WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Senate subcommittee will hear from Washington County Commission Chairman Jim Eardley and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, today as it evaluates the new Washington County lands bill.

Bennett reintroduced the Washington County Growth & Conservation Act earlier this month that would add 264,394 acres of protected wilderness in Utah as well as allow 9,000 acres of public land to be sold to developers, among other provisions.

A previous version of the bill was controversial and did not make it out of the last session of Congress, but with the compromises in the latest version and environmentalists' support, Bennett believes the bill could pass.

"The WashingtonCounty bill is gaining momentum and support as it moves through the legislative process," the senator said in a statement. "I look forward to this hearing where the core of the critical land management and conservation needs in Washington County can be discussed."

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee will have a hearing on the bill, a first step in the lengthy legislative process. The bill would need to pass out of the committee before going to the Senate floor and pass the House as well, although Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, introduced the same bill in the House.

The subcommittee also is scheduled to hear from William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society, Julie Jacobson, deputy assistant secretary of Land and Mineral Management at the Department of the Interior, and Joel Holtrop, deputy chief of National Forest System at the Department of Agriculture.