SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will be in Utah Monday to meet with the Governor's Balanced Resource Council.
"This will be the first time we've had the secretary of interior here at a public meeting," Gov. Gary Herbert said in announcing the visit Thursday.
He said Salazar will talk with the council about public land issues, which are "fraught with emotion on all sides of the issue."
The public is invited to attend the 10 a.m. meeting at the Capitol and to submit questions for the Democratic administration official. The governor initially had said attendees would be limited to "avoid confrontation and controversy" when asked if environmental activist Tim DeChristopher would be on the guest list. DeChristopher is charged with submitting false bids on federal oil leases.
"This is going to be a public meeting, so I guess those who show up will be allowed to come," Herbert said. "There will be limited space, and we'll have some we'll want to make sure who are there."
Herbert invited the secretary to Utah last November during a meeting in Washington, D.C. The governor said Salazar expressed interest in the council, which is made up of diverse environmental interests.
"It's significant he's willing to come here under any circumstances," Herbert said, noting the state is at "ground zero on many of the public lands fights.
Just what the meeting will accomplish remains to be seen.
"Some of it is just better understanding. Part of the problem we've had in the past is just the lack of dialog and understanding," the governor said. "We don't talk to each other and perceive each other to be the enemy. I think everybody has good intentions on all sides of the issue with public lands."
One issue likely to be addressed, he said, is the resource management plan for the Uintah Basin set aside by President Barack Obama's administration.
"It's something we ought to be able to move ahead with and not worry that somehow, for political purposes, the rug's jerked out underneath us," Herbert said, citing the economic importance of allowing drilling by companies that already have invested millions of dollars in the region.
The governor's senior environmental adviseor, Ted Wilson, acknowledged the meeting "is good public relations," but said it is also key in furthering the state's relationship with the administration on public lands issues.