WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Rep. Chris Stewart along with four other members of the Utah congressional delegation, sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, urging the Department to dispose of 5,423 acres of federal land in Utah that has been identified as suitable for disposal by the Bureau of Land Management and expressing concern over a reported BLM practice of acquiring private property to prevent commercial activities.
Currently, Garfield has just 3 percent of its land in private ownership, limiting economic growth. Returning this land to the county would allow for increased commercial activities and help grow the economy in Utah.
“Let us be clear, we are not suggesting that this paltry amount of disposals makes up for BLM’s obvious abuse, because we believe this number is far too small and more lands should be made available,” members of the delegation wrote, “but we urge the Department to use whatever means necessary to process these disposals in an expedited manner, using categorical exclusions and other fast-tracking authorities to dispose of this diminutive percentage of federal property.”
While pointed toward land issues in Garfield County, the delegation’s letter discussed BLM’s suppression of commercial activity on federal lands more broadly:
“More recently, you touted the economic benefits that outdoor recreation has on local economies:
‘Protected public spaces can serve as magnets for visitors. Though the [National Landscape Conservation System] accounts for only 10 percent of the lands BLM manages, its lands are now welcoming more than 9 million visitors a year. Those 9 million visitors spend money at local motels, grocery stores, and gas stations. They rent bikes and use guide services (emphasis added).’
“When the BLM spends nearly half a million taxpayer dollars to suppress commercial activity, they are suppressing the very activities you touted in your speech. How can ‘protected public spaces’ grow economies or benefit local communities if commercial activity is discouraged or suppressed? If commercial activity is prohibited within the Monument, where are visitors supposed to sleep at night, eat during the day, fill up their tanks, or rent recreation equipment? ”
Signing the letter with Stewart were Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee.
See the entire letter here: Letter to Interior Secretary Salazar 02.07.2013
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