Utah leaders reject Bears Ears land swap

Feb 7, 2024

Utah Governor Spencer Cox and the state’s top lawmakers have called off an agreement with the federal government to swap out 130,000 acres of land managed by the Utah Trust Lands Administration (formerly known as SITLA) that lie within Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah. The trade would have transferred valuable federal land and mineral resources to the state in exchange for the parcels inside the monument.

Utah lawmakers approved the trade last May, and it was introduced in Congress. But the agreement failed to pass the U.S. House and Senate, which means it is not legally binding. Utah leaders are justifying calling off the deal by saying the Interior Department’s not-yet-released management plan for the monument doesn’t meet their wishes. 

“The federal government has signaled that it once again plans to adopt a restrictive land management plan that will harm recreational access, grazing and other traditional public uses of these lands,” the state leaders said in a statement.

Greg Sheehan, Utah state director of the Bureau of Land Management, told the Salt Lake Tribune that Utah’s move is a “setback” but said “the BLM remains committed to exploring avenues of collaboration with the State of Utah to the benefit of all.”

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Quote of the day

As we reflect on the transformational journey of America’s public lands, let us acknowledge our shared responsibility to conserve, protect, and cherish these spaces. President Biden’s commitment to this cause is not just a policy directive: It is a declaration that our public lands are a quilt that binds us all—a source of healing and unity for generations to come.”

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Feature image: House on Fire cultural site inside of Bears Ears National Monument, BLM/Flickr