Governor Gary Herbert’s office is trying to work out a deal with Utah’s state lands agency on a drilling lease in the Book Cliffs.
Last week, Governor Herbert asked the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, to hold off on a drilling lease in an area of the Book Cliffs in Grand County. Sportsmen’s groups and environmentalists say the area is pristine wildlife habitat and ought to be preserved.
This week, SITLA said it was planning to go ahead with its lease to Anadarko Petroleum, citing its mandate to generate revenue from state land for Utah’s public schools.
But a compromise is apparently in the works. Alan Matheson, the governor’s environmental advisor, says there’s a way to work out an agreement where everybody wins.
“SITLA’s independent and run by an independent board, so they’re gonna make their decision," Matheson told KUER. "But, y’know, these are folks that are part of our state and they care about the state and I think that they will certainly fulfill their constitutional mandate but will consider these other values as they move ahead.”
Utah Congressman Rob Bishop chairs the House Subcommittee on Public Lands. He has been trying to work out a “grand bargain” involving federal lands, state trust lands and proposed wilderness areas in eastern Utah. That could involve consolidating scattered sections of state land into larger areas that could be developed for natural resources. Bishop was also critical of the decision to lease this area of the Book Cliffs.