SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said dysfunction in Washington, D.C. resulted in a delay passing 10 key pieces of legislation affecting public lands in Utah.
In a posting at Utah.gov, Herbert said the bills got caught up in the "a swirl of dysfunction and debates" over the pending government shutdown.
"We hope that the next Congress will set aside ideology and personal differences, take up these important legislative initiatives and expedite their passage in the New Year," the statement said.
Utah provisions in the massive public lands package included the Emery County Public Land Management Act by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and a bill by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah to turn the Golden Spike National Historic site into a national historic park and establish a network of trails.
The public lands package did not survive after Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, did not consent to its passage. Lee wanted to include language that, like Alaska and Wyoming, Utah would be exempt from any new monument designations under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
In a statement issued Friday night, Lee said he shared the frustration of people who, like Herbert, are frustrated the package failed.
"I understand people want me to let the bad process slide this once so we get it done. But that is exactly how the broken process – the process that excludes Utah, that cuts Utah out, and leaves Utah behind – perpetuates itself," Lee said. "I'm the one person in a position to stand up for my state and shine a light on this broken process. That's the only way it's ever going to get better. I understand this bill will probably pass now in a few weeks, but it will do so without my vote."
Other Utah-specific provisions in the lands package included a measure by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, dealing with nation's storage of helium and the conveyance of land in Cache County's Hyde Park.
The package carried other measures lobbied for by national sportsmen and wildlife groups and reformed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, locking in a guarantee of 40 percent funding for states.
Lee objected to the reauthorization of the fund because it provides money for the federal government to acquire more land.
"Was this legislative package perfect? No," said a statement on Herbert's website. "But it may have been the best opportunity we have seen in years to accomplish sound policy based on clearly articulated state policies through bipartisan compromise and negotiation between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats."
Lee also objected to the lengthy nature of the bills' package and the Democrats' unwillingness to budge on the Antiquities Act issue.
Bishop was a key architect of the negotiated compromise regarding the reauthorization of the Lands and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1965 as a way to preserve open space.11 comments on this story
Critics said the fund morphed into a way for the federal government to get more land, so Bishop and others sought its reform. In its new version, it assured stateside grants would receive a minimum of 40 percent of funding. It also ensured that no less than $20 million of total funds be used to improve access to existing federal lands for hunters, fishermen and other outdoor recreationalists.
Ray Petersen, public lands director for Emery County, said the inaction Thursday was disappointing.
"Well, we are frustrated. We thought we were in a position where it was able to go forward. … We are exploring what we can do in the next Congress," he said. "It is (the legislation) not better, but we believe it is better than the alternative."