SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mike Noel blasted the now-defunct Mountain Accord, saying the group was supposed to be about finding transportation solutions to the Wasatch canyons traffic troubles, but instead sought to tie up public lands with a federal land designation.
That Wasatch Wilderness bill, which proposed 80,000 acres for wilderness designation along with land trades, prompted him to run HB136,which passed out of a Senate legislative committee 3-2 on Monday.
"That lack of local process and a premature congressional hearing should be of concern," Noel said, noting the millions of dollars allocated to Mountain Accord by the Legislature and a lawsuit over open meetings bolsters the need for what he described as a "transparency" bill. The Wasatch Wilderness bill, ran by then Rep. Jason Chaffetz, never made it past committee but may be carried by Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah.
Those federal land designations, be it the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or the recent Wasatch Wilderness bill, "greatly impact the revenue and resources of this state," which Noel said lawmakers are tasked with safeguarding.
HB136 requires governmental entities like cities or counties that want a federal land designation to first run it past members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee so the Utah Legislature is not caught off guard.
Critics say it stifles speech, douses debate and interferes with local control.2 comments on this story
"It seems like every year that the Legislature has a bill like this that tries to stymie the conversation or move the goal post," said Carl Fisher, executive director Save Our Canyons. "This bill is anti-local government."
The Sierra Club Utah Chapter is also opposed and Utah Dine Bikeyah, a Native American advocacy group that sought protections for Bears Ears, is also monitoring the bill, which it fears interferes with tribal sovereignty.
The bill, approved by the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, now moves onto the full Senate.