Proposed Utah Bill Could Prohibit Local Governments from Speaking In Favor of Public Lands

Feb 7, 2018

The Utah Legislature is moving forward with a proposed bill that would restrict the ability of local officials in that state to advocate for federal land protections.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a bill called HB 136, sponsored by state Representative Mike Noel, had its first hearing Tuesday and was sent on to the full House with just one dissenting vote. The bill would prohibit entities including municipalities, counties, school districts and state-funded universities from promoting or supporting new federal land protections such as wilderness areas or national monuments in Utah unless they first consulted with a legislative committee for feedback. The same restriction would not apply to speaking out against federal land designations. The Tribune reports that the hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee was stormy. The committee chair mandated that everyone giving testimony take an oath first, something not typically required at such hearings. The only witness to speak against the bill was reportedly the chairman of Utah Diné Bikeyah, a group that supports the controversial Bears Ears National Monument. But when Willie Grayeyes spoke, the Tribune reports that the bill’s sponsor, Noel, accused Utah Diné Bikeyah of being funded by major environmental groups such as the Grand Canyon Trust. UDB has denied that claim, but when its executive director, Gavin Noyes, sought to speak at the hearing, he was not allowed the opportunity.