Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Wild Lands Future Project

The related questions of whether and how much BLM land should be set aside as wilderness in Utah have undergone extensive examination throughout Utah’s History since the early 80’s. The issue has received untold work, debate and controversy. Only Congress, however, can legislatively designate a wilderness area but obviously Utah’s elected officials and citizenry have a great deal to say about the issue. In 1991 the BLM submitted a report to Congress that recommended a final Utah wilderness designation of 1.9 million acres that met every wilderness classification requirement with little or no conflict. In January 1995, the state’s elected officials began soliciting public input on a final wilderness bill. Fully appreciating the issue’s volatility, state and federal officials sought to provide the citizenry ample opportunity for comment. The 1995 wilderness proposal was a culmination of many years of work, millions of dollars, and countless man hours invested in trying to reach a compromise on the wilderness issue. The wilderness proposal came about several years after the Bureau of Land Management wilderness area inventory. In 1991 the BLM found that 3,258,250 acres of land met the minimum criteria for Wilderness Study Area designation and further recommended that 1,958,339 acres of (more…)


West Desert Wilderness Bill

The early stages of what became the 1999 West Desert Wilderness Proposal began in 1996 when Secretary Babbitt ordered a “re-inventory” of the wilderness lands in question after the controversial 1995 Wilderness proposal. Much of the foundation for the bill had already been completed from the previous attempt in 1995 to create an acceptable wilderness bill to the citizens, local governments, and special interest groups in Utah. In July of 1996 work began on reassessing the lands in Utah with “wilderness characteristics”, and by September of 1996 field work had begun. In October of that year the State of Utah, the Utah State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and the Utah Association of Counties filed suit challenging the Secretary’s authority to conduct a re-inventory. In November 1996 the federal district court issued a temporary restraining order, causing work on the re-inventory to be halted. In March 1998 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the previous ruling and on June 19, 1998 the injunction was lifted and work resumed. Many of the same controversial issues that plagued the 1995 wilderness attempt also created problems for the 1999 wilderness legislation. However the main issue that was being addressed by the re-inventory was (more…)


Washington County Lands Bills 2006-2008

In June 2006, Senator Robert F. Bennett and Congressman Jim Matheson, in consultation with the Washington County Commission and the BLM, introduced a comprehensive county lands bill The Washington County Growth and Conservation Act of 2006(SB 3636). The bill was developed in response to the significant growth in Washington County, the limited amount of private land, and the spectacular resources of these public lands. Although not introduced until 2006, much of the content in the bill had been in the developmental stages for many years. This piece of legislation contained provision for the designation of BLM land for wilderness, the expansion of Zion National Park, the designation of Wild and Scenic Rivers and the Creation of a National Conservation Area-Habitat for the Desert Tortoise. The legislation also called for disposal of lands deemed eligible for disposal. The revenue from these disposals would be used for public land management, for acquisition of conservable lands, and for conservation easements on private lands. The act also allows for the protecting of endangered species through certain designations and for the protection of certain OHV Trails. Summary Title I – Land Disposals SB 3636 directed the secretary of the interior to sell up to 24,300 (more…)


Canyons of the Escalante: A National Ecoregion

The Escalante Canyons and the surrounding area are a unique and splendid landscape which also has considerable interest by recreationists and preservationists. The Canyons of the Escalante Ecoregion idea was presented in 1994 as a collaborative effort between the National Park Service, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah Travel Council, the BLM, Garfield County, the Utah Department of Natural Resources, and Kane County. The goal of the proposal was to create a special designation of the Escalante Canyons region that protected the land while also utilizing traditional land use values and creating economic growth for the surrounding communities. The land area included in the designation would be divided into four different categories. Wild Lands would be areas that are in their pristine condition with little to no evidence of man; many of these areas were already designated as WSA or Wilderness. Natural Lands were areas that showed evidence of man’s presence (roads, trails, abandoned mines, structures, etc.) yet are still deserving of having their natural beauty and values protected. No new permanent structures or manmade features would be allowed. Multiple Use Lands would follow the current land management policy and principles of Multiple (more…)


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Designation

The creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) was a process that was done behind closed doors, therefore there is little information available on the thoughts and processes that went on in creating the Monument before it was officially announced to the public on September 18, 1996. The only record that has been located starts just nine days before the Monument was announced, this comes from a speech by Governor Leavitt recounting his involvement in the designation of GSENM. The first anyone heard about the Monument was on September 9, 1996 in an article in the Washington Post saying that there was going to be a new national monument announced in the near future. Governor Leavitt placed a call to the Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt; Babbitt said that the Department of the Interior (DOI) was not involved and that he should call the White House. When Governor Leavitt called the White House he spoke to the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Marsha Hales, who said she had seen the story but did not know anything about it, and would get back to the Governor on how serious the proposal was. On September 11, 1996 Governor Leavitt heard back (more…)


Monument Planning and Local Economic Development Initiatives

When President Clinton stood on the north rim of the Grand Canyon on September 18, 1996, and designated 1.7 million acres of land in Utah as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, he created an enormous challenge for public land management and planning in the state. The challenge was this: Despite the secrecy and the lack of public involvement in creating the Monument, could public land managers, elected officials, and local communities join to create a new model for environmental management and intergovernmental planning? The seeds for a new model were planted in 1994 when federal, state, and local land managers jointly authored a concept paper titled, “Canyons of the Escalante: A National Ecoregion.” That paper outlined a common management vision for the area, which preserved the natural setting while providing real and sustainable benefits to the local economy. Governor Leavitt has drawn from the concepts articulated in that paper to create his vision of the new Monument. He has also directed state and local leaders to be full partners in the planning process to make his vision a reality. This paper describes the Monument planning process from the perspective of the state of Utah. This planning process was designed jointly (more…)


State Trust Lands

National parks and Monuments /Utah School Trust Land and Federal Land Exchange Governor Mike Leavitt and Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt unveiled a historic land swap between the state and the federal government in May of 1998. The agreement implemented the largest public land exchange identified anywhere in the continental United States. The Federal Government Received: All state inholdings in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument 175,000 acres All state land inholdings in Utah’s National Parks/National Recreation Areas 69,700 acres All state inholdings in the Navajo and Goshute Indian Reservations 45,200 acres Nearly all state inholdings within the National Forests 70,100 acres Alton Coal Field Tracts Previously Designated Unsuitable for Mining 2,500 acres Total Surface Acreage to be Received by the Federal Government 362,500 acres Additional Mineral-Rights-Only Acreage 90,900 acres The State of Utah Received: $50,000,000 in cash immediately following enactment of legislation $13,000,000 additional to be generated from the sale of unleased coal, for the benefit of the Utah Permanent School Fund More than 160 million tons of coal 185 billion cubic feet of coal bed methane resources A total of approximately 150,600 acres of land and minerals Benefits of the agreement: Diversified Portfolio for School Trust Lands Resolved (more…)


West Desert Wilderness Land Exchange

This land exchange proposal grew from the West desert Wilderness Bill of 1999. Although the Wilderness bill did not move through the congress, the land exchange portion of the bill and survived and passed the congress in late 1999. Attributes of the Exchange The school trust acquired approximately 128,000 acres in Box Elder, Tooele, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron and Washington Counties. School trust administrators carefully targeted lands that could be more intensively managed by the state for the benefit of the county economics. For example, the state will acquired BLM lands near the Intermountain Power Project, Brush-Wellman and Continental Lime sites; land that could be made available to support local economic development. Other similar lands were selected near the towns of St. George, Cedar City, Beaver, Milford, Delta, Tintic, Tooele, and Snowville. BLM acquired 118,000 acres of school trust lands in Box Elder, Tooele, Juab, Millard, Beaver, Iron, Washington and Kane Counties. Over 225 scattered school trust parcels were consolidated into approximately 18 manageable blocks – another step toward completing the goals envisioned by former Governor Scott Matheson’s Project BOLD. The state trust lands that were traded to the federal government were in many cases special – including lands in (more…)


Book Cliffs Conservation Initiative

The Book Cliffs Conservation Initiative (BCCI) started in 1990 as collaboration between the BLM, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). The goal of the project was to create an area that showcased multiple use management while rehabilitating riparian areas that had been damaged by over grazing, and rehabilitating the wildlife population in the Book Cliffs area, specifically increasing the local elk heard from 2,000 to 7,500. The total area involved, including private lands, was approximately 450,000 acres. Within the targeted area there were four privately held ranches and their participation in the program was crucial to its success. The UDWR and TNC purchased the Graham Ranch which was 3,720 acres and had grazing preferences on 100,397 acres of federal and state land. The RMEF purchased the Cripple Cowboy ranch in 1994 to further consolidate the grazing rights in the region. A third ranch in the region that was for sale, was purchased by Oscar S. Wyatt to continue using as a cattle ranching operation. The fourth ranch in the area was owned by Bert DeLambert who indicated that while he did not want to sell his ranch, he was (more…)


Evolution of the Enlibra Principles

Around the West and even around the world, communities and governments have been experimenting with more collaborative, decentralized yet coordinated, science-based environmental decision-making and stewardship with impressive results. In December 1998 at a Western Governors’ Association meeting, Governors Mike Leavitt, R-Utah, and John Kitzhaber, D-Oregon, were describing their own experiences and successes with collaborative yet comprehensive efforts. Governor Leavitt experience came from many of the projects described earlier as well as from his experience as Chairman of an effort to address regional air quality and haze impacts to the Grand Canyon. Governor Kitzhaber was in his third year of working with landowners, technical experts and participants throughout Oregon to restore watershed health and the salmon that are integral to the region’s heritage and future. Both saw that the solutions they were nurturing could do more to meet society’s goals for the health of the environment than existing laws could compel. Both sensed that the commitments being made would be sustained through time and that real progress in improving environmental health could be made. Both saw the power and value of everyone working together on a shared problem – sharing perspectives, gaining a greater understanding of the science and legal parameters (more…)


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Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service

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