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Letter to the editor: Does Emery County need two lands bills?

By Brian Hawthorne

Maybe Emery County Needs two Public Lands Bills
The U.S. Congress will consider at least a dozen public lands bills this fall. One is a bill from California Democrat Jared Huffman (H.R 6687). The law, if passed, will direct the Department of the Interior to manage the Point Reyes National Seashore consistent with Congress’ long-standing intent to maintain working dairies and ranches as part of the seashore’s unique historic, cultural, scenic and natural values.
So… Congress needs to pass a law to force the Interior Department to follow the law. I worked with federal land managers representing the Off Highway Vehicle community for years so this doesn’t surprise me. I am skeptical it will work. But I’m not surprised.
Huffman’s bill is proof of something we all know. Federal land managers don’t always follow the directives mandated by the President or Congress.
Well, some directives are usually implemented to the letter. Directives regarding Endangered Species, road closures and Wilderness, for example.
We have a really good example of this on Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Just like California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, the Utah monument proclamation referenced grazing as an established use that would remain. Just like in California, the Interior Department drastically reduced grazing allotments and “cow calf” numbers.
This is why Emery County spent years developing specific legislative language for the 2017 Emery County Public Lands Act. The intent of that language was, at least as much as possible, ensure the federal land managers would follow the law.
It ought to be of grave concern that Utah Congressman John Curtis removed much of that language in his 2018 Emery County bill. But don’t worry! Says Congressman Curtis. He assures us grazing will continue and there won’t be massive road and trail closures.
With all due respect to Congressman Curtis, I have good reason to worry. And I am very concerned that the Emery County Public Lands Council doesn’t seem bothered that a lot of their hard work got thrown out.
Recent Emery County news reports suggest Congressman Curtis wants to fast-track his bill. OK, since we are all going to get on the fast-track, I think there might be a way we could save years of time and effort. Instead of jamming one bill through Congress, why not jam two? The County could ask Senator Mike Lee to offer a companion bill mandating the federal agencies follow the Curtis bill.
Then we’ll have a law, and we won’t have to wait years for another law mandating the Interior Department follow the first law.
Brian Hawthorne
McCammon, Idaho.

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