SALT LAKE CITY — A state public lands panel endorsed legislation that would require government agencies seeking a federal land designation in Utah, such as a national monument, to bring the proposal to the Legislature.
HB78 appears aimed at organizations like the Central Wasatch Commission, which is working the state's congressional delegation to carry a bill for an 80,000-acre conservation and recreation area, including 8,000 acres of new wilderness, in the Wasatch Mountains.
The commission is an interlocal governmental entity made up of Alta, Cottonwood Heights, Millcreek, Park City, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Sandy, Summit County and the Utah Department of Transportation.
"We've tried to do something with the Antiquities Act. It did not happen, could, but I doubt it will now that we have a split government in D.C.," Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, told the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands on Thursday. "I think the state has jurisdiction and these entities should come before the state."
Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney are sponsoring federal legislation to exempt Utah from the Antiquities Act, a law that gives a president the power to create a national monument.
Albrecht's bill requires counties, cities, public universities, government-funded boards and commissions, interlocal entities and government nonprofits that "intend to advocate" for a federal land designations exceeding 500 acres to go before the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee for review.
Federal designations would include national parks, monuments, conservation areas, recreation areas and areas of critical environmental concern.
The Central Wasatch Commission hasn't taken a position on the bill, said Jesse Dean, deputy director.
The commission, which is made up of elected officials, appreciates the work of the Legislature's public lands commission, but its members have the right to talk to Utah's senators and congressman.
"The federal delegation is elected to represent them," he said.
The group has been working for several years and has held hundreds of public meetings on the proposed Central Wasatch National Conservation and Recreation Area.
"The work of the commission is really a locally driven effort," Dean said. "The 10 commission members represent the different jurisdictions in the central Wasatch, and they've had a lot of experience in dealing with federal land uses in these areas."
Former Utah GOP Rep. Mia Love had taken the lead on the issue in Congress. Dean said the commission has been meeting with all members of the delegation, but has not announced who might run a bill.
Some members of the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Land raised questions about Albrecht's bill.2 comments on this story
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said it could be interpreted to mean a college student writing a law review article advocating for a federal wilderness designation would have to bring it before a legislative committee before it could be published.
If that's the case, it "comes close to censorship," he said.
Lawmakers agreed some of the language in the bill might be too broad. The commission voted to endorse the measure with the understanding that Albrecht would make changes before the Legislature considers it. The 2019 legislative session starts Monday.