The Senate gave unanimous final approval Monday to a pair of bills that support this year's sunset of Utah's management of the Navajo Trust fund set up interim management until Congress sets up a permanent plan.
The trust fund sets aside 37.5 percent of royalties from oil and gas extraction from the Utah portion of the Navajo Reservation, for improvement projects and scholarships in Utah.
The bills, HCR4 and HB352, are headed to the governor after seeing overwhelming support in the House and Senate.
However, a group of Navajo living on the Aneth Extension, where the oil is extracted, agree the state should get out of management but oppose the state's plan for interim management and claim they were never consulted about it.
Their fear is that local control of the monies used for local projects and scholarships could be lost.
Under HB352, the fund would be managed under the Navajo Revitalization Fund, by a board comprised of a governor's designee, two San Juan County commissioners and a president of a Utah Navajo chapter. The arrangement would remain until Congress creates a permanent management plan.
"The composition of the board, being composed of Navajo Nation government officials, takes away the voice of the local people," said Justin Jones, counsel for The Descendents of K'aayelii Inc. And he raised concerns about shifting the fund to the state managed Navajo Revitalization Board.
The state is involved with litigation over the management of the fund and sponsor House Majority Leader David Clark, R-Santa Clara, says he and the lieutenant governor have met with Utah Navajo officials and have their support.
Clark says the interim control will "fulfill everything" the state is required to do as steward. It will include an inventory of projects and continue funding scholarships for students for another two years. He said its up to the San Juan County Navajos to lobby Congress over who should be the new steward."One-hundred percent of the control over who is the new trustee is Congress," he said. "We're asking Congress to release us ... Everyone, in general, agrees Utah should be out. The concern is who is Congress going to appoint."
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