Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, is claiming victory over what he says was an attempt to vastly expand national park boundaries at the expense of Utah ranchers, miners and others.
He successfully amended a bill this week in the House Interior Committee weakening its pro-expansion stances while calling for a three-year study on what guidelines should be set for expanding park boundaries.Hansen feared the bill in its original form was a thinly veiled mandate to expand boundaries in an effort to protect their scenic vistas and ecosystems from outside activities such as grazing or mining.
Hansen's pushing helped eliminate some other controversial provisions calling for the Park Service to consider a National Parks and Conservation Association proposal to create 120 new national parks and expand 178 existing parks to protect vistas nearby.
That could have increased Park Service acreage eightfold in Utah - expanding Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, Zion and Timpanogos Cave. It would have also created three new parks - Dirty Devil River Canyon, Grand Gulch Plateau and San Rafael Swell - and a new Great Salt Lake National Monument.
"With my amendments, the legislation is less of a mandate and more just an attempt to establish uniform guidelines for park boundary modification," Hansen said.
He sees some good in such a study. For example, he has said ranchers tell him the boundaries of Capitol Reef National Park really went too far north, and park rangers say they didn't go far enough east.
"That's because they were made by politicians and not professionals," he said.
But Hansen warned the committee, "I will stand firm against any attempts to unreasonably expand park boundaries in Utah or elsewhere and will not tolerate any park boundary modification which threatens the livelihood of my constituents."