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Long-sought recreational land exchange approved

Published: Friday, Feb. 7 2014 6:27 p.m. MST

Corona Arch in Grand County is one of the landmarks SITLA will exchange with the BLM for lands more suitable for development.

SITLA

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SALT LAKE CITY — Prime backcountry recreational attractions such as Corona and Morning Glory arches in Grand County are slated to become part of the Bureau of Land Management's portfolio under a land trade approved Friday.

A record of decision was issued on the "recreational land exchange," essentially sealing a deal between the BLM and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

The exchange goes like this: The BLM gets 58 parcels with high conservation and recreation value, totaling 25,034 acres, primarily in Grand County; SITLA picks up 34 parcels with high mineral development potential, totaling 35,516 acres, primarily in Uintah County.

While SITLA's land in Grand County hindered full-scale recreational access, the state was able to give up those lands in exchange for being able to get property with high development potential to boost public school funding.

“Public lands in Utah provide places to hunt and hike or travel and camp. They offer retreats from the hustle of daily life or heart-pounding adventures,” said Juan Palma, BLM Utah state director. “Whether you’re looking for something therapeutic and inspirational or adrenaline-filled and exciting, this exchange will expand opportunities for outdoor recreation on Utah’s BLM-managed lands.”

The desire for a land swap grew out of discussions in 2002 by an informal group known as the Grand County Roundtable, which included representation from the Sierra Club, Grand County Trust, BLM and the state. Several land parcels with prime environmental and recreational value were identified along the Colorado River corridor but were not in federal land ownership.

Negotiations on what parcels to include in the land exchange ultimately settled on a proposal that was presented to and received the endorsement of Moab city officials, leaders in Grand, San Juan and Uintah counties, as well as the Governor's Outdoor Recreation Task Force.

By 2005, both the Utah House and Senate unanimously endorsed the land exchange, which then sent it to the federal legislative process.

BY 2009, the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act was passed, consolidating land ownership through an equal value exchange of lands in Uintah, Grand and San Juan Counties.

Kevin Carter, director of SITLA, said the exchange has taken years and hinged on collaborative partnerships.

"The cooperative effort between SITLA, the BLM, respective counties and other stakeholders has been extraordinary,” Carter said.

The appraisal documents and revised maps showing the parcels to be exchanged will be available for public inspection for 30 days from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at the BLM Utah State Office, 440 W. 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City. Maps and additional documents supporting the exchange, including the environmental assessment and decision record, are available online at www.blm.gov/drld.

Protests are being accepted for 45 days. Interested parties may submit written protests to the BLM Utah state director at BLM Utah State Office or faxed to 801-539-4237.

Barring any signficant issues that may be raised, the record of decision means the swap is final.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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