Daggett County -- with the smallest population in the state – is the first to agree to Congressman Rob Bishop’s plan for protecting public lands in Utah.
Daggett County includes the north slope of the Uintah Mountains and Flaming Gorge reservoir, as well as the towns of Manila and Dutch John. Only about 1100 people live there. But it’s one of eight counties where Congressman Rob Bishop has been working to build consensus on which public lands deserve protection.
The agreement was the product of dozens of meetings with environmentalists, local officials and other stakeholders. Ray Bloxham with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says it would designate a large area of the Uintahs as new wilderness and make many other changes in current land use maps.
“There’s components on Forest Service lands, BLM lands," Bloxham told KUER. "There’ll be a Wild and Scenic component on the Green River. There’ll be a state land trade both on Forest Service and BLM. There’ll be a conservation area north of Brown’s Park with roadless areas.”
Daggett County Commissioner Jerry Steglich says the process brought together people who wouldn’t ordinarily be talking to each other and included a lot of give and take.
Steglich tells KUER, “Through this process for two years, we were able to work things out, and it was about creating relationships.”
Bishop, who's a Republican, says he’d like to turn the agreement into a bill that could pass in the coming session of Congress, but he wants to include the other seven counties of eastern Utah.
“A lot of those counties are almost as far along as Daggett is. Some of them are just starting the process. First of all, I got to get the other counties on whether they want to be part of it or not, whether we can make these agreements work or not, and then we start putting it into a bill form," Bishop told KUER in an interview.
The agreement was announced just two weeks before the general election, but Congressman Bishop insists the timing isn’t political. His Democratic opponent, Donna McAleer, says she’d like to study the proposal in detail before she comments on it.