In the rarest of rarities, environmentalists and pro-development groups, Republicans and Democrats, and even plaintiffs and defendants buried animosity Tuesday to unanimously support a huge land swap to benefit Utah schoolchildren.
But after years of seeing similar trades blind-sided and killed, they all worried in a House hearing about how to stop some small problems from festering and dooming the proposal.
That includes preventing Congress from attaching unrelated and damaging legislation to the trade; convincing all involved that the bill won't cost the federal government money; and appeasing some small Utah counties that say the deal hurts them.
The hearing came a week after Gov. Mike Leavitt and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt announced the deal to swap out a checkerboard of state lands - designed to raise money for schools - that have been buried within national parks, forests and lands.
Utah would give the federal government 376,000 acres of such lands in exchange for $50 million in cash, 140,000 acres of federal land and leases for coal and natural gas.
"The entire exchange is of approximately equal value," Leavitt testified to the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public lands, chaired by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, who is pushing a bill to approve the trade.
Even more importantly, Leavitt said it stops the threat of development within national parks for the federal government. And for Utah, it finally brings some cash flow for impoverished schools after 70 years of fights over such lands.
Babbitt, with whom Leavitt was once a bitter opponent over creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, agreed, saying it would stop expensive lawsuits over the monument and maybe help end wars over Utah wilderness.
"Both of us would be better off if we spent our time and money investing in the lands and the people instead of litigation and lawyers," Babbitt said. "Perhaps we have opened a positive new chapter in the federal-state relationship."
Others offering support represented Utah schools, counties, both political parties in Congress - and even environmentalists.
"It's remarkable what happens when common sense prevails," said Scott Groene, issues director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. "This is one of those win-win situations for school kids and wilderness."
Still, all the diverse groups acknowledged that problems loom even though they have managed to come together on the issue.
For example, Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, the ranking Democrat on Hansen's committee, worried the bill could become a magnet for riders for other legislation that the administration does not like.
He said members of both parties might figure that would be the only way to have President Clinton sign into law such proposals.
But Babbitt warned "that administration support is contingent on the passage of a clean bill, with no amendments, riders or other objectionable legislation attached."
Babbitt also warned that all sides need to work hard to convince the Office of Management and Budget and Congress that the deal won't cost the federal government money and is essentially swapping equal value. Otherwise, he said it might stall the bill as Congress tries to balance budgets.
Kane and Garfield counties - where the new national monument is located - are not thrilled with the deal, although they said they will not oppose it because it will help the state's schoolchildren.
Still, Kane County Commissioner Joe Judd complained, "The exchange, in effect, transfers the value of mineral and energy resources out of Kane County to other areas of the state."
He said it ensures coal and gas development proposed there before the monument was created - such as the Andalex coal mine - will now never occur. The two counties face higher costs to provide services within the monument area.