SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial bill on federal designations before a Utah legislative committee stoked some lively debate Friday, but lawmakers ran out of time before they could take any action.
Instead, the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality, Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, said the public would get more chances to weigh in at the group's next meeting.
HB78, sponsored by Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, would require political subdivisions of the state of Utah to shop a sought-after federal designation before the Utah Legislature first, and get members' buy-in.
Testimony Friday touched on disagreement that arose over the Emery County Lands Bill before Congress by Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, with a proposed new wilderness designation that would impact Wayne County.
Wayne County Commissioner Newell Harward said his county was never contacted about the wilderness proposal, which borders Wayne County and would have far-reaching effects.
Off-road enthusiasts also objected to the idea that a three-member commission can pursue federal land changes that impact 500,000 people in Utah who enjoy riding all-terrain vehicles, particularly in that area of Utah.
"This lands bill puts all of that in jeopardy," said Steve Hawkins, president of the Utah ATV Association. "It is a disaster for Wayne County and a disaster for the state of Utah."
But some lawmakers wondered aloud if the bill, if passed, would hamstring important efforts to highlight and protect local areas, as well as chilling free speech.
Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City, said an important feat for northern Utah to accomplish is the transformation of the Golden Spike National Historic Site to a national historic park. He wondered if this bill would hamper that.
Willie Grayeyes, a member of the Navajo Nation and newly elected San Juan County commissioner, spoke against the bill and said it is wrong for Utah lawmakers to impose their will on local residents.Comment on this story
"Top to bottom rarely work," he said.
Others who testified complained about sweeping designations that affect not only those jurisdictions who favor the set-aside, but the entire state.
George Chapman pointed to the pursuit of a federal designation for the Wasatch Canyons that he said has been wrongly characterized as consensus-driven.
He noted there were few people from the west side of the Salt Lake Valley participating in the push for the designation, which he contends impacts all of Utah because of the popularity of the canyons.