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Bishop, Chaffetz, Stewart: Public engagement in land debate

By Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6 2013 1:58 p.m. MDT

After holding over 300 meetings in Utah and Washington, D.C., as well as countless conference calls, it has become clear that there is a need and interest for local, state, federal, tribal and non-governmental leaders to work together to establish greater certainty for land use.

Reed Saxon, AP

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Dating back to the first sessions of Congress, congressmen and senators returned to their home states to escape the blistering summer heat in our nation's capital. The House and Senate chambers, lacking modern-day cooling systems, were simply too hot and humid. The stifling temperatures and harsh conditions prompted congressmen, senators, and even the president to retreat to cooler and more temperate climates. Thus, the tradition of returning home in August was born and has endured for more than two centuries.

Today, the August district work period provides members of Congress with an opportunity to engage with communities and constituents in ways often precluded by the congressional calendar throughout the rest of the year. We are among the many members who utilize August to travel around and meet with constituents throughout the entire district. Public collaboration and engagement at the local level is key to how we consider and debate policies back in Washington.

This August, among the many important issues we hope to discuss with constituents is the public lands planning process in eastern Utah. We have scheduled a series of open house meetings and field trips throughout the eastern part of the state in areas that are at the center of the Public Lands Initiative.

For many months, our offices have engaged with local officials, businesses, community leaders and other interested parties to see if we could bring resolution to many of the public land management issues that have stymied progress for decades. We look forward to discussing some of the advancements that have been made toward establishing greater certainty in the way our public lands are managed and used. Great strides have been taken toward building consensus and working collaboratively and we look forward to sharing the progress that has been made with our constituents and other interested stakeholders.

After holding over 300 meetings in Utah and Washington, D.C., as well as countless conference calls, it has become clear that there is a need and interest for local, state, federal, tribal and non-governmental leaders to work together to establish greater certainty for land use. Our offices have received 70 letters from a variety of organizations expressing interest in the process and a desire to work collaboratively. Most importantly, this effort is being advanced locally from the ground-up and not the other way around.

We hope to continue this progress during the month of August. We want to hear directly from the public. Nobody understands the impact of federal land management more than those who live among Utah's vast public lands. We want to engage with those who know the land best. We will answer questions and hope to have discussions about the shared principles of economic development, safeguarding our food supply, protecting worthy landscapes and promoting all forms of outdoor recreation.

Ultimately, we hope to introduce legislation that encompasses these principles and reflects the priorities of all who engage in this process. We are confident that through hard work, collaboration and some compromise, we can bring certainty to federal land management and show the country that Utah is leading the way in the management of our beloved natural resources.

Rep. Rob Bishop represents Utah's District 1. Rep. Jason Chaffetz represents Utah's District 3. Rep. Chris Stewart represents Utah's District 2.

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