 3,000 meetings spent responding to the needs of stakeholders across the ideological spectrum—from environmental groups to the grazing community and everyone in between. With one bill, we are protecting more acreage than all legislative efforts from the last eight years combined.”
“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,” Congressman Curtis said. “I am excited to champion this bill that helps add new resources and economic development opportunities to Emery County, and brings together conservation organizations, motorized and non-motorized recreation, sportsmen, local officials and governments, the State of Utah, the Congressional delegation, and many others. This is truly a local solution championed by the locals closest to the land.”
We aren’t alone in thank Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis for their work on developing permanent protections for national public lands and rivers in Emery County, and for their collaborative approach toward developing these protections. American Whitewater and our partners will continue to explore final revisions and refinements, and we look forward to continued work together on our shared recreation and conservation goals.
“As the Ranking Member of Federal Lands, I am pleased to support the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018, and I commend Senator Hatch and Congressman Curtis for their community-based initiative conserving public lands for the greater good of all while supporting the funding needs of Utah schools.” US Rep. Colleen Hanubusa, Hawaii
“After decades of work on this legislation by the PLC we feel that the amazing resources in our County will be available for future generations as a result of this legislation. We are grateful that Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis and their staffs have helped with the appropriate language for this legislation”. - Rod Player, Chairman, Emery County Public Lands Council
We are pursuing congressional action to assure regulatory certainty for the outstanding natural resources in Emery County. This bill is inclusive of all stakeholders and their interests. It makes sense. It is a better way to make natural resource management decisions. We all will benefit. - Lynn Sitterud, Chairman, Emery County Commission
“We recognize that balanced, sensible, and comprehensive legislation is the best way to honor the values of a broad cross-section of public land users, local elected officials, and other interested stakeholders. We believe that the legislation you have introduced accomplishes that goal, and we are pleased to support it.” John Gilroy, Director of U.S. Public Lands, The Pew Charitable Trusts
The Conservation Alliance thanks Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis for introducing legislation that would protect public lands in Emery County, Utah for their conservation and outdoor recreation values. The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 takes an important first step toward legislating important protections for public lands in the county. We look forward to working with Senator Hatch and Representative Curtis to identify conservation and recreation goals that are not addressed in the current legislation, and to advocate for those goals through the legislative process. We appreciate the collaborative approach these members of Congress have implemented in developing this legislation. John Sterling, Executive Director, The Conservation Alliance*, on behalf of The Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance
I appreciate these efforts working with Emery County Commissioners and other leaders and stakeholders to develop the Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018. It’s an important bill and is a great example of what can happen when members of a community set aside differences and work to find solutions that will benefit the county, its residents, and the state of Utah. Governor Gary Herbert
The Access Fund appreciates the hard work and collaboration on this bill by Senator Hatch and Congressman Curtis. Over the past few months we’ve helped with several improvements to the bill related to recreation, and we look forward to working with Congress to continue to improve this proposed legislation pertaining to the management of rock climbing in Emery County. Erik Murdock, Policy Director, The Access Fund
For over two decades, Emery County, Utah has fine-tuned this broadly supported public lands legislation, which resolves longstanding questions about federal land management in the region and affords desired certainty to a broad range of local, conservationist, recreationist, and scientific stakeholders.
This bill is a model for how we can work together to solve public land management questions in some of the most unique, controversial areas of the state/country. After years of input and stakeholder engagement, this bill resolves a number of access and permitted-use issues, while establishing nearly one-million acres of permanent conservation—via a national monument, wilderness designations, and national conservation areas (NCAs).
This legislation is:
- Locally-driven by Emery County and stakeholders, including American Whitewater;
- Drafted using legislative precedent and previously passed laws, particularly the Washington County lands bill, P.L. 111-11;
- Brings an uncommon variety of stakeholders to the table, including conservation organizations, motorized recreation, non-motorized recreation, sportsmen, local officials and governments, the State of Utah, the Congressional delegation, and many more.
- Major Provisions:
- Establishes a conservation area to protect the recreational, cultural, historical, educational, natural, scenic and wildlife resources of the San Rafael Swell region;
- Establishes a Jurassic National Monument;
- Converts ~ 97% of Wilderness Study Areas into Wilderness, with a net increase of wilderness level protection of over 140,000 acres;
- Exchanges nearly 100,000 acres of SITLA land;
- Empowers Utah State Parks to manage areas in critical need of improved management surrounding Goblin Valley State Park via a Recreation & Public Purposes agreement.
Conservation by the Numbers:
- Current Wilderness Study Areas: 436,643 acres;
- Wilderness (after SITLA exchange): 577,986 acres;
- National Conservation Area (after SITLA exchange): 383,380 acres;
- Jurassic National Monument: 2,543 acres;
- Utah State Parks Expansion (by Recreation and Public Purpose): 9,350 acres;
- County Recreation and Public Purpose (4 separate): 2,852 acres.
- 54 Miles of the Green River added to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.