Gov. Norm Bangerter and his staff are rallying forces to get a controversial land trade at Lake Powell approved before all the players in Washington, D.C., change.
Officials were putting the finishing touches on a bill Monday that will be introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah.The bill would authorize the federal government to trade land within the Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon Recreation Area for federal land on the shores of Lake Powell.
And, although Congress may prove to be a challenge, state officials believe they will not be thwarted by the National Park Service.
At least that was the impression Bangerter's staff got after the governor met with President Reagan last week in Washington.
"The president said (Interior Secretary Donald) Hodel is in charge," said Reed Searle, Bangerter's chief of staff.
Searle interprets that to mean Reagan will not listen to National Park Service Director William Mott.
Mott has been an outspoken critic of the land trade, saying it would attract more people than the area could handle.
The land trade also is opposed by many Utah environmentalists.
Bangerter is working hard to get Utah's congressional delegation to support the trade. He also met with Hodel while in Washington. If Congress fails to act on the bill this year, the state will face a new president, Interior secretary and Congress next year.
"That's why we're working so hard to get it through this year," Searle said, admitting the bill faces a difficult struggle.
Searle said Reagan may still approve the trade without congressional action.
That possibility drew sharp criticism two weeks ago from environmentalists who accused Bangerter of trying to circumvent the public. The public and Congress should be involved in any land exchange affecting the environment, they said.
Bangerter claims the trade would provide the state more money from tourism. State officials say Utah needs facilities along the lake to manage the large numbers of people who already visit the shore on Utah's side. Most of the facilities are located on the Arizona side.