SALT LAKE CITY — The debate over instilling more protections for the Greater Canyonlands area will continue for months to come after the Senate Natural Resources agreed Thursday the idea needs additional study.
Although Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, had called for full discussion this session of his resolution urging protections, the committee voted 6-1 to send SJR10 on for interim study. Dabakis was the lone "no" vote.
The resolution called for the Utah Legislature to acknowledge the recreational and economic value pumped into the state through the pristine, undeveloped nature of the Greater Canyonlands area.
Dabakis said it would be preferential for Utah's political leaders to act to protect the area rather than having the federal government unilaterally make that decision. He urged his colleagues on the committee to set the tone for policymakers to engage in serious and reasonable discussion over Utah's public lands issues.
"Let's talk about where we really want to go on this," he said. "Let's put the past behind us, no matter how difficult, no matter how ugly."
Other senators on the committee questioned the wisdom of handing any more land over to the federal government, and wanted more clarity on what "protection" of the area means and who would have access, or who would not.
"Jim, I respect you for this, but you have created a lot of questions, which I suspect is part of your game plan," said Senate Assistant Majority Whip Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City.
More than 90 people packed the room at the committee hearing, while dozens more waited in the hallways to determine the fate of the resolution. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has mounted an aggressive campaign pushing for the protections.